Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Brethren, a pure and holy God cannot endure sin: he cannot have fellowship with it, or with those who are rendered unclean by it, for it would be inconsistent with his nature so to do. On the other hand, sinful men cannot have fellowship with God: their evil nature could not endure the fire of his holiness. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? What is that devouring fire, and what are those everlasting burnings, but the justice and holiness of God?
Spurgeon Quote on Holiness Of God
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
REGENERATION AND CONVERSION.
At the outset of a discussion of these two subjects we are met by the question, whether they are not one and the same thing. They are unquestionably so intimately associated that it is difficult to separate them and point out the distinctions between them. The Scriptures connect the two under the one idea of the new birth, and teach that not only is regeneration an absolute essential in each conversion, but that in every intelligent responsible soul conversion invariably accompanies regeneration. It is not strange, therefore, that they are often confounded. Yet, after all, the Scriptures also teach that regeneration is the work of God, changing the heart of man by his sovereign will, while conversion is the act of man turning towards God with the new inclination thus given to his heart.
I. It is best first to collect together the various terms and expressions in which this whole matter is taught.1. Forms of the verb gennao, which means "to beget."John 1:13; 3:3, 4 (two places), 5, 6, 7, 8; 1 Cor. 4:15; Philemon 10; 1 John 2:29; 3:9 (two places); 4:7; 5:1 (three places); 5:4, 18 (two places).
2. Compound forms of gennao.1 Pet. 1:23. "Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth."Titus 3:5. "He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
3. The word apekuesen is used in James 1:18, and means to bring forth or bear young, and there evidently means to bring to the condition of sonship.
4. Ktisis and ktizo, which mean creation and create, are found in 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10, 15; 4:24.
5. Sunezoopoiesen, he quickened together with (Christ). Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13.
In addition to the above uses of single words are the following passages which speak of the word of God as an effective instrument, but not as a creative power. These, however, do not connect this instrument with either regeneration or conversion necessarily; but speaks of it (a) as a means of partaking of the divine nature, 2 Pet. 1:4; (b) as a means of purifying, John 15:3; (c) as a means of Christian defense, Eph. 6:17; and (d) as an instrument of powerful conviction and destruction of the wicked, Heb. 4:12.
II. From the Scriptural teaching we see that the whole work of Regeneration and Conversion is included under the one term regeneration.
It is true that but few of the passages refer to anything save the work of God; yet these few sufficiently teach the use of the word in regeneration to lead us not to reject, as a part of it, that result of God's act which, in connection with the word, leads to the full union of its subject with Christ through repentance and faith.
The passages in connection with Paul as God's instrument, 1 Cor. 4:15, and Philemon 10, would not be conclusive, but they are made so by others.
However much James 1:18 suggests a different aspect of the work, namely, the bringing forth that which has been begotten, still it so nearly connects that idea with the begetting as to create doubt if the whole work may not be virtually involved.
But 1 Pet. 1:23, by the use of the compound of gennao, shows that all the work of the Spirit, including both the new heart and the leading of it to conscious faith, is properly to be spoken of by the same term as a mere change of heart.
The whole work is thus spoken of, however, because God is operative from the beginning to the end, but this does not prove that he does not operate differently in one part from what he does in the other.
III. The Scripture teaching is that God operates immediately upon the heart to produce the required change, by which it is fitted to receive the truth, and mediately through the word in its reception of that truth.
1. He operates immediately upon the heart to prepare the way for the truth. This is evident
(1.) From the description given of man's spiritual condition.
(a) As spiritually dead. Eph. 2:1.
(b) As blind. Eph. 4:18.
(c) As slaves to sin. John 8:34; Rom. 6:17, 19.
(d) As needing deliverance from the powers of darkness. Col. 1:13.
(e) As incapable of knowing or discerning the things of the Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:18.
(f) As incapable of changing himself. Jer. 13:23.
(g) As defiled in conscience. Tit. 1:15.These passages show man in a condition from which he must be rescued even to understand and appreciate the truth of God.
(2.) The Scripture attributes the birth to the will of God exclusively, thus showing that in some aspect it is not to be regarded as due to the reception of the truth. John 1:13.
[For sections (3), (4), (5) and (6), see Hodge's Outlines, p. 451.]
(3.) The influence of the Spirit is distinguished from that of the word. John 6:45, 64, 65; 1 Cor. 2:12-15; 1 Thess. 1:5, 6.
(4.) A divine influence is declared to be necessary for the reception of the truth. Ps. 119:18; Acts 16:14; Eph. 1:17-20.
(5.) Such an internal operation on the heart is attributed to God. Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21; Phil. 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:11; Heb. 13:21.
(6.) The nature of this influence is evidently different from that effected by the truth. Eph. 1:19; 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:25.
(7.) This influence is spoken of as a preparation of the heart for the truth; which, therefore, must be distinct from the truth or its reception. Luke 8:8, 15; Acts 16:14.This preparation of the heart comes from God. 1 Chron. 29:18, 19; Ps. 119:18; Prov. 16:1; Acts 16:14; Rom. 9:23.2. The Spirit acts mediately through the word.
(1.) He inspired that word and sends it forth for the accomplishment of the ends designed. John 14:16; 2 Tim. 3:16.
(2.) He aids the ministry and others in making it known. 1 Cor. 4:7; 2 Thess. 3:1.To the extent that these are his agents he uses the word.
(3.) The instrument thus used is in itself effective as truth. Heb. 4:12. Therefore, Christians are commanded in their spiritual warfare to take the word of God as the sword of the Spirit. Eph. 6:17. It is, however, made especially so to the heart prepared for it by his illuminating influences, which reveal its beauties and its suitableness, and by the aid of the memory which recalls, and the conscience which applies, and the affections which lay hold upon it. 2 Tim. 3:15, 16, 17.
(4.) Christians are, therefore, said to be "brought forth, (James 1:18), by the word of truth," because that is the seed sown in the prepared ground through which they are led by repentance and faith to union with Christ and sonship of God.
(5.) Since this use of the Scriptures is due to their own fitness to present motives to action, the Spirit of God is not limited to this word alone but uses such other truth, and such events of life as may be effective towards the contemplated end. Thus any events in God's providence, as afflictions, or dangers, or personal sins, or the conversion of others, or aught else that may lead to seeking God, are used as a means of awakening, or of giving deeper conviction, or of enforcing the Scripture truths which lead to conversion.
(6.) This is especially true of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper duly set forth before mankind. So far as these ordinances are fitted to convey truth, or to impress duty, they are instrumental in regeneration.
(7.) But neither of them regenerates or confers regeneration.
(a) This is not done by the Lord's Supper. It has been argued from John 6:51-58, where Christ promises eternal life to those who shall eat his flesh and drink his blood, and denies it to all who shall not. The language used refers to spiritual participation in his salvation. It is similar to the promise to the woman at Sychar that "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14. It is argued that Christ must have meant partaking of his real body, because he did not correct the Jews who, because they so understood him, rejected him. But, John 8:51-53, he did not correct a similar mistake which led to a similar result when he said in verse 51, "If a man keep my word he shall never see death."
(b) Even more distinctly is this true of Baptism. Spiritual effects are spoken of in connection with this ordinance. Thus we have "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Titus 3:5. We have Paul exhorted by Ananias, Acts 22:16, "arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins," and the language of Christ, John 3:5, "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The first of these has reference to the cleansing influence of regeneration by the Spirit in like manner as his renewing, which is spoken of in the immediate context and has no reference to baptism. That the last refers to baptism is at least doubtful; but admitting that it does, which is doubtless true of the second, we have here outward baptism, only as symbolizing an inward change and not producing it. The following reasons plainly show that neither of these ordinances has regenerating power.
(1.) That ordinances can only be signs of grace and cannot confer it.
