Professing Christians, Awake!

Professing Christians, Awake! 

ephesians

by ASAHEL NETTLETON

And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep (Romans 13:11).

The text is addressed to Christians. The language is borrowed from natural sleep in which a person is in a great measure insensible to the objects, and to what is passing around him, but life remains in the body. And thus it is when there is much insensibility to divine things among Christians:they sleep; but life remains in the soul. Language similar is often addressed to sinners; but then the image is borrowed from the dead who sleep in the dust. Hence the exhortation: Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

The wise and the foolish virgins both went forth to meet the bridegroom,and while he tarried they all slumbered and slept. But between the two mark the difference. The one has oil in his vessel, but the other has none. One has life, but the other is dead. Our text then is addressed to the Christian who was dead, but is alive again. To the Christian who is asleep and again bears the image of death. And now it is high time to awake out of sleep.

It is proposed to inquire:
I. When the Christian may be said to sleep.
II. Offer motives which ought to induce him to awake
I. When does the Christian sleep?

1. In general the desires his own case, and begins to consult that, when it comes in competition with duty. Religion is the great business of his life. It imposes on him many duties which are painful and crossing to corrupt nature. Thus the fraternal admonition: Exhort one another daily, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him is the command of God. To neglect this and similar duties for fear of incurring reproach, is to indulge in spiritual sloth. You may sit down and rest quietly if you will not disturb your fellow sinners around you with a sight of their sin and danger. This requires no effort. And here thousands resign themselves to rest. Individuals or a church may close their eyes on the conduct of an offender and be silent, and this awful indifference to his soul assumes the name of charity, without lifting a finger to restoresuch an one in the spirit of meekness. The slothful servant will ever consult his own ease by sinful contrivance to shun duty.

2. As one in sleep is insensible of the objects and to what is passing around him; so in a measure is it sometimes with the Christian. Though not wholly lost to a sense of divine things, yet they make but a feeble or slight impression on his soul. In this frame they go to the house of God, and no wonder they soon forget what they have never felt. Once they saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, but now they walk in darkness.Once they had a feeling sense of the worth of souls and could weep over perishing sinners around them. I beheld the transgressor and was grieved, but now they can endure the sight almost without emotion.

This unhappy state of mind is further evident from their conservation. Once they seemed to be dead to this world, their conversation was in heaven. But now their attention is all engrossed with the world; they converse with ease and cheerfulness about the trifles of time, but on the great things of eternity have little or nothing to say. Or, peradventure they speak on these high and heavenly themes,it is in a dull and lifeless manner. They seem to glance over the mind like trifles. They appear not to take an immediate interest in the subject. They feel not the impressive weight of eternal realities. When this is the case they talk like a person in sleep. He knows not what he says.

3. Another mark of this unhappy state of mind is a reluctance to secret prayer, which very properly, has been styled the breath of the Christian. Has any one continued long without the spirity of prayer, it is a sign that he is asleep. And if not shortly awaked from this breathless state, we shall be compelled to believe that he is dead. How far these, and similar remarks apply to professing Christians present you will understand me, is best known to themselves. One thing is certain. Sure I am it is not my business to cry peace in the ears of any who are sleep.

But I proceed.

II. To offer motives which ought to induce them to awake. And 1st: Consider “the time”. Gospel light is risen upon us. And those who do not open their eyes on the glory of this light must remain in eternal darkness and despair. For if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The light of heaven is shining upon us. And can you sleep? Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. It is no time to sleep. It is the day that we shall ever witness. The day of salvation. The business of this day will not suffer you to sleep. It calls on you loudly to awake. Think, by brethren, have you nothing to do for yourselves? Have you no sins to repent of, no evil propensities to mortify? Are your evidences of grace bright enough? Do you love God with all your hearts, and are you perfectly conformed to his holy law? In short, are you willing to die as you are? If you have any thing to do for yourselves, it is high time to awake out of sleep. Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

Have you nothing to do for your brethren? Is no brother or sister wandering from the path of duty?Go and in a feeling, friendly manner tell him his fault between him and thee alone. Why hesitate? Delay not. Duty calls. God commands, and love to his soul demands that you go without delay. If he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother.

Parents! Where are your children? Are they all brought securely within the ark of safety?Doubtless you pray with them and for them. But this is not all your duty. Have you ever taught them that they are sinners?That they must be born again, and are you urging them to remember their Creator now in the days of their youth? Were you this day called to part with one of your children, could you rest satisfied that you had done your duty? Have you not one word more of instruction, of counsel or warning for your children before you meet them at the bar of God? If so, then it is high time that parents awake to a sense of their duty, that you set your houses in order and prepare for death.

Again, It is high time to awake because others are up and active about us. The men of this world shame us by their conduct. They rise up early, and sit up late. They plan and execute. Labor, fatigue, and hardship are nothing to them if they can but collect a little of this world together before they leave it They are laying up treasures on earth, which the moth and rust will soon corrupt. And shall you not be as earnest to lay up for yourselves a more enduring substance, a treasure in the heavens? They are laboring for that meat which perisheth, but you are called to labor for that which endureth unto everlasting life. Do you not feel reproved by their conduct, to think that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light?

Again, My brethren, you are on the field of battle. And it is high time to awake, for the enemy is up and active about us. The prince of darkness with all the several ranks of evil angels is your enemy. The malice of their legions is directed against the Redeemer’s kingdom in this world. War is declared with all saints. And the legions of hell have gone up upon the breadth of the earth. He is already in possession of the hearts of all wicked men. They are his servants. The devil is styled the prince of this world. The ruler of the darkness of this world. This is the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. While you sleep these are all sowing tares and destroying about us. Says the captain of your salvation, He that is not with me is against me, he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

Observe; it is not a feeble foe you have to contend with. You are called to wrestle, not merely with flesh and blood, but before the battle is won you will have to grapple and contend with angelic powers with principalities and powers. Observe, your enemy is crafty. Snares and temptations are laid thick around you, and unless you are wakeful you will certainly be ignorant of his devices. That moment when you let down your watch the enemy began to come in upon you like a flood. While you slept the Philistines be upon you. And I would come to blow the trumpet and sound the alarm. Awake thou that sleepest. Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Think not to find a bed of sloth in the field of battle. Awake and put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye may be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. Awake, then; for your enemies are many, powerful, and crafty.