(2.) They may convey truth symbolically, and only such truth is fitted to affect the mind. But nothing symbolized by these two can confer regeneration upon those receiving them.
(3.) They are appointed to be used only by those who have been regenerated. Baptism is an act of obedience, symbolizing the death of believers to sin, and resurrection to new life, and setting forth their union with Christ in his death and burial. The Lord's Supper is to be partaken of by those already, as Christian believers, united together in church fellowship.
(4.) That this was the use of Baptism is evident from the practice of the Apostolic Christians. Acts 2:41. The baptized had received his word. This followed repentance and preceded baptism. The addition to the text in Acts 8:37 could not have taken place had it not been for the universal prevalence of the idea that faith necessarily precedes baptism. Paul before his baptism had received the Lord Jesus and his eyes had been opened and the Holy Ghost given. Acts 9:18. Cornelius and his house also received the Holy Ghost and spake with tongues before their baptism. Acts 10:44-48. The Jailer at Philippi manifestly believed before he was baptized. Baptism without antecedent faith was treated as invalid in certain disciples at Ephesus. Acts 19:1-5.
(5.) That this was also true of the Lord's Supper is shown by the fact that it was partaken of only by churches, and the members of churches are everywhere spoken of and treated as converted persons; also by the further fact that it was a memorial service ("in remembrance of me") and a memorial implies previous knowledge of the persons and facts remembered. But only such a knowledge and remembrance could be blessed, as involved faith in Jesus. 1 Cor. 11:28, 29.
(6.) The Spirit does not make truth effective by giving it additional force to that which it has naturally, but by so affecting the mind that the man is prepared to receive it with its own due force. Thus he changes the mind, illuminates the mind, helps it appreciate and lay hold of truth. Only thus does he make truth effectual. Therefore, the outward washing or partaking can have no effect to renew, or regenerate the heart, which must itself have been prepared, before it can even appropriate the truths conveyed by these ordinances.The above statements are only intended to meet the views of Romanists and such others as claim regenerating influence of sacraments, and not those of such as make Baptism only a condition of pardon. The latter claim that regeneration is through the word only and are met by the proofs that the Spirit acts independently of the word.
I. This is the result of regeneration. The new heart is prepared to turn to God and does actually so turn. Without regeneration, the sinfulness of man keeps him away from God, causes him to set his affections upon self and his own pleasure, and to find gratification in things which are opposed to God and holiness. The regenerated heart has new affections and desires and is, therefore, fitted to seek after God and holiness.
II. It is both the act of God and of man co-operating with him.
1. It is the act of God. It is thus described in the Scriptures.
1 Kings 18:37. "Thou hast turned their heart back again."
Ps. 80:3. "Turn us again, O God; and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved."
Ps. 85:4. "Turn us, O God of our salvation."
Song of Sol. 1:4. "Draw me; we will run after thee."
Jer. 30:21. "I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me."
Jer. 31:18. "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned."
Ezek. 36:27. "
And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
John 6:44. "No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me draw him."
2. It is the act of the regenerated heart actively co-operating in thus turning.
Deut. 4:30. "Thou shalt return to the Lord thy God."
Prov. 1:23. "Turn you at my reproof."
Hosea 12:6. "Therefore turn thou to thy God."
Isaiah 55:7. "Let him return unto the Lord."
Joel 2:13. "Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God."
Acts 11:21. "A great number that believed turned unto the Lord."
III. The question naturally arises what is the nature of conversion. In reply it may be said that it consists:
1. Not in mere outward reformation.
2. Not in return from backsliding.
3. But in the turning of the heart to God and holiness.
It is a turning of the thoughts, desires and affections of the heart from sinful and carnal lusts and pleasures toward holy things, and God, and Christ, and salvation. It is a turning from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God. [See Gill's Divinity 2:132-4.] It consists "in a man's turning actively to God under the influence of divine grace." [Gill 2:135]
IV. This conversion comprises:
1. A knowledge of the true God, and acceptance of him as such.
2. Knowledge of personal sin, guilt and condemnation.
3. Sorrow for sin and desire to escape condemnation.
4. Determination to turn away from sin and seek God.
5. Conviction of personal need of help in so doing.
6. Knowledge of Christ as a Saviour from sin.
7. Personal trust in Christ and his salvation.
A man in one sense maybe called converted as soon as he has truly turned to God and is also seeking to know and do his will. This is that amount of conversion which is so nearly contemporaneous with regeneration as to be liable to be supposed to exist at the same moment with it, and which indeed in a being capable of thought on such subjects must be its immediate effect.
But what the Scriptures and common language comprise in this word is repentance and trust in God's saving power, and, in connection with Christian knowledge, trust in Jesus Christ as a Saviour. The attainment of the fullness of such conversion is by the gradual appreciation of truth, resulting not only from regeneration, and knowledge, but from spiritual illumination of the mind.
V. The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence.
Wherever the appropriate truth is at the time present its relation is almost that of producing cause, for the prepared heart at once receives the truth. Hence, as this is so generally the case, they have been usually regarded as contemporaneous and by some even as identical. But that regeneration is the invariable antecedent is seen,
1. From the fact that the heart is the soil in which the seed, the word of God, is sown, and that seed only brings forth fruit in the good soil. The heart is made good soil by regeneration.
2. Regeneration (as in infants) may exist without faith and repentance, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Therefore, regeneration precedes.
3. Logically the enabling act of God must, in a creature, precede the act of the creature thus enabled. But this logical antecedence involves actual antecedence, or the best conceptions of our mind deceive us and are not reliable. For this logical antecedence exists only because the mind observes plainly a perceived dependence of the existence of the one on the other. But such dependence demands, if not causal, at least antecedent existence. Here it is only antecedent.
VI. There is not only antecedence, but in some cases an appreciable interval.
1. This is true even of conversion regarded as a mere turning to God. Between it and regeneration must intervene in some cases some period of time until the knowledge of God's existence and nature is given, before the heart turns, or even is turned towards that God.
(1.) This must be true of all infants and of all persons otherwise incapable of responsibility, as for example idiots.
(2.) There is no reason why it should not be true of some heathen. The missionaries of the cross have been sought by men, who knew nothing of Christianity, but whose hearts, unsatisfied with the religion of their fathers, were restlessly seeking for what their soul was crying out.2. It is still more manifestly true of full Christian conversion.
(1.) The Scriptures teach this in many examples of persons pious, holy, and fearing God, yet unacquainted with the full truth which secures union with Christ.Ethiopian Eunuch: Acts 8:26-40.Paul: Acts, chapter 9, 22 and 26. Galatians, chapters 1st and 2d.Cornelius the Centurion: Acts 10:2.Lydia: Acts 16:14.
(2.) The experience of ministers in all ages with persons seeking and attaining salvation confirms this idea. The attainment of conversion may be marked by stages. The sinner is at first totally indifferent. The word produces on him no effect. Then
(1.) There is an evident willingness to give serious attention to the truth of God. God has opened the heart as he did that of Lydia.
(2.) There is conviction of sin, sense of its vileness, and of its dangerous effects.
(3.) The soul, oppressed by these, strives to do something by which to attain salvation, but finds all in vain.
(4.) At last accepting the truth of God's word it rests in trust of a personal Saviour.
VII. The term conversion is not technically applied to any change, except that which follows upon regeneration, and consists in the Godward turning of one heretofore turned entirely away from God. The return of men who have backslidden, or fallen into grievous sin, is also called "a return to God," and such a return is possibly what is called "conversion" in Peter's case. Luke 22:32. But conversion is theologically used exclusively of the first act.
Abstract of Systematic Theology by Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,
Friday, May 23, 2008
Arthur W. Pink
Most of the so-called evangelism of our day is a grief to genuine Christians, for they feel that it lacks any scriptural warrant, that it is dishonoring unto God, and that it is filling the churches with empty professors. They are shocked that so much frothy superficiality, fleshly excitement and worldly allurement should be associated with the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They deplore the cheapening of the Gospel, the beguiling of unwary souls, and the carnalizing and commercializing of what is to them ineffably sacred. It requires little spiritual discernment to perceive that the evangelistic activities of Christendom during the last century have steadily deteriorated from bad to worse, yet few appear to realize the root from which this evil has sprung. It will now be our endeavor to expose the same. Its aim was wrong, and therefore its fruit faulty.
The grand design of God, from which He never has and never will swerve, is to glorify Himself: to make manifest before His creatures what an infinitely glorious Being He is. That is the great aim and end He has in all that He does and says. For that He suffered sin to enter the world. For that He willed His beloved Son to become incarnate, render perfect obedience to the divine law, suffer and die. For that He is now taking out of the world a people for Himself, a people which shall eternally show forth His praises. For that everything is ordered by His providential dealings, unto that everything on earth is now being directed, and shall actually affect the same. Nothing other than that is what regulates God in all His actings: “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)
That grand and basic truth is written rat across the Scriptures with the plainness of a sunbeam, and he who sees it not is blind. All things are appointed by God to that one end. His saving of sinners is not an end in itself, for God would have been no loser had every one of them eternally perished. No, His saving of sinners is but a means unto an end: “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” (Eph. 1:6) Now from that fundamental fact it necessarily follows that we should make the same our aim and end: that God may be magnified by us — “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) In like manner it also follows that such must be the preacher’s aim, and that everything must be subordinated thereto, for everything else is of secondary importance and value. But is it so? Take the latest slogan of the religions world, “Youth for Christ.” Well, what is wrong with that? Its emphasis! Why not “Christ for Youth”?
If the evangelist fails to make the glory of God his paramount and constant aim, he is certain to go wrong, and all his efforts will be more or less a beating of the air. When he makes an end of anything less than that, he is sure to fall into error, for he no longer gives God His proper place. Once we fix on ends of our own, we are ready to adopt means of our own. It was at this very point evangelism failed two or three generations ago, and from that point it has farther and farther departed. Evangelism made “the winning of souls” its goal, its summum bonum, and everything else was made to serve and pay tribute to the same. Though the glory of God was not actually denied, yet it was lost sight of, crowded out, made secondary. Further, let it be remembered that God is honored in exact proportion as the preacher cleaves to His Word, and faithfully proclaims “all His counsel,” and not merely those portions which appeal to him.
To say nothing here about those cheap-jack evangelists who aim no higher than rushing people into making a formal profession of faith in order that the membership of the churches may be swelled, take those who are inspired by a genuine compassion and deep concern for the perishing, who earnestly long and zealously endeavor to deliver souls from the wrath to come, yet unless they be much on their guard, they too will inevitably err. Unless they steadily view conversion in the way God does — as the way in which He is to be glorified — they will quickly begin to compromise in the means they employ. The feverish urge of modern evangelism is not how to promote the glory of the triune Jehovah, but how to multiply conversions. The whole current of evangelical activity during the past fifty years has taken that direction. Losing sight of God’s end, the churches have devised means of their own.
Bent on attaining a certain desired object, the energy of the flesh has been given free rein; and supposing that the object was right, evangelists have concluded that nothing could be wrong which contributed unto the securing of that end; and since their efforts appear to be eminently successful, only too many churches silently acquiesced, telling themselves “the end justified the means.” Instead of examining the plans proposed and the methods adopted by the light of Scripture, they were tacitly accepted on the ground of expediency. The evangelist was esteemed not for the soundness of his message, but by the visible “results” he secured. He was valued not ac-cording to how far his preaching honored God, but by how many souls were supposedly converted under it.
Once a man makes the conversion of sinners his prime design and all-consuming end, he is exceedingly apt to adopt a wrong course. Instead of striving to preach the Truth in all its purity, he will tone it down so as to make it more palatable to the unregenerate. Impelled by a single force, moving in one fixed direction, his object is to make conversion easy, and therefore favorite passages (like John 3:16) are dwelt upon incessantly, while others are ignored or pared away. It inevitably reacts upon his own theology, and various verses in the Word are shunned, if not repudiated. What place will he give in his thought to such declarations as “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23), “No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44), “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:14)?
He will be sorely tempted to modify the truth of God’s sovereign election, of Christ’s particular redemption, of the imperative necessity for the supernatural operations of the Holy Spirit.
In twentieth-century evangelism there has been a woeful ignoring of the solemn truth of the total depravity of man. There has been a complete underrating of’ the desperate case and condition of the sinner. Very few indeed have faced the unpalatable fact that every man is thoroughly corrupt by nature, that he is completely unaware of his own wretchedness, blind and helpless, dead in trespasses and sins. Because such in his case, because his heart is filled with enmity against God, it follows that no man can be saved without the special and immediate intervention of God. According to our view here, so will it be else-where: to qualify and modify the truth of man’s total depravity will inevitably lead to the diluting of collateral truths. The teaching of Holy Writ on this point is unmistakable: man’s plight is such that his salvation is impossible unless God puts forth His mighty power. No stirring of the emotions by anecdotes, no regaling of the senses by music, no oratory of the preacher, no persuasive appeals, are of the slightest avail.
In connection with the old creation, God did all without any assistants. But in the far more stupendous work of the new creation, it is intimated by the Arminian evangelism of our day that He needs the sinner’s cooperation. Really, it comes to this: God is represented as helping man to save himself: the sinner must begin the work by becoming willing, and then God will complete the business. Whereas, none but the Spirit can make him willing in the day of His power. (Psa. 110:3) He alone can produce godly sorrow for sin, and saving faith in the Gospel. He alone can make us out of love with ourselves, and bring us into subjection to the Lordship of Christ. Instead of seeking the aid of outside evangelists, let the churches get on their faces before God, confess their sins, seek His glory, and cry for His miracle-working operations. “Not by might (of the preacher), nor by power (of the sinner’s will), but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.”
It is generally recognized that spirituality is at a low ebb in Christendom, and not a few perceive that sound doctrine is rapidly on the wane, yet many of the Lord’s people take comfort from supposing that the Gospel is still being widely preached and that large numbers are being saved thereby. Alas, their optimistic supposition is ill-founded and sandily grounded. If the “message” now being delivered in Mission Halls be examined, if the “tracts” which are being scattered among the unchurched masses be scrutinized, if the “open air” speakers be carefully listened to, if the “Sermons” or “Addresses” of a “soul-winning campaign” be analyzed; in short, if modern “Evangelism” be weighed in the balances of Holy Writ, it will be found wanting, lacking that which is vital to a genuine conversion, lacking what is essential if sinners are to be shown their need of a Savior, lacking that which will produce the transfigured lives of new creatures in Christ Jesus.
It is in no captious spirit that we write, seeking to make a man an offender for a ward. It is not that we are looking for per-fection, and complain because we cannot find it; nor that we criticize others because they are not doing things as we think they should be done. No, no, it is a matter far more serious than that. The “evangelism” of the day is not only superficial to the last degree, but it is radically defective. It is utterly lack-ing a foundation on which to base an appeal for sinners to come to Christ (emphasis ours, I.C.H.). There is not only a lamentable lack of proportion (the mercy of God being made far more prominent than His holiness, His love than His wrath), but there is a fatal omission of that which God has given for the purpose of imparting a knowledge of sin. There is not only a reprehensible introducing of “bright singing,” humorous witticisms and entertaining anecdotes, but there is a studied omission of dark background upon which alone the Gospel can effectively shine forth.