Another reason why you should awake is that sinners are perishing around you. While you sleep your example will contribute much to their destruction. Yes, while you sleep the world may now be stumbling over you down to destruction. Little does that ungodly professor of religion think what a train of immortal souls may be following him down to hell. It is a fact not to be concealed that one ungodly professor of religion may do more to prevent the conversion of sinners than many infidels. I know it is most unreasonable that mankind should suffer themselves to be thus forever ruined. It can surely be no consolation to the sinner in hell that he was led there by a hypocrite.

Brethren, is heaven, is hell a fable? If so then let us treat them as such. Or are they eternal realities? Whence then, this silence, this seeming indifference to the souls of men that your fellow sinners should obtain the one and escape the other. Do you verily believe that within a few days you shall be in heaven, singing the song of redeeming loveor in hell with devils and damned spirits forever and ever. Have you ever described your own danger, and fled for refuge from the wrath to come, and do you feel no concern for the souls of men? Or are there no sinners in this place? Have they all become righteous? Do all profess to know the Lord from the Least to the greatest? Is there no prayerless family in this place, on whom God hath declared he will pour out his fury? No prayerless youth to whom God hath said, I will cast thee off forever?

My brethren, if there be one impenitent sinner among us who is in danger of going into that place of eternal torment, can you sleep? One sinner in this house! One inhabitant of hell! Solemn thought! One soul present that will be lost forever. Who can it be? Could you bear to hear the name? Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burning? Have you not reason to believe that many are now living without hope and without God in the word? Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Wherever God designs to pour out his Spirit and to call up the attention of sinners to divine things, he will be inquired of by his children to do it for them. This he has taught us in his Word and often in the language of his providence. It is high time for you to awake out of sleep; for others are awake,sinners at a distance are alarmed,and hundreds are now flocking to Christ. And can you rest? Are there not more souls here to be saved or lost forever? Are they not as precious as ever? And is he not a prayer-hearing God? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Is his mercy clean gone forever? And will he be favorable no more? No, my brethren, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear. Come then, ye that make mention of the Lord keep not silence, if ye speak not to warn the wicked; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand.

Brethren, how is your zeal for the salvation of souls compared with that of the Son of God? He beheld the city and wept over it. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.

“Did Christ o’er sinners weep?
And shall our tears be dry?”

How is your zeal compared with that of Paul? I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart for my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh. Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. There is a dreadful storm of divine wrath coming upon the world of the ungodly. It is high time to awake out of sleep, for their damnation slumbereth not.

Again, Consider how long you have slept and you will see that it is high time to awake. How many months. And of some may we ask, How many years have you slept in God’s vineyard? And still you continue on sleeping away the day of salvation. Let me tell you that your sleep is awfully dangerous. If not shortly awaked God in anger will say: Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see.

Further, Consider what time of day it is with you and you will see it is high time to awake. How long has your sun been up? Your best season is already gone. With some, I perceive, the sun has already passed its meridian. Yes, it is now hastening its rapid descent. Aged fathers, Your sun is now casting its last beams upon the mountains. Yet a little while is the light with you. Work while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work. If then you have any work to doany word to leave for your brethren, or your children, they are now waiting to hear. Delay not, for while I am speaking night is coming on. What soever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.

The believer ought to awake and take a view of the glorious prospect that lies just before him. Come then ye mourning pilgrim, you who have long traversed the wilderness asking the way to Zion. You who have long labored and prayed and groaned to be delivered from the bondage of sin, your struggles for eternal life shall have an end. Look up, and lift up your head, for behold, your redemption draweth nigh. It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is your salvation nearer than when you believed. Nearer than it was last year. Nearer than it was the last Sabbath, nearer than ever, on all the wings of time it flies. This night you may wake up amid the song of angels, and a crown of glory, of eternal life, may be placed on your head.

“Short is the passage, short the space
Between my home and me;
There, there behold the radiant place
How near the mansions be!”

Awake then and behold the glorious dawn of a bright new day. Where the sun shall no more go down: neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

Finally, It is high time to awake, for all who do not awake in time, will suddenly awake in hell. There is great danger of being deceived and thus only dreaming of heaven. The Christian can never sleep sound, but is always disturbed. I sleep, syas the church, but my heart waketh. He cannot sleep long. He will soon be affrighted and wake up awfully alarmed. But others sleep sound. They are at ease in Zion. They neither weep for their sins, nor rejoice in hope of the glory of God. There hope of heaven is a pleasant dream which cannot be broken. And here they sink down into a deep sleep.

The Christian church is a net which gathers of every kind. Ten virgins professed to be followers of Christ. Of this number, five only were real Christians. Many are called, but few are chosen. Many will go to the bar of God with hopes no better than the spider’s web. Many who now commune together on earth will never meet in heaven. Many who now appear to us to be real Christians, will, no doubt to our surprise, be found on the left hand of Christ.

The sinner having professed religion with a false hope can hardly be driven to give it up. The hope of the hypocrite is like the giving up of the ghost. What meanest thou, O sleeper! If ye will not now awake, by the worth of your soul, I entreat you to fling away your hope of heaven. For there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

Better fling away your hope, and conclude you are lost than to sleep any longer, for then will you awake in earnest to inquire,
What must I do to be saved? Watch therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. At midnight the cry will be made. Behold, the bridegroom cometh. Then will there be great confusion. For thousands will be deceived. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed.

These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou has received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

And now it is time to awake out of sleep, because many will be forced to awake when suddenly they will lift up their eyes in hell being torment.

The Defect of Preachers Reproved

 

“The Defects of Preachers Reproved”images
by Solomon Stoddard

“The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.”
Matthew 23:2–3

In these words is a direction given by Christ unto the people, where we have:

First, the foundation of the rule: “the Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” Some take this as spoken of the Sanhedrim, who were the successors of Moses and the seventy elders of Israel. Possibly that may be a mistake, for several of the Sanhedrim were not Pharisees (Acts 23:3). For the chief priests belonged to that society (Acts 4:6), and they are said to be Sadducees; but by Scribes and Pharisees I understand the principal teachers among the Jews. The priests and Levites were more especially devoted to the study of the law. Deuteronomy 33:10: “They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law.” Yet others who were learned in the law were made use of to instruct the people, and were chosen to be rulers of the Synagogues. The Pharisees were of any tribe. Paul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin, was a Pharisee by education, as he tells in Acts 23:6: “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”

Second, here is the rule given: “what they bid you observe, that observe and do.” This must be understood with the limitation: when they teach according to the mind of God. Sometimes they taught for doctrines the commandments of men and then it was sinful and dangerous to observe their directions. “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).


DOCTRINE: There may be a great deal of good preaching in a country, and yet a great want of good preaching.

It is a felicity to a people when there is good preaching in the land, yet there may in the same land be great want of good teaching. Some things that are very useful may be plainly and fully taught, and other things that might be as useful may be neglected. Many sound principles in religion may be taught, and other things that are of great concern unto souls may be omitted. Ministers don’t sufficiently do their duty if they preach many sound truths, and do it convincingly and with good affection, if they do it with great clearness and evidence, provided they neglect other things that are needful to salvation. And so it falls out sometimes that men who make many good sermons are very defective in preaching some other things that they ought to preach.

I shall clear this in three instances.

1. The Scribes and Pharisees in Israel taught the people that there was only one God, the Maker of all things, and were great enemies to the idolatry that their fathers were guilty of before the Babylonian captivity. As the Scribe said to Christ in Mark 12:32, “Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but He.” They taught many moral duties: that men must love God and believe His Word, that they must be just and chaste and men of truth, and were very strict in the observation of the sabbath. They limited men how far they might go on the sabbath (Acts 1:12). We read of “a sabbath day’s journey.” They taught truly the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:7–8). The Pharisees dissented from the Sadducees. The Sadducees say there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees confessed both. They taught that the Messiah was to come; the Samaritans themselves received that doctrine (Job 4:25). They were very punctual in teaching circumcision and the ceremonies of the Law of Moses, about sacrifices, tithes, and legal uncleanness. But they were very faulty in preaching in other particulars. They were ignorant of the doctrine of regeneration, so Nicodemus (John 3:4) says, “How can a man be born when he is old?” They taught that the first motions of lust, if the will did not consent, were not sins. As we may gather from Romans 7:7, Paul says, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shall not covet.’ ” And from Matthew 5:27–28, “It was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ But I say whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart.”


They taught also that dangerous doctrine of justification by works (Romans 10:3). They went about to establish their own righteousness (Romans 9:2–3), They sought it, as it were, by the works of the law. They taught the people that in case they devoted their estates to the temple, they need not relieve their fathers or mothers (Matthew 15:4–6). And above all they taught that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah and brought many objections against Him. They said that He came out of Galilee, was a gluttonous man and a winebibber (Matthew 11:19), a friend of publicans and sinners. They reproached Him that by the devil He cast out devils, and they were very dull in their preaching (Matthew 7:29).


2. The papists they teach the doctrine of the trinity truly, and the attributes of God, so also the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, and that He died for our redemption and is at the right hand of God. They teach the doctrine of the day of Judgment, of heaven and of hell, and many moral rules. But they preach a multitude of false doctrines with these doctrines that are pernicious to the souls of men. They teach men to seek the pardon of their sin by afflicting their bodies, by pilgrimage and paying a sum of money. They teach many horrible things with respect to their Pope, that he has power to forgive sin, to dispense with incestuous marriages; that he has power over all the churches and may dispense with the laws of God; that he is infallible. They teach the doctrine of image worship, abolishing the second commandment. They teach prayer to saints departed, the unlawfulness of priests’ marriages, the doctrine of purgatory, justification by works, a conditional election, the power of free will, falling from grace, and hundreds of other erroneous doctrines. They indeed subvert the faith of Christ.

3. Many Arminians preach very profitably about God and the person of Christ, about justification by faith and universal obedience, about the day of judgment and of eternal rewards and punishments. But there is a great deal of want of good preaching among them. They decry all absolute decrees of election and reprobation, making the decrees of God to depend on the foresight of repentance or impenitence. They assert universal redemption, as if Christ died to make all man saveable. They deny the propagation of sin, saying men become sinners by imitation. They hold a power in man to withstand the grace of God; that after God has done His work it is in the power of man to refuse to be converted. They don’t acknowledge the servitude of man to sin, but have power with that assistance that God affords to convert himself. They deny the doctrine of perseverance. These things draw a great train of errors after them.

The reason of the doctrine is because some preachers are men of learning and moral men, and they have drunk in some errors and lack experience. Learning and morality will qualify men to make many good and profitable sermons, much for the edification of the hearers. Learning qualifies men to clear up many principles of religion, and a moral disposition may fit men zealously to reprove vicious practices. But men may be learned men, yet drink in very corrupt doctrines.

Learning is no security against erroneous principles. The Pharisees and Sadducees were men of liberal education, yet leavened with many false principles. Matthew 16:6: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And verse 12: “Then understood they that He bid them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Learning will not cure those distempers of the heart that expose men to false opinions. Learning will not cure the pride and conceitedness of men’s hearts. Men of learning may lean too much to their own understanding. Men of learning may be led aside by reading erroneous books. A learned education will not deliver men from carnal reason. Men of corrupt affections are very inclined to imbibe bad principles. Men of learning may be blind men. Christ says of the Pharisees, “They be blind, leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14).

Most of the errors in the world in matters of religion have been hatched by men of learning. Arius, Socinus, Arminius, and Pelagius were learned men. Errors in religion have been generally the offspring of great scholars, and have been propagated by them. And men may be moral men who have no experience of the work of God upon their hearts. Men may be zealous men against drunkenness and whoredom who have no saving knowledge of Christ. Many moral men have no communion with God, no experience of a saving change in their own souls. Men may be very moral and have no experience of a work of humiliation or being brought off from their own righteousness, or a work of faith; of the difference that is between the common and special work of the Spirit; of the difference between saving and common illumination; of the working of the heart under temptation; of the way wherein godly men are wont to find relief.