But serious indeed as is the above indictment, it is only half of it — the negative side, that which is lacking. Worse still is that which is being retailed by the cheap-jack evangelists of the day. The positive content of their message is nothing but a throwing of dust in the eyes of the sinner. His soul is put to sleep by the devil’s opiate, ministered in a most unsuspecting form. Those who really receive the “message” which is now being given out from most of the “orthodox” pulpits and platforms today, are being fatally deceived. It is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but unless God sovereignly intervenes by a miracle of grace, all who follow it will surely find that the ends thereof are the ways of death. Tens of thousands who confidently imagine that they are bound for heaven will get a terrible disillusionment when they awake in hell!
What Is the Gospel?
Is it a message of glad tidings from heaven to make God-defying rebels at ease in their wickedness? Is it given for the purpose of assuring the pleasure-crazy young people that, providing they only “believe,” there is nothing for them to fear in the future? One would certainly think so from the way in which the Gospel is presented, or rather perverted, by most of the “evangelists,” and the more so when we look at the lives of their “converts.” Surely those with any degree of spiritual discernment must perceive that to assure such that God loves them and His Son died for them, and that a full pardon for all their sins (past, present and future) can be obtained by simply “accepting Christ as their personal Savior” is but a casting of pearls before swine.
The Gospel is not a thing apart. It is not something independent of the prior revelation
of God’s Law.
It is not an announcement that God has relaxed His justice or lowered His standard of holiness. So far from that, when scripturally expounded the Gospel presents the clearest demonstration and the climacteric proof of the inexorableness of God’s justice and of His infinite abhorrence of sin. But for scripturally expounding the Gospel, beardless youths and business men who devote their spare time to “evangelistic effort” are quite unqualified. Alas that the pride of the flesh suffers so many incompetent ones to rush in where those much wiser fear to tread. It is this multiplying of novices that is largely responsible for the woeful situation now con-fronting us, and because the “churches” and “assemblies” are so largely filled with their “converts” explains why they are so unspiritual and worldly.
No, my reader, the Gospel is very, very far from making light of sin. The Gospel shows us how unsparingly God deals with sin. It reveals to us the terrible sword of His justice smiting His beloved Son in order that atonement might be made for the transgressions of His people. So far from the Gospel settling aside the law, it exhibits the Savior enduring the curse of it. Calvary supplied the most solemn and awe-inspiring display of God’s hatred of sin that time or eternity will ever furnish. And do you imagine that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to worldlings and telling them that they “may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their personal Savior” while they are wedded to their idols and their hearts are still in love with sin? If I do so, I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.
No doubt some readers are ready to object to our “harsh” and “sarcastic” statements above by asking, When the question was put “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:31) did not an inspired apostle expressly say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved”? Can we err, then, if we tell sinners the same thing today? Have we not divine warrant for so doing? True, those words are found in Holy Writ, and because they are, many superficial and untrained people conclude that they are justified in repeating them to all and sundry. But let it be pointed out that Acts 16:31 was not addressed to a promiscuous multitude, but to a particular individual, which at once intimates that it is not a message to be indiscriminately sounded forth, but rather a special word to those whose characters correspond to the one to whom it was first spoken.
Verses of Scripture must not be wrenched from their setting, but weighed, interpreted, and applied in accord with their context; and that calls for prayerful consideration, careful meditation, and prolonged study; and it is failure at this point which accounts for these shoddy and worthless “messages” of this rush-ahead age. Look at the context of Acts 16:31, and what do we find? What was the occasion, and to whom was it that the apostle and his companion said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”? A sevenfold answer is there furnished, which supplies a striking and complete delineation of the character of those to whom we are warranted in giving this truly evangelistic word. As we briefly name these seven details, let the reader carefully ponder them.
First, the man to whom these words were spoken had just witnessed the miracle-working power of God. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (Acts 16:26) Second, in consequence thereof the man was deeply stirred, even to the point of self-despair: “He drew out his sword and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.” (v. 27) Third, he felt the need of illumination: “Then he called for a light.” (v. 29) Fourth, his self-complacency was utterly shattered, for he “came trembling.” (v. 29) Fifth, he took his proper place (before God — in the dust — for he “fell down before Paul and Silas.” (v. 29) Sixth, he showed respect and consideration for God’s servants, for he “brought them out.” (v. 30) Seventh, then, with a deep concern for his soul, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
Here, then, is something definite for our guidance, if we are willing to be guided. It was no giddy, careless, unconcerned person who was exhorted to “simply” believe; but instead, one who gave clear evidence that a mighty work of God had already been wrought within him. He was an awakened soul. (v. 27) In his case there was no need to press upon him his lost condition, for he obviously felt it; nor were the apostles required to urge upon him the duty of repentance, for his entire demeanor betokened his contrition. But to apply the words spoken to him unto those who are totally blind to their depraved state and completely dead toward God, would be more foolish than placing a bottle of smelling salts to the nose of one just dragged unconscious from the water. Let the critic of this article read through Acts and see if he can find a single instance of the apostles addressing a promiscuous audience or a company of idolatrous heathen and “simply” telling them to believe in Christ!
“By the Law Is the Knowledge of Sin”
Just as the world was not ready for the New Testament before it received the Old, just as the Jews were not prepared for the ministry of Christ until John the Baptist had gone before Him with his clamant call to repentance, so the unsaved are in no condition today for the Gospel till the Law be applied to their hearts, for “by the Law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20) It is a waste of time to sow seed on ground which has never been ploughed or spaded! To present the vicarious sacrifice of Christ to those whose dominant passion is to take their fill of sin, is to give that which is holy unto the dogs. What the unconverted need to hear about is the character of Him with whom they have to do, His claims upon them, His righteous demands, and the infinite enormity of disregarding Him and going their own way.
The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day “evangelist.” He announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness. The very first thing said of Him in the New Testament is, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people (not “from the wrath to come,” but) from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) Christ is a Savior for those realizing something of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, who feel the awful burden of it on their conscience, who loathe themselves for it, who long to be freed from its terrible dominion; and a Savior for no others. Were He to “save from hell” those still in love with sin, He would be a Minister of sin, condoning their wickedness and siding with them against God. What an unspeakably horrible and blasphemous thing with which to charge the Holy One!
Should the reader exclaim, I was not conscious of the heinousness of sin nor bowed down with a sense of my guilt when Christ saved me. Then we unhesitating reply, Either you have never been saved at all, or you were not saved as early as you supposed. True, as the Christian grows in grace he has a clearer realization of what sin is — rebellion against God — and a deeper hatred of and sorrow for it; but to think that one may be saved by Christ whose conscience has never been smitten by the Spirit and whose heart has not been made contrite before God, is to imagine something which has no existence in the realm of fact. “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Mark 9:12): the only ones who really seek relief from the great Physician are they that are sick of sin — who long to be delivered from its God-dishonoring works and its soul-defiling pollutions.
Inasmuch, then, as Christ’s salvation is a salvation from sin — from the love of it, from its dominion, from its guilt and penalty — then it necessarily follows that the first great task and the chief work of the evangelist is to preach upon SIN: to define what sin (as distinct from crime) really is, to show wherein its infinite enormity consists; to trace out its manifold workings in the heart; to indicate that nothing less than eternal punishment is its desert. Ah, and preaching upon sin — not merely uttering a few platitudes concerning it, but devoting sermon after sermon to explaining what sin is in the sight of God — will not make him popular nor draw the crowds, will it? No, it will not, and knowing this, those who love the praise of men more than the approbation of God, and who value their salary above immortal souls, trim their sails accordingly. “But such preaching will drive people away!” We answer, far better drive the people away by faithful preaching than to drive the Holy Spirit away by unfaithfully pandering to the flesh.