Every learned and moral man is not a sincere convert, and so not able to speak exactly and experimentally to such things as souls want to be instructed in. It is as with a man who has seen a map of a country, or has read a great deal about it: he can’t tell the way between town and town, and hundreds of particular circumstances, as a man who has traveled or lived there is able to do. Experience fits men to teach others. A man who has himself had only a common work of the Spirit, and judges it saving, is very unfit to judge the state of other men. Men would not put their lives into the hands of an unskillful physician, or trust their ship with an unskillful pilot, or an intricate case depending on the law with an unskillful lawyer.

USE 1. Of examination whether it is not thus in this country.

It is notoriously known by those who are acquainted with the state of the Christian world that though there are many eminent truths taught, yet there is a great want of good preaching. Whence it comes to pass that among professors a spirit of piety runs exceedingly low. But it is proper for us to take notice how it is among ourselves; and though it is very evident that there is a great deal of good preaching in the land, that the way of salvation is preached with a great deal of plainness and power, and many men are very faithful to declare all the counsel of God, yet there may be cause of lamentation that there is a great deal wanting in some places. Some may be very much to blame in preaching as they ought to do.

If any are taught that frequently men are ignorant of the time of their conversion, that is not good preaching. Some are of that opinion, and it is likely they may drink it in from their ministers. This is a delusion, and it may do them a great deal of hurt; it hardens men in their natural condition. Paul knew the time of his conversion: “At midday, O King, I saw a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13).

Men are frequently at a loss whether their conversion was true or not; but surely men who are converted must take some notice of the time when God made a change in them. Conversion is a great change, from darkness to light, from death to life, from the borders of despair to a spirit of faith in Christ. As for the outward conversation, there is sometimes little difference. Men might carry very well before, but, as to the frame of men’s hearts, there is a very great difference. Formerly they were under the reigning power of objections against the gospel; when converted they receive it as a divine truth. Before they were converted they were under a sentence of condemnation; now they have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Men are generally a long time seeking conversion, laboring to get an interest in Christ; and it would be much if when God reveals Christ to them they should not take notice of it when the change is made. Ten to one but conscience will take notice of it.

When a seaman comes into the harbor, when a prisoner is pardoned, when a victory is obtained, when a disease is broken, it would be much if men should take no notice of them. Conversion is the greatest change that men undergo in this world; surely it falls under observation! The prodigal knew well enough the time of his return to his father’s house. The children of Israel knew the time of their passing over Jordan.

If any are taught that humiliation is not necessary before faith, that is not good preaching. Such doctrine has been taught privately and publicly, and is a means to make some men mistake their condition and think themselves happy when they are miserable. For men must be brought off from their own righteousness before they are brought to Christ. Men who think they have anything to appease the wrath of God and ingratiate themselves will not accept the calls of the gospel in sincerity. While people have a foundation to build upon, they will not build upon Christ. A self-righteous spirit is quite contrary to the gospel. If men are self-righteous men, they will not judge it fair for God to cast them off. Men who depend upon the justice of God will not depend upon the mere mercy of God. Men who lay claim to heaven from their own works will not depend on the plea that Christ has given His life a ransom for many, and has redeemed us from the curse, being made a curse for us.

Multitudes of men are ruined by building upon a sandy foundation. Men must see their malady before they see their remedy. Men must be led into understanding of the badness of their hearts and the strictness of the law before they will be convinced of the preciousness of Christ. Men who can heal their own consciences will not come to Christ for healing. Men must be driven by necessity indeed before they come to Christ. Though men feel great terrors and live a tormented life, yet they will not come to Christ until driven out of themselves. Men must feel themselves dead in sin in order to their believing. Romans 7:9: “Sin revived, and I died.” Men must see themselves poor and miserable, wretched and blind and naked, before they receive that counsel of buying of Christ gold tried in the fire, and white raiment (Revelation 3:17).

When men don’t preach much about the danger of damnation, there is a want of good preaching. Some ministers preach much about moral duties and the blessed estate of godly men, but don’t seek to awaken sinners and make them sensible of their danger; they cry for reformation. These things are very needful in their places to be spoken unto, but if sinners don’t hear often of judgment and damnation, few will be converted. Many men are in a deep sleep and flatter themselves as if there was no hell, or at least that God will not deal so harshly with them as to damn them. Psalm 36:2: “He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.”

Men need to be told of the terrors of the Lord so that they may flee from wrath to come. A little matter will not scare men. Their hearts are as hard as a stone, as hard as a piece of nether millstone, and they will be ready to laugh at the shaking of the spear. Ministers must give them no rest in such a condition. They must pull themselves as brands out of the burnings. It is well if thunder and lightning will awaken them. They need to fear that they may work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Ministers are faulty when they speak to them with gentleness, as Eli rebuked his sons. Christ Jesus often warned them of the danger of damnation. Matthew 5:29–30: “It is better that one of thy members should perish, and not that the whole body should be cast into hell.” Matthew 7:13: “Broad is the gate and wide is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.” Matthew 13:42: “The angels shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (See also Matthew 22:13 and 25:41, 46) This is for our imitation.

Christ knew how to deal with souls, and Paul followed His example. Men need to be terrified and have the arrows of the Almighty in them that they may be converted. Ministers should be sons of thunder. Men need to have storms in their hearts before they will betake themselves to Christ for refuge. When they are pricked at the heart, then they will say, “What must we do to be saved?” Men must be fired out of their worldliness and sloth. Men must be driven as Lot was out of Sodom. Reason will govern men in other things, but it is fear that must make them diligently seek salvation. If they are but thoroughly convinced of their danger, that will make them go to God and take pains.

If they give a wrong account of the nature of justifying faith, that is not good preaching. Justifying faith is set forth in the Scripture by many figurative expressions: coming to Christ, opening to Him, fitting under His shadow, flying to Him for refuge, building on Him as on a foundation, feeding on Him. These expressions imply not only an act of the understanding, but also and act of the will, accepting Him, depending on Him. This doctrine is despised by some, and faith in Christ is said to be only a persuasion of the truth of the Christian religion. This is the way to make multitudes of carnal men secure, and to flatter themselves as if they were in a good condition. They say they are not heathens, Turks, Papists, or Jews. Since they believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, they hope they are believers; but multitudes of people have such a faith that will fall short of eternal life. John 2:23–24: “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles that He did; but Jesus did not commit Himself unto them.” John 14:42–43: “Among the chief rulers many believed on Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him.”