The terms of Christ’s salvation are erroneously stated by the present-day evangelist. With very rare exceptions he tells his hearers that salvation is by grace and is received as a free gift; that Christ has done everything for the sinner, and that nothing remains but for him to “believe” — to trust in the infinite merits of His blood. And so widely does this conception now prevail in “orthodox” circles, so frequently has it been dinned in their ears, so deeply has it taken root in their minds, that for one to now challenge it and denounce it as being so inadequate and one-sided as to be deceptive and erroneous, is for him to instantly court the stigma of being a heretic, and to be charged with dishonoring the finished work of Christ by inculcating salvation by works. Yet, notwithstanding, the writer is quite prepared to run that risk.
Salvation is by grace, by grace alone, for a fallen creature cannot possibly do anything to merit God’s approval or earn His favor. Nevertheless, divine grace is not exercised at the expense of holiness, for it never compromises with sin. It is also true that salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which still tightly grasps the world! But it is not true that “Christ has done everything for the sinner.” He did not fill His belly with the husks which the swine eat and find them unable to satisfy. He has not turned His back on the far country, arisen, gone to the Father, and acknowledged his sins — those are acts which the sinner himself must perform. True, he will not be saved for the performance of them, any more than the prodigal could receive the Father’s kiss and ring while he remained at a guilty distance from him!
Something more than “believing” is necessary to salvation. A heart that is steeled in rebellion against God cannot savingly believe: it must first be broken. It is written “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Lk. 13:3) Repentance is just as essential as faith, yea, the latter cannot be without the former: “Repented not afterwards that ye might believe.” (Matt. 21:32) The order is clearly enough laid down by Christ: “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Repentance is sorrowing for sin. Repentance is a heart-repudiation of sin. Repentance is a heart-determination to forsake sin. And where there is true repentance grace is free to act, for the requirements of holiness are conserved when sin is renounced. Thus, it is the duty of the evangelist to cry, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him.” (Isa. 55:7) His task is to call on his hearers to lay down the weapons of their warfare against God, and then to sue for mercy through Christ.
The way of salvation is falsely defined. In most instances the modern “evangelist” assures his congregation that all any sinner has to do in order to escape hell and make sure of heaven is to “receive Christ as his personal Savior.” But such teaching is utterly misleading. No one can receive Christ as his Savior while he rejects Him as Lord! It is true the preacher adds that the one who accepts Christ should also surrender to Him as Lord, but he at once spoils it by asserting that though the convert fails to do so nevertheless heaven is sure to him. That is one of the devil’s lies. Only those who are spiritually blind would declare that Christ will save any who despise His authority and refuse His yoke: why, my reader, that would not be grace but a disgrace — charging Christ with placing a premium on lawlessness.
It is in His office of Lord that Christ maintains God’s honor, subserves His government, enforces His Law; and if the reader will turn to those passages (Luke 1:46, 47; Acts 5:31; 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:18) where the two titles occur, he will find that the order is always “Lord and Savior,” and not “Savior and Lord.” Therefore, those who have not bowed to Christs’ sceptre and enthroned Him in their hearts and lives, and yet imagine they are trusting in Him as their Savior, are deceived, and unless God disillusions them they will go down to the everlasting burnings with a lie in their right hand. (Isa. 44:20) Christ is “the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Heb. 5:9), but the attitude of those who submit not to His Lordship is “we will not have this Man to reign over us.” (Luke 19:14) Pause then, my reader, and honestly face the question: Am I subject to His will? am I sincerely endeavoring to keep His commandments?
Alas, alas, God’s “way of salvation” is almost entirely unknown today, the nature of Christ’s salvation is almost universally misunderstood, and the terms of His salvation misrepresented on every hand. The “Gospel” which is now being proclaimed is, in nine cases out of every ten, but a perversion of the Truth, and tens of thousands, assured they are bound for heaven, are now hastening to hell as fast as time can take them. Things are far, far worse in Christendom than even the “pessimist” and the “alarmist” suppose. We are not a prophet, nor shall we indulge in any speculation of what Biblical prophecy forecasts — wiser men than the writer have often made fools of themselves by so doing. We are frank to say that we know not what God is about to do. Religious conditions were much worse, even in England, one hundred and fifty years ago. But this we greatly fear: unless God is pleased to grant a real revival, it will not be long ere “the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people,” (Isa. 60:2) for the light of the true Gospel is rapidly disappearing. Modern “Evangelism” constitutes, in our judgment, the most solemn of all the “signs of the times.”
What must the people of God do in view of the existing situation? Eph. 5:11 supplies the divine answer: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them”; and everything opposed to the light of the Word is “darkness.” It is the bounden duty of every Christian to have no dealings with the “evangelistic” monstrosity of the day: to withold all moral and financial support of the same, to attend none of their meetings, to circulate none of their tracts. Those preachers who tell sinners that they may be saved without forsaking their idols, without repenting, without surrendering to the Lordship of Christ, are as erroneous and dangerous as others who insist that salvation is by works, and that heaven must be earned by our own efforts.
Arthur W. Pink, born in Great Britain in 1886, immigrated to the U.S. to study at Moody Bible Institute. He pastored churches in Colorado, California, Kentucky, and South Carolina before becoming an itinerant Bible teacher in 1919. He returned to his native land in 1934., taking up residence on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, in 1940 and remaining there until his death twelve years later. Most of his works first appeared as articles in the monthly Studies in the Scriptures, published from 1922 to 1952.
THE DUTY OF SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES
"Search the Scriptures."John 5:39
WHEN the Sadducees came to our blessed Lord, and put to him the question, "whose wife that woman should be in the next life, who had seven husbands in this," he told them "they erred, not knowing the scriptures." And if we would know whence all the errors, that have over-spread the church of Christ, first arose, we should find that, in a great measure, they flowed from the same fountain, ignorance of the word of God. Our blessed Lord, though he was the eternal God, yet as man, he made the scriptures his constant rule and guide. And therefore, when he was asked by the lawyer, which was the great commandment of the law, he referred him to his Bible for an answer, "What readest thou?" And thus, when led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, he repelled all his assaults, with "it is written."
A sufficient confutation this, of their opinion, who say, "the Spirit only, and not the Spirit by the Word, is to be our rule of action." If so, our Savior, who had the Spirit without measure, needed not always have referred to the written word.
But how few copy after the example of Christ? How many are there who do not regard the word of God at all, but throw the sacred oracles aside, as an antiquated book, fit only for illiterate men?
Such do greatly err, not knowing what the scriptures are, I shall, therefore,
FIRST, Show, that it is every one's duty to search them.
AndSECONDLY, Lay down some directions for you to search them with advantage.
I. I am to show, that it is every person's duty to search the Scriptures.By the Scriptures, I understand the law and the prophets, and those books which have in all ages been accounted canonical, and which make up that volume commonly called the Bible. These are emphatically stiled [styled] the Scriptures, and, in one place, the "Scriptures of Truth," as though no other books deserved the name of true writings or scripture in comparison of them.
They are not of any private interpretation, authority, or invention, but holy men of old wrote them, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The fountain of God's revealing himself thus to man-kind, was our fall in Adam, and the necessity of our new birth in Christ Jesus. And if we search the scriptures as we ought, we shall find the sum and substance, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of them, is to lead us to a knowledge of these two great truths.
All the threats, promises and precepts, all the exhortations and doctrines contained therein, all the rites, ceremonies and sacrifices appointed under the Jewish law; nay, almost all the historical parts of holy scripture, suppose our being fallen in Adam, and either point out to us a Mediator to come, or speak of him as already come in the flesh.
Had man continued in a state of innocence, he would not have needed an outward revelation, because the law of God was so deeply written in the tables of his heart. But having eaten the forbidden fruit, he incurred the displeasure of God, and lost the divine image, and, therefore, without an external revelation, could never tell how God would be reconciled unto him, or how he should be saved from the misery and darkness of his fallen nature.