The faith of some men is only a persuasion from their education. As heathens receive the religion of their forefathers by tradition, so these receive the Christian religion from hearsay. But justifying faith is wrought in men by the mighty power of God.


2 Thessalonians 1:11: “That He would work in you the work of faith with power.” Ephesians 1:19–20: “And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power; which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” By justifying faith, men answer the calls of God, relinquishing their own righteousness; they place their dependence only on the mediation of Christ (Hebrews 6:18). They flee for refuge, to lay hold on the hope that is set before them. Justifying faith is a living principle that sanctifies men. Acts 15:9: “Purifying their hearts by faith.” Many men have a common persuasion of the truth of the gospel who are utterly destitute of holiness. But true justifying faith is always accompanied with a holy life. Where there is faith, there is every other grace. Acts 26:18: “Sanctified by faith that is in me.”

If any give false signs of godliness, that is not good preaching. Signs of grace are of two sorts. Some are probable, and they must be spoken of only as probable; a score of them may make the thing more probable, but don’t make it certain. Probabilities make no demonstration. Probable signs are not conclusive. There are two errors in laying down signs. One is when those things that may flow from common principles—such as natural temper, natural conscience, fear of hell, or false imaginations—are given as sure signs of grace. But those things that may flow from common principles don’t truly distinguish between saints and hypocrites, things such as a good conversation savory discourse, zeal against sin, strong religious affections, sorrow for sin, quietness under afflictions, delight in ordinances, or suffering for religion. From such loose signs people are in danger of taking up a false persuasion of their godliness.

Such signs are full of delusion, and many men bless themselves who are in a miserable condition. Such probable signs may be where there are certain signs of the contrary. Men are apt to flatter themselves, and when they hear such signs they are strengthened in their carnal confidence. There is no infallible sign of grace but grace. Grace is known only by intuition; all the external effects of grace may flow from other causes. Another error is when men are too strict in their signs, as when they give that as a sign that there is a constant care to glorify God, a continual living upon Jesus Christ, and a constant watchfulness against the workings of corruption. There is no godly man but has at times ill frames of spirit. David and Jonah and Peter had such. When David committed adultery, he had not a due care to glorify God; nor Jonah when he was in a fret, nor the Psalmist when he was as a beast before God, nor Paul when he was led into captivity by the law of sin that was in his members. There is no godly man who can comfort himself with such signs as these. It is well if godly men see now and then the workings of a spirit of grace. Grace is many times under hatches and is invisible.

If any teach men to build their faith about the divine authority of the Scripture upon probable signs, that is not good preaching. There are many probable arguments for the authority of the sacred scriptures: the eminency of the penmen, and they have had a mighty efficacy to make a change in the hearts of men. It is said there were many miracles wrought for the confirmation of the doctrine of them; there has been an accomplishment of many of the predictions in them. These arguments are preponderating and outweigh all objections that are brought against the authority of them. These considerations may well strengthen the faith of the people of God, but these things cannot be the foundation of our faith. It is only the certain knowledge of their authority that can be the foundation of faith or any other grace. Men cannot believe them to be infallibly true upon probable arguments. Probable arguments must be looked on but as probable and not convincing. Men must have infallible arguments for loving God and believing His Word. The foundation of believing the divine authority of the Scripture is the manifestation of the divine glory in them. There is a self evidencing light in the works of God. The creation of the world shows God’s power and the Godhead (Romans 1:20). It is impossible that the world should be made by any but an infinite God. So there is a self-evidencing light in the word of God; there are such things revealed there as can be made known by none but God. 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Those eternal rewards that are spoken of in the Scripture , those perfect rules that are laid down there, those accounts that are given of the mercy of God and the justice of God, manifested in the way of our salvation, would never have entered into the heart of man to conceive if it had not been revealed by God. Men would never have thought of such a way of salvation if it had not been declared by God.

If men preach for such liberties as God does not allow, that is not good preaching. There are many licentious liberties that are taken by men in their apparel, in their drinking, in their dancing and other recreations, in their discourses upon the sabbath, and in their dealings with one another. And if ministers either vindicate or connive at them, they don’t preach as they ought to do. Some men are lax casuists, and they take too great a liberty themselves, as do their wives and children, and they are afraid to anger men by reproving some particular evils that men are addicted to who prevail in the land. The Pharisees were such casuists. Matthew 5:43: “Ye have heard it hath been said of old, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ ” Men should be solemnly warned against all evil carriages; and if this is omitted it gives great increase to sin in the land. God complains of ill against teachers for not reproving sinners. Isaiah 56:10: “They are ignorant and blind, dumb dogs that cannot bark.” If men were duly reproved for their extravagancies, that would be a means to reclaim them. Jeremiah 23:22: “If they had stood in My counsel and had caused My people to hear My words; then they should have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”

Faithful preaching would be beneficial two ways: one way is it would cut off occasions of anger and prevent those sins that bring down the wrath of God on the land; we should then enjoy much more public prosperity. The other is, that it would deliver men from those vicious practices that are a great hindrance to conversion. As long as men live in ways of intemperance, injustice, and unsuitable carriages on the sabbath, it will be a great impediment to a thorough work of conversion. There may be conversion though men are not broken off from sins of ignorance, but as long as they tolerate themselves in immoralities that will be a mighty bar in the way of their conversion.

If men preach for such ceremonies in worship as God does not allow, that is not good preaching. There are those who plead for human inventions in worship, who would if they could defend the ceremonies of the church of England, who would retain some Jewish ceremonies that are abolished, and practice other human appointments. Jeroboam was condemned not only for worshipping the calves of Dan and Bethel, but for appointing a time of worship in his own heart (1 Kings 12:32–33). So it is noted as an imperfection in the reformation of Asa, Jehoshaphat and Manasseh that the high places were not taken away. This is spoken of as a great sign of hypocrisy. Isaiah 29:13: “This people draw near Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips; but have removed their heart far from Me: and their fear towards Me is taught by the precept of men.” When men impose such ceremonies, they usurp a power that God has not given them. It is God’s prerogative to appoint in what ways we shall worship Him; and men therein go quite beyond the bounds of their authority. Men therein impute imperfection and defect to the ordinances of God, as if they could teach him how it is fit that He should be worshipped, and they presume on a blessing without a promise. Matthew 15:9: “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” This is a way to make men formal in their worship; the multiplying of ceremonies eats out the heart of religion and makes a people degenerate. Men who multiply ceremonies are apt to content themselves with the form without the life.

QUESTION. Is the late practice of some ministers in reading their sermons commendable?

ANSWER. There are some cases wherein it may be tolerable. Persons through age may loose the strength of their memories, and be under a necessity to make use of their notes—but ordinarily it is not to be allowed.

Consideration 1. It was not the manner of the prophets or apostles. Baruch read the roll that was written from the mouth of Jeremiah; but Jeremiah was not wont to read his prophesies. It was the manner of the Jews to read the scriptures in the synagogues; but after that it was their way to instruct and exhort men, not from any written copy. Acts 13:15: “After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’ ” This was according to the example of Christ (Luke 4:17, 20). It was ordered in England in the days of King Edward the Sixth that ministers should read printed homilies in public. And there was great necessity of it, for there was not one in ten who were able to make sermons. But it has been the manner of worthy men both here and in other places to deliver their sermons without their notes.

Consideration 2. The reading of sermons is a dull way of preaching. Sermons when read are not delivered with authority and in an affecting way. It is prophesied of Christ (Micah 5:4): “He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” When sermons are delivered without notes, the looks and gesture of the minister is a great means to command attention and stir up affection. Men are apt to be drowsy in hearing the Word, and the liveliness of the preacher is a means to stir up the attention of the hearers and beget suitable affection in them. Sermons that are read are not delivered with authority; they favor the sermons of the scribes, (Matthew 7:29). Experience shows that sermons read are not so profitable as others. It may be argued that it is harder to remember rhetorical sermons than mere rational discourses; but it may be answered that it is far more profitable to preach in the demonstrations of the Spirit than with the enticing words of man’s wisdom.

USE 2. See the reason why there is so little effect of preaching. There is much good preaching, and yet there is want of good preaching. There is very good preaching in old England, yet there is great want of good preaching, especially among the conformists. And there is very good preaching in New England, and yet there is some want of good preaching, especially in some places: and this is one reason that there is no more good done. There is a great fault in hearers: they are not studious of the mind of God; they are enemies to the gospel. And when Christ Himself preached among them many did not profit by it. Yet some preachers are much to blame, and though they preach profitably many times, yet they have great cause to be humbled for their defects.

For hence it is that there is so little conversion. There is great complaint in one country and in another that there are few converted. It is apparent by men’s unsanctified lives and their unsavory discourses. This is one reason, there is a great deal of preaching that does not much promote it, but is a hindrance to it. To tell men that they may be converted though they don’t know the time; to teach that there is no need of a work of humiliation to prepare them for Christ; and that faith is nothing else but a persuasion that the gospel is true, is the very way to make many carnal men hope that they are converted. It makes other preaching very ineffectual; it makes them think that it is needless to strive for conversion. Such preaching hardens men in their sins. The want of dealing plainly with men is the reason why there is seldom a noise among the dry bones.

In some towns there is no such thing to be observed for twenty years together. And men continue in a senseless condition, come to meetings and hear preaching, but are never the better for it. In some towns godly men are very thinly sown. Most of the people are in as bad a condition as if they had never heard the gospel. They go on in a still way, following their worldly designs, carry on somewhat of the form of godliness, but mind little but the world and the pleasures of this life. The scribes did not preach with authority. Matthew 7:29: “And they entered not into the kingdom of God themselves, and they that were entering in they hindered.” Such preaching is not mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Conversion work will fail very much where there is not sound preaching.

Hence many men who make a high profession lead unsanctified lives. They are not dealt plainly with; and so, though they profess high, they live very low. They are not dealt roundly with, and they believe they are in a good estate, and conscience suffers them to live after a corrupt manner. Some of them live a proud and voluptuous life, and they are not searched as they should be. If they were told their own, that would keep them from saying that they were rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing. If they were rebuked sharply, that might be a means to make them sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). It might make them not only to reform, but lay a better foundation for eternal life than ever yet was laid. Paul was very thorough in his work, and wherever he came he had the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, (Romans 15:29).me preachers are much to blame, and though they preach profitably many times, yet they have great cause to be humbled for their defects.

For hence it is that there is so little conversion. There is great complaint in one country and in another that there are few converted. It is apparent by men’s unsanctified lives and their unsavory discourses. This is one reason, there is a great deal of preaching that does not much promote it, but is a hindrance to it. To tell men that they may be converted though they don’t know the time; to teach that there is no need of a work of humiliation to prepare them for Christ; and that faith is nothing else but a persuasion that the gospel is true, is the very way to make many carnal men hope that they are converted. It makes other preaching very ineffectual; it makes them think that it is needless to strive for conversion. Such preaching hardens men in their sins. The want of dealing plainly with men is the reason why there is seldom a noise among the dry bones.

In some towns there is no such thing to be observed for twenty years together. And men continue in a senseless condition, come to meetings and hear preaching, but are never the better for it. In some towns godly men are very thinly sown. Most of the people are in as bad a condition as if they had never heard the gospel. They go on in a still way, following their worldly designs, carry on somewhat of the form of godliness, but mind little but the world and the pleasures of this life. The scribes did not preach with authority. Matthew 7:29: “And they entered not into the kingdom of God themselves, and they that were entering in they hindered.” Such preaching is not mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Conversion work will fail very much where there is not sound preaching.