That these truths are so, I need not refer you to any other book, than your own hearts.
For unless we are fallen creatures, whence those abominable corruptions which daily arise in our hearts? We could not come thus corrupt out of the hands of our Maker, because he being goodness itself could make nothing but what is like himself, holy, just, and good. And that we want to be delivered from these disorders of our nature, is evident, because we find an unwillingness within ourselves to own we are thus depraved, and are always striving to appear to others of a quite different frame and temper of mind than what we are.
I appeal to the experience of the most learned disputer against divine revelation, whether he does not find in himself, that he is naturally proud, angry, revengeful, and full of other passions contrary to the purity, holiness, and long suffering of God. And is not this a demonstration that some way or other he is fallen from God? And I appeal also, whether at the same time that he finds these hurtful lusts in his heart, he does not strive to seem amiable, courteous, kind and affable [friendly, good-natured, easy-going]; and is not this a manifest proof, that he is sensible he is miserable, and wants, he knows not how, to be redeemed or delivered from it?
Here then, God by his word steps in, and opens to his view such a scene of divine love, and infinite goodness in the holy scriptures, that none but men, of such corrupt and reprobate minds as our modern deists, would shut their eyes against it.
What does God in his written word do more or less, than show thee, O man, how thou art fallen into that blindness, darkness, and misery, of which thou feelest and complainest? And, at the same time, he points out the way to what thou desirest, even how thou mayest be redeemed out of it by believing in, and copying after the Son of his love.
As I told you before, so I tell you again, upon these two truths rest all divine revelation. It being given us for no other end, but to show our misery, and our happiness; our fall and recovery; or, in one word, after what manner we died in Adam, and how in Christ we may again be made alive.
Hence, then arises the necessity of searching the scriptures: for since they are nothing else but the grand charter of our salvation, the revelation of a covenant made by God with men in Christ, and a light to guide us into the way of peace; it follows, that all are obliged to read and search them, because all are equally fallen from God, all equally stand in need of being informed how they must be restored to, and again united with him.
How foolishly then do the disputing infidels of this generation act, who are continually either calling for signs from heaven, or seeking for outward evidence to prove the truth of divine revelation? Whereas, what they so earnestly seek for is nigh unto, nay, within them. For let them but consult their own hearts, they cannot but feel what they want. Let them but consult the lively oracles of God, and they cannot but see a remedy revealed for all their wants, and that the written word does as exactly answer the wants and desires of their hearts, as face answers to face in the water. Where then is the scribe, where is the wise, where is the solidity of the reasoning of the disputers of this world? Has not God revealed himself unto them, as plain as their own hearts could wish? And yet they require a sign: but there shall no other sign be given them. For if they believe not a revelation which is every way so suited to their wants, neither will they be persuaded though on should rise from the dead.
But this discourse is not designed so much for them that believe not, as for them, who both know and believe that the scriptures contain a revelation which came from God, and that it is their duty, as being chief parties concerned, not only to read but search them also.
I pass on, therefore, in the SECOND place, to lay down some directions, how you may search them with advantage.
FIRST, Have always in view, the end for which the scriptures were written, even to show us the way of salvation, by Jesus Christ.
"Search the scriptures," says our blessed Lord, "for they are they that testify of me." Look, therefore, always for Christ in the scripture. He is the treasure hid in the field, both of the Old and New Testament. In the Old, you will find him under prophesies, types, sacrifices, and shadows; in the New, manifested in the flesh, to become a propitiation for our sins as a Priest, and as a Prophet to reveal the whole will of his heavenly Father.
Have Christ, then, always in view when you are reading the word of God, and this, like the star in the east, will guide you to the Messiah, will serve as a key to every thing that is obscure, and unlock to you the wisdom and riches of all the mysteries of the kingdom of God.SECONDLY, Search the scriptures with an humble child-like disposition.
For whosoever does not read them with this temper, shall in no wise enter into the knowledge of the things contained in them. For God hides the sense of them, from those that are wise and prudent in their own eyes, and reveals them only to babes in Christ: who think they know nothing yet as they ought to know; who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and humbly desire to be fed with the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby.
Fancy yourselves, therefore, when you are searching the scriptures, especially when you are reading the New Testament, to be with Mary sitting at the feet of the holy Jesus; and be as willing to learn what God shall teach you, as Samuel was, when he said, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
Oh that the unbelievers would pull down every high thought and imagination that exalts itself against the revealed will of God! O that they would, like new-born babes, desire to be fed with the pure milk of the word! Then we should have them no longer scoffing at Divine revelation, nor would they read the Bible any more with the same intend the Philistines brought our Samson, to make sport at it; but they would see the divine image and superscription written upon every line. They would hear God speaking unto their souls by it, and, consequently, be built up in the knowledge and fear of him, who is the Author thereof.
THIRDLY, Search the scriptures, with a sincere intention to put in practice what you read.
A desire to do the will of God is the only way to know it; if any man will do my will, says Jesus Christ, "He shall know of my doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." As he also speaks in another place to his disciples, "To you, (who are willing to practice your duty) it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to those that are without (who only want to raise cavils against my doctrine) all these things are spoken in parables, that seeing they may see and not understand, and hearing they may hear and not perceive."
For it is but just in God to send those strong delusions, that they may believe a lie, and to conceal the knowledge of himself from all such as do not seek him with a single intention.
Jesus Christ is the same now, as formerly, to those who desire to know from his word, who he is that they may believe on, and live by; and to him he will reveal himself as clearly as he did to the woman of Samaria, when he said, "I that speak to thee am he," or as he did to the man that was born blind, whom the Jews had cast out for his name's sake, "He that talketh with thee, is he."
But to those who consult his word with a desire neither to know him, nor keep his commandments, but either merely for their entertainment, or to scoff at the simplicity of the manner in which he is revealed, to those, I say, he never will reveal himself, though they should search the scriptures to all eternity. As he never would tell those whether he was the Messiah or not, who put that question to him either out of curiosity, or that they might have whereof to accuse him.
FOURTHLY, In order to search the scriptures still more effectually, make an application of every thing you read to your own hearts.
For whatever was written in the book of God, was written for our learning. And what Christ said unto those aforetime, we must look upon as spoken to us also: for since the holy scriptures are nothing but a revelation from God, how fallen man is to be restored by Jesus Christ: all the precepts, threats, and promises, belong to us and to our children, as well as to those, to whom they were immediately made known.
Thus the Apostle, when he tells us that he lived by the faith of the Son of God, adds, "who died and gave himself for me." It is this application of Jesus Christ to our hearts, that makes his redemption effectual to each of us.
And it is this application of all the doctrinal and historical parts of scripture, when we are reading them over, that must render them profitable to us, as they were designed for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and to make every child of God perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.
I dare appeal to the experience of every spiritual reader of holy writ, whether or not, if he consulted the word of God in this manner, he was not at all times and at all seasons, as plainly directed how to act, as though he had consulted the Urim and Thummim, which was upon the high-priest's breast. For this is the way God now reveals himself to man: not by making new revelations, but by applying general things that are revealed already to every sincere reader's heart.
And this, by the way, answers an objection made by those who say, "The word of God is not a perfect rule of action, because it cannot direct us how to act or how to determine in particular cases, or what place to go to, when we are in doubt, and therefore, the Spirit, and not the word, is to be our rule of action."
But this I deny, and affirm on the contrary, that God at all times, circumstances, and places, though never so minute, never so particular, will, if we diligently seek the assistance of his Holy Spirit, apply general things to our hearts, and thereby, to use the words of the holy Jesus, will lead us into all truth, and give us the particular assistance we want. But this leads me to a
FIFTH direction how to search the scriptures with profit: Labor to attain that Spirit by which they were written.
For the natural man discerneth not the words of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned; the words that Christ hath spoken, they are spirit, and they are life, and can be no more understood as to the true sense and meaning of them, by the mere natural man, than a person who never had learned a language can understand another speaking in it. The scriptures, therefore, have not unfitly been compared, by some, to the cloud which went before the Israelites, they are dark and hard to be understood by the natural man, as the cloud appeared dark to the Egyptians; but they are light, they are life to Christians indeed, as that same cloud which seemed dark to Pharaoh and his house, appeared bright and altogether glorious to the Israel of God.
It was the want of the assistance of this Spirit, that made Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, and a ruler of the Jews, so utterly ignorant in the doctrine of regeneration: for being only a natural man, he could not tell how that thing could be; it was the want of this Spirit that made our Savior's disciples, though he so frequently conversed with them, daily mistake the nature of the doctrines he delivered; and it is because the natural veil is not taken off from their hearts, that so many who now pretend to search the scriptures, yet see no farther than into the bare letter of them, and continue entire strangers to the spiritual meaning couched under every parable, and contained in almost all the precepts of the book of God.
Indeed, how should it be otherwise, for God being a spirit, he cannot communicate himself any otherwise than in a spiritual manner to the hearts of men; and consequently if we are strangers to his Spirit, we must continue strangers to his word, because it is altogether like himself, spiritual. Labor, therefore, earnestly for to attain this blessed Spirit; otherwise, your understandings will never be opened to understand the scriptures aright: and remember, prayer is one of the most immediate means to get this Holy Spirit. Therefore,
SIXTHLY, Let me advise you, before you read the scriptures, to pray, that Christ, according to his promise, would send his Spirit to guide you into all truth; intersperse short ejaculations whilst you are engaged in reading; pray over every word and verse, if possible; and when you close up the book, most earnestly beseech God, that the words which you have read, may be inwardly engrafted into your hearts, and bring forth in you the fruits of a good life.
Do this, and you will, with a holy violence, draw down God's Holy Spirit into your hearts; you will experience his gracious influence, and feel him enlightening, quickening, and inflaming your souls by the word of God; you will then not only read, but mark, learn, and inwardly digest what you read: and the word of God will be meat indeed, and drink indeed unto your souls; you then will be as Apollos was, powerful in the scriptures; be scribes ready instructed to the kingdom of God, and bring out of the good treasures of your heart, things both from the Old and New Testament, to entertain all you converse with. One
Direction more, which shall be the last,SEVENTHLY, Read the scripture constantly, or, to use our Savior's expression in the text, "search the scriptures;" dig in them as for hid treasure; for here is a manifest allusion to those who dig in mines; and our Savior would thereby teach us, that we must take as much pains in constantly reading his word, if we would grow wise thereby, as those who dig for gold and silver. The scriptures contain the deep things of God, and therefore, can never be sufficiently searched into by a careless, superficial, cursory way of reading them, but by an industrious, close, and humble application.
The Psalmist makes it the characteristic of a good man, that he "meditates on God's law day and night." And "this book of the law, (says God to Joshua) shall not go out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night;" for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and thou shalt have good success. Search, therefore, the scriptures, not only devoutly but daily, for in them are the words of eternal life; wait constantly at wisdom's gate, and she will then, and not till then, display and lay open to you her heavenly treasures. You that are rich, are without excuse if you do not; and you that are poor, ought to take heed and improve that little time you have: for by the scriptures you are to be acquitted, and by the scriptures you are to be condemned at the last day.
But perhaps you have no taste for this despised book; perhaps plays, romances, and books of polite entertainment, suit your taste better: if this be your case, give me leave to tell you, your taste is vitiated [corrupted, depraved], and unless corrected by the Spirit and word of God, you shall never enter into his heavenly kingdom: for unless you delight in God here, how will you be made meet to dwell with him hereafter. Is it a sin then, you will say, to read useless impertinent books; I answer, Yes. And that for the same reason, as it is a sin to indulge useless conversation, because both immediately tend to grieve and quench that Spirit, by which alone we can be sealed to the day of redemption. You may reply, How shall we know this? Why, put in practice the precept in the text; search the scripture in the manner that has been recommended, and then you will be convinced of the danger, sinfulness, and unsatisfacteriness of reading any others than the book of God, or such as are wrote in the same spirit. You will then say, when I was a child, and ignorant of the excellency of the word of God, I read what the world calls harmless books, as other children in knowledge, though old in years, have done, and still do; but now I have tasted the good word of life, and am come to a more perfect knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, I put away these childish, trifling things, and am determined to read no other books but what lead me to a knowledge of myself and of Christ Jesus.
Search, therefore, the scriptures, my dear brethren; taste and see how good the word of God is, and then you will never leave that heavenly manna, that angel's food, to feed on dry husks, that light bread, those trifling, sinful compositions, in which men of false taste delight themselves: no, you will then disdain such poor entertainment, and blush that yourselves once were fond of it. The word of God will then be sweeter to you than honey, and the honey-comb, and dearer than gold and silver; your souls by reading it, will be filled as it were, with marrow and fatness, and your hearts insensibly molded into the spirit of its blessed Author. In short, you will be guided by God's wisdom here, and conducted by the light of his divine word into glory hereafter.
END OF ARTICLE Text File Courtesy: CHRISTIAN CLASSICS ETHEREAL LIBRARY
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Dr. John Owen(1616-1683)
To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists:
God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for,
1. either all the sins of all men,
2. or all the sins of some men,
3. or some sins of all men.
If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God entered into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?” Ps. cxxx. 2. We might all go to cast all that we have “to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty,” Isa. ii. 20, 21.
If the Second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room Suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world.
If the first, why then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins?
You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.”
But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not?
If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not.
If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death?
If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.
Monday, May 19, 2008
ALL MEN ARE BY NATURE TOTALLY DEPRAVED.
Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 14:2, 3; 51:5; Rom. 1:21-25; 3:9-23; 6:17, 8:5, 6, 7, 8; Eph. 2:1; 1 John 5:19
The depravity which we have to lament in mankind, respects their principles of action as moral beings. As merely sentient beings, external objects produce on them the proper effects; and, as rational beings, they draw conclusions in science with correctness. The disease and debility which are the consequence of moral evil, may impair both sense and reason; but we cannot affirm of these powers that they are totally depraved. Moral depravity shows itself in outward acts of transgression; but, atrocious as these often are, it is chiefly in the heart that God beholds and hates it. "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). In the heart it was that God saw the great wickedness of the earth. The heart is a metaphorical term, denoting those mental affections which are the principles or beginnings of action. Here depravity exists at the very fountain from which all human action flows.
The depravity of man is total. We do not mean by this that his conduct is as bad as it could be, or that no amiable affections have a place in his heart. The young man who addressed our Redeemer with most respectful inquiry how to attain eternal life, appears to have been unconverted, yet he possessed so amiable qualities that it is recorded, "Jesus, beholding him, loved him" (Mark 10:21). The goodness of God is great, even to the unthankful and evil; and he has been pleased to implant natural affections in hearts which desire not to retain him in their knowledge, and so to balance the propensities, even where there is no holiness, that life and human society have many enjoyments. When our first parents permitted natural desire to prevail over the authority of God, human depravity began to flow, and what it was at the fountain-head, it has been in all the streams that have spread through the earth. Men seek good at their own choice, and walk in their own ways, regardless of the authority of God. The love of God is dethroned from the heart, and therefore the grand principle of morality is wanting, and no true morality exists. A total absence of that by which the actions should be controlled and directed, is total depravity. Hence the strong language of Scripture, already quoted, is properly descriptive of human nature in its fallen state; "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
Human depravity is universal. In heathen nations, men did not delight to retain God in their knowledge, and their very religion became filled with abominable rites. In lands blessed with the light of revelation, men love darkness rather than light, and give melancholy proof that they have not the love of God in them. The rich and poor, the learned and the unlearned, the young and the old, all give evidence that, to serve and please God, is not their chief delight, their meat and their drink. A few, converted by divine grace, differ from the rest of mankind, and esteem it their pleasure and honor to obey God; but these very men testify that they are like other men. "Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the mane of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18).