Hence many men who make a high profession lead unsanctified lives. They are not dealt plainly with; and so, though they profess high, they live very low. They are not dealt roundly with, and they believe they are in a good estate, and conscience suffers them to live after a corrupt manner. Some of them live a proud and voluptuous life, and they are not searched as they should be. If they were told their own, that would keep them from saying that they were rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing. If they were rebuked sharply, that might be a means to make them sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). It might make them not only to reform, but lay a better foundation for eternal life than ever yet was laid. Paul was very thorough in his work, and wherever he came he had the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, (Romans 15:29).

 

 

When Good Men go Wrong.

Augustine is a man beloved by both Calvinists and Catholics. I dare most who read this blog can think of one Augustineor reasons we like him. How many of us are aware of the gross error he taught? Here’s a sample of why Rome loves this man.

Augustine of Hippo, did not shrink from giving a dogmatic basis to what had come to be the practice of the church, and even professed to find warrant for it in Scripture. “It is, indeed, better that men should be brought to serve God by instruction than by fear of punishment, or by pain. But because the former means are better, the latter must not therefore be neglected. Many must often be brought back to their Lord, like wicked servants, by the rod of temporal suffering, before they attain the highest grade of religious development. . . The Lord himself orders that guests be first invited, then compelled, to his great supper.” And Augustine argues that if the State has not the power to punish religious error, neither should it punish a crime like murder. Rightly did Neander say of Augustine’s teaching, that it “contains the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the court of the Inquisition.” Nor was it long before the final step was taken in the church doctrine of persecution. Leo the Great, the first of the popes, in a strict sense of that term, drew the logical inference from the premises already provided for him by the Fathers of the church, when he declared that death is the appropriate penalty for heresy.

Once more, let us be just: the Roman Church is right in this conclusion if we grant its first premise, that salvation depends not on personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as a result of which or in connection with which the Holy Spirit regenerates the soul immediately, but is to be attained only through the church and its sacraments— baptism accomplishing the soul’s regeneration, and this new life being nourished and preserved through the Eucharist and other sacraments. Granting this doctrine of sacramental grace, not only is Rome justified in persecuting, but all who believe in sacramental grace are wrong not to persecute. For if salvation is impossible except through the church and its sacraments, every heretic is, as Rome charges, a murderer of souls. Is it not right to restrain and punish a murderer? From this point of view it becomes the duty of the church to root out heresy at all cost of human life—to make the world a desert, if need be, but at any rate to ensure peace. And all persecutors have been half-hearted in the work except only Rome; she has had the courage of her accursed convictions. She alone has recognized that if you say A you must say B, and so on, to the end of the alphabet; that if you once begin to persecute you must not tremble at blood and tears, nor shrink from sending men to the rack, the gibbet, and the stake. The Inquisition is the perfectly logical, the inevitable outcome of Roman doctrine, and the entire system of persecution is rooted in this idea of sacramental grace.

From Henry Vedder’s A Short History of the Baptists

Making Your Calling and Election Sure

This is a wonderful post by Mike Ratcliff. It is most important for every professing Christian to strive for holiness and not take the grace of Christ for granted. Here’s the introduction, make sure you head over to Mike’s blog to read the whole article. It will convict you if you are a child of the living God, for none of us walk entirely as we ought.

How can we know if we are truly in Christ? Or you may ask, “What is the fruit which genuine believers bear?” If true salvation is as impacting on a believers life as we contend then there should be verifiable evidence or fruit manifested in that life. The problem is in knowing what evidences really prove the presence of God in a person’s life and those that do not. I have noticed most professing Christians look at the wrong things in their self-evaluations to determine if they are in Christ. Real evidence of the presence of God in a person’s life will be the fruits of salvation. These fruits will in turn lead to outward manifestations of “goodness” or “religiosity” which, unfortunately, can be counterfeited. These outward manifestations are often what we look at to determine if we are a “good Christian” or not. My brethren, this is a fallacy. Any activity or attitude that can be counterfeited by a false believer cannot be used to verify ones salvation.

Let’s take a close look at these evidences that should never be used to verify our salvation. 

Read the rest here.

Thanksgiving Perspectives

This Thanksgiving Day, we are providing a post written by the Pilgrim from Thanksgiving 2009. So much has happened and changed in the world in the last 4 years, but there are also many things that have not. This is a reminder we should have in front of us every year.

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As we in America celebrate Thanksgiving, and all the great freedoms, advancements, and benefits that the exporting of Christianity to this land brought with it, let us not forget about those millions of other people who are trapped in the bondage of their nations who are held captive to false religions and the human wreckage that those false religions bring.

Becoming Last had a post containing some pictures which reminded me exactly how thankful we should be, and exactly how starkly different the continent of North America may have turned out had the light of Christianity not pierced the darkness that covered this land.

The pictures in the post came from a piece in the Sacramento Bee. I’ve included some of these sobering but needful reminders below.


Let us not go to our graves having done nothing to see the advancement of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world, where the worship of idols and demons keeps millions, if not billions, of souls in bondage.

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God by Jeffrey Johnson

Although I had been raised in a family that attended various churches, from non-imagesdenominational military chapels with no discernible doctrine to Nazarene churches with Arminian theology (later in life I was to wonder why those preachers ever preached anything other then Hebrews chapter 6), I was never with an interest in the Word of God. When I was redeemed, I began my search for meaning in the Scriptures and found the popular dispensational teaching of my Baptist church to be very suspect and off track. Once I began learning the doctrines of grace (known as Calvinism), the Scriptures came into a more clear view and then reformed theology was opened to me and I saw the larger redemptive story in the Bible; the main point of the Scripture is to show man how sinful he is and point him to the promised Redeemer.

But something still wasn’t right. The predominate teaching in the reformed world is from the Presbyterians. And while I can accept their church practices (though I cannot agree with them), I could not see how they made the church equal to the nation of Israel. This perspective, and a couple others closely related to it, cause our Presbyterian brothers to view virtually all Scripture as applicable to the church. It was the complete opposite of what I was taught in my dispensational churches, where there is near complete separation between the church and the nation of Israel. Neither system made sense to me.