Depravity is natural to man; it is born with him, and not acquired in the progress of life. It is not to be ascribed to evil habit, or evil example. Evil habits are formed by evil doing; and evil doing would not be, if there were no evil propensity. Evil example would not everywhere exist, if human nature were not everywhere corrupt; and the tendency to follow evil example would not be so common, and so much to be guarded against, if it were not natural to man. The Scriptures clearly teach this doctrine. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). The psalmist did not mean to charge his mother with crime in these his humble confessions, but manifestly designs them to be an acknowledgment that his depravity was in-woven in his nature, and bore date from the very origin of his being. The Saviour taught, that which is born of the flesh, is flesh (John 3:6). The term flesh, which is here opposed to spirit, signifies, as it does in other places, our depraved nature. It traces human depravity up to our very birth.
As every individual of our race is born of depraved parents, and brings depravity with him into the world, we are led to conceive of it as propagated from parent to child. This accords with the representations of Scripture; "Adam begat a son in his own likeness" (Gen. 5:3). It accords also with analogies to which we are familiar.
Plants and animals propagate their like; diseases are often hereditary, and peculiarities of temper and mind by which parents were distinguished, often appear in their children. In our proneness to find fault with God’s arrangements, we ask, why was the fallen nature of Adam propagated, rather than the original nature which he received from the hand of God.. But we might as well complain that the ascent from the state of sin to that of innocence, is not as easy as the descent was found to be. Virtue fits the creatures of God for society, and for its most beautiful exhibitions opportunity is presented in the social relations. All these give one creature an influence over another, according to the character of the relation between them. Even angels, who were created independent of each other, had an influence on each other, so that the chief apostate in the great rebellion led followers after him. When man was created, it appeared good, in the view of Infinite Wisdom, to institute closer social relations than subsisted among angels. From these resulted a more extend influence than was known in angelic ranks. Now, if Adam had transmitted his original nature, as created by God, the effect would have been the same as if the son had been immediately created by the divine hand, and the peculiarity designed to distinguish the human race would have been virtually abolished.
Another complaint which sometimes rises in our murmuring minds is, that pious men do not propagate their piety, but their natural depravity. We might as well complain that men of great scientific attainments do not transmit their knowledge to their children as a natural inheritance. This complaint would have even greater appearance of propriety, for their attainments are, in a sense, their own; but whatever of holiness is found in man, is not a natural endowment or attainment, but a special gift of divine grace.
When we have discovered that the propagation of depravity in the human race accords the analogies found in nature, our minds seem to obtain relief; but, in reality, the matter has not been explained. Nature is not some superior rule to which God was compelled to conform, but it is an institution of his own, and cannot be right in the whole, if its parts are not right. If the propagation of human depravity is not in itself right, all the analogies of nature could not make it so. The true benefit of tracing these analogies is, that we may perceive all the arrangements to be from the same divine mind, and may the more reverently bow our judgment to the decision of Infinite Wisdom, and hush our murmurs into the more profound silence.
Our natural inquisitiveness takes occasion from this subject to indulge in unprofitable speculations. As the depravity which is propagated belongs more properly to the soul than to the material frame, we ask whether the soul is propagated. Some have preferred to consider the soul as a production immediately proceeding from the creating power of God. They suppose this to be intended when the Scriptures say, that he formeth the spirit of man within him (Zech. 12:1). They regard the body as all that is propagated, and suppose the Creator to form a spirit within it, as he breathed the spirit of life into the inanimate body of Adam, when he became a living soul. They view propagation as belonging to the material part of our nature, and consider it impossible, in the nature of things, that this should generate an immaterial spirit. The latter argument, which is merely philosophical, has to struggle with the fact that all animals generate something more than mere matter, in the powers with which they are endowed, and which bear a strong resemblance, in many respects, to the mental endowments of man. The preceding argument, from Scripture, fails in this, that God is equally said to form the body of the child in the womb of the mother, (Job 31:15; Is. 44:2), and yet we never regard that body as a production of immediate creation. It is true that the body of Adam was lifeless for a time; but it was not, as lifeless, that be begat a son in his likeness. We would not argue, from this case, that all life, whether in plants or animals, is a production of immediate creation, and not of propagation; and it does not appear that a more valid argument can be deduced from it, to prove the immediate creation of every human soul. After all, what does the question amount to? If the preservation of all things is strictly a perpetual creation, the distinction is wholly annihilated; for the soul is, at the first moment of its being, and at every subsequent moment throughout its whole existence, an immediate creation. But if this view be not admitted, it is still true that preservation is as dependent on the efficacious will of God, as creation. God willed that the soul of Adam should propagate a son, and that this son should, like the father, have both a soul and a body. The progeny came into being according to the will of God. This work differs from the former, in that it is not singular, but conforms to what we call a law of nature; but nature’s laws have no efficacy in themselves; and when we attribute the work to the efficacious will of God, it is a mere question of classification, whether we refer it to creation or Providence.
An objection to the doctrine of natural depravity is founded on the fact, that Jesus referred to little children, as examples for is disciples. This fact, however, will not authorize the inference, that little children are not depraved. The same teacher said to his disciples, "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). As something may exist, proper to be imitated in animals which have no moral character, and even in serpents, notwithstanding their venom, so, something for imitation could be pointed out in children, notwithstanding their depravity. Another objection is drawn from the statement of Scripture, concerning children that had not done either good or evil (Rom. 9:11). But the doctrine does not affirm that all have committed overt acts of transgression. It refers to the first spring of action in the heart; and a fountain may be corrupt, before it has sent forth streams, as truly as afterwards. No objection, worthy of consideration, can be drawn from Paul’s statement, that the children of the Corinthian Christians were holy (1 Cor. 7:14); for this manifestly relates to their fitness for familiar intercourse.
Vain it will be, to receive the doctrine of human depravity into our creed, if it is not received into our hearts. A thorough conviction of our total depravity is necessary to humble us before God, and drive us to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. No genuine Christian experience can exist, where this is not felt and operative.
(J.L.Dagg Manual Of Theology)
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Judgment at the Throne of God
11Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
12And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
- Jeff Noblit
Translated from the Greek word hilasterion, meaning “that which expiates or propitiates” or “the gift which procures propitiation”. It means “satisfaction” or “appeasement,” specifically towards God. In the New Testament, propitiation is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross by which He appeases the wrath of God who would otherwise be offended by our sin and demand that we pay the penalty for it. The concept of propitiation is often associated with the idea of a substitutionary atonement.
Maybe one of the most important words in Scripture.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Pastor Roy Hargrave has a series about the Romans 7 man. Is the man in Romans 7 a saved man struggling with sin or a man lost in sin and not converted? Open up your Bibles and ask the Spirit to give you understanding.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Whitefield's Sermons(Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library). Sermon: A Penitent Heart, the Best New Year's Gift."
How often is there preaching on repentance today in the pulpit? Today most preaching is on what God can do for you and how He has a wonderful plan for your life. John the Baptist preached Repentance, Jesus preached Repentance, but the modern church knows a better way to reach the culture today. Oh that we would return to the Old Paths and walk in them. The American church needs to repent of all its man centered ways and cry out to God for foregivness.