By the providential hand of God, the early part of the 21st century has brought us a renewed interest in historical Baptist views. While several very good books have been written in this rather large field, the one that made the biggest impact on me was The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism, by a man who has become a dear friend to me, Jeffrey D. Johnson. That book made a very clear, biblical argument against the underlying theology of paedobaptism and introduced me to an historic and biblical Baptist view of covenant theology. This title, plus a couple of books on biblical theology (a process that keeps systematic theology from losing its place in Scripture – biblical theology is the contextual study of what the Bible says. The historic, redemptive context of a passage provides more clues to its meaning than anything other than related Scripture.), were foundational in helping me the Word of God even more clearly.

And now, much to my joy, our brother and servant of God, Jeff Johnson, has written another book: The Kingdom of God, A Baptist Expression of Covenant and Biblical Theology, due out early next year. Rather than a polemic pointing out the errors of paedobaptist theology (in an effort to convince Baptist to stay in the camp and comprehend a better view of the covenants), Jeff’s new book is a focused apologetic in favor of the historic Baptist view of covenant theology and biblical theology.

Is this stuff important? While it’s not as important as a biblical comprehension of who you are and who is the Christ, it is pretty important stuff. Because it will help the reader see the importance of approaching the Scriptures with humility rather than with unexamined presuppositions that subtly influence your understanding of what you read. When we open the Bible, we are taking into our minds the Word of God. The right fear of God and humility because we rightly see ourselves are essential attitudes for certain understanding of His Word and the covenants revealed therein. Charles Spurgeon went as far as to say, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based on fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace”

Johnson’s writing style is straight forward and easy to read. The main focus on his study of covenant theology is the Abrahamic Covenant and the duality therein. Failure to see the continuity as well as the discontinuity would leave one embracing paedobaptist theology on the first hand or dispenationalism on the other. From an early chapter in his new book, “In one sense, the debate between the continuity and discontinuity of the Old and New Covenants centers on the true identity of the people of God and the relationship between Abraham’s physical seed and Abraham’s spiritual seed, which returns us to the original question. Who are the true people of God? Are God’s people “the nation of Israel”? Are the people of God “believers and their seed?” Are the people of God “believers only?” Are God’s people some sort of combination of the two groups? The differing answers given to this question are what separate these theological positions from one another.”

He ends this section of the book with an examination of the covenant theology revealed in the book of Romans, showing how the Apostle who wrote Galatians was consistent in his theology, even when it went against his deepest human concerns.

The second part of the book is relatively short introduction to biblical theology which makes this topic approachable by any child of God. The historical record from Scripture shows the rise and fall of kingdoms and peoples, all of which were brought to pass to deliver, preserve, and protect the promised Seed. Creator God is the God of means as well as ends. Biblical theology helps us see His hand of providence in history and keeps us from falling into the error of thinking man is in charge of his own destiny.

There is a BONUS appendix in this book, where brother Johnson takes a quick look at The New Perspectives on Paul. Some who are impressed with the wisdom of man have been swept away by this new view; Jeff shows us why the wisdom of God is to be trusted – even in the face of all the king’s men with all their advanced degrees. The biblical Apostle Paul, not the one found in The New Perspectives, told us he did not come to us with brilliance of speech or wisdom, for he didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among us except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He came to us in weakness, in fear, in much trembling. His speech and proclamation were not with impressive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that our faith would not rest on the wisdom of men but on God’s power.

40% off: Pre-publication sale for The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Covenant & Biblical Theology.  280 page, hardcover with dust jacket.  Retail price $28.00.  No payment necessary until after it is released. To reserve a copy, email freegracepress@gmail.com. Reserve two copies for 50%, plus free shipping. This is a pre-publication sale only. This offer ends on 27 November.

Truth and Error

Truth and error

Near Truth:  Departing from what God has said is serious. quote-a-rusty-nail-placed-near-a-faithful-compass-will-sway-it-from-the-truth-and-wreck-the-argosy-walter-scott-166220

God’s Truth: Genesis 2:16 – 17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

The temptation: Genesis 3:1 “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Near Truth: Genesis 3:2 – 3 “And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

Consequence: Genesis 3:16 – 19 & 22 – 24 “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return…. And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

Lesson: That which sounds like Truth may not be. If one simple Truth (Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil) cannot be held in a more perfect mind than we have, how much more need do we have than Adam and Eve to study the Word of God in order to not depart from it? We have been given much more Truth and have a great need for the Holy Spirit to teach us.

 

Pragmatism: Doing God’s work our way can be dangerous, methods do matter.

God’s way: Numbers 4:14 – 15 “And they (Aaron and his sons) shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basins, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers’ skins, and put to the staves of it. And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation.”

Man’s way: 2 Samuel 6:2 – 4, 6 -7 “And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. … And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

Consequence: Departure from God’s clear instruction can kill a man.

Lesson: Focusing on “what works” is not normally the right thing to do. We know not what the future holds, therefore we know not “what works”. Man vainly imagines what is good and strives to acheive it. God tells us to obey Him and trust Him for the results.

 

Carelessness.

God’s way: Exodus 28:40 – 43 “And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.”

Man’s way: Numbers 3:2 – 4 “And these are the names of the sons of Aaron; Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office. And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of Aaron their father.”

Consequence: Negligence of God’s clear instruction can kill a man.

Lesson: God does not depend on any man or group of men. If we are careless with our charge, He will use others.

(Note: I am not, in these two examples, advocating that Christians should adhere to Levitical requirements; merely pointing out that God is serious about telling us what He requires.)

 

Doctrine: Compromising on God’s established teachings is evil.

God’s way: Ephesians 2:13 – 22 “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Man’s way: Galatians 2:11 – 14 “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Consequence: Polluting God’s doctrine with traditions of men will be noticed.

Lesson: Our public reputation and ego are of no consideration to God. His teachings – His doctrine – will be taught correctly or the false teacher will (sooner or later) be disciplined.

 

Summary: The Scriptures are full of instruction from God to us – as individuals and as a church. Being cavalier with our personal walk or public service is sin. Each man should humbly submit himself to the Holy Spirit of God for instruction and discipline, and be on guard to not let his heart become hard. It is the nature of deception for the one being deceived to be ignorant of his condition. Do not trust yourself. Submit to God. Study His Word. Fellowship with others who are serious about their walk with the Redeemer of your soul.