The Spirit Comforting
The saving work of the Spirit in the heart of God’s elect is a gradual and progressing one, conducting the soul step by step in the due method and order of the gospel to Christ. Where there is no self-condemnation and humiliation there can be no saving faith in the Lord Jesus: “Ye repented not afterwards, that ye might believe Him” (Matt. 21:32) was own express affirmation. It is burdensome sense of sin which prepares the soul for the Saviour: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:280. “Without conviction there can be no contrition and compunction: he that sees not his wickedness and guilt never mourns for it; he that feels his filthiness and wretchedness never bewails it.”
Never was there one tear of true repentance seen to drop from the eye of an unconvicted sinner. Equally true is it that without illumination there can be no conviction, for what is conviction but the application to the heart and conscience of the light which the Spirit has communicated to the mind and understanding: Acts 2:37. So, likewise, there can be no effectual illumination until there has been a Divine quickening for a dead soul can neither see nor feel in a spiritual manner. In this order, then, the Spirit draws souls to Christ: He brings them from death unto life, shines into their minds, applies the light to their consciences by effectual conviction, wounds and breaks their hearts for sin in compunction and then moves the will to embrace Christ in the way of faith for salvation.
These several steps are more distinctly discerned in some Christians than in others. They are more clearly to be traced in the adult convert, than in those who are brought to Christ in their youth. So, too, they are more easily perceived in such as are drawn to Him out of a state of profaneness than those who had the advantages of a pious education. Yet in them, too, after conversion, the exercises of their following a period of declension and backsliding-correspond thereto. But in this order the work of the Spirit is carried on, ordinarily, in all, however it may differ in point of clearness in the one and in the other. God is a God of order both in nature and in grace, though He be tied down to no hard and fast rules.
By His mighty work of illumination and conviction, with the humiliation which is wrought in the soul, the Spirit effectually weans the heart forever from the comfort, pleasure, satisfaction or joy that is to be found in sin, or in any creature, so that his soul can never be quiet and contented, happy or satisfied, till it finds the comfort of God in Christ.
Once the soul is made to feel that sin is the greatest of all evils, it sours for him the things of the world, he has lost his deep relish for them forever, and nothing is now so desirable unto him as the favor of God. All creature comforts have been everlastingly marred and spoiled, and unless he finds comforts in the Lord there is none for him anywhere.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (Hos. 2:14). When God would win His church’s heart to Him, what does He do? He brings her into “the wilderness,” that is, into a place which is barren or devoid of all comforts and delights; and then and there He “speaks comfort to her.” Thus, too, He deals with the individual. A man has been effectually convicted by the Spirit, is like a man condemned to die: what pleasure would be derived from the beautiful flowers as a murderer was led through a lovely garden to the place of execution! Nor can any Spirit-convicted sinner find contentment in anything till he be assured of the favor of Him whom he has so grievously offended. And none but God can “speak comfortably” to one so stricken.
Though God acts as a sovereign, and does not always shine in the same conspicuous way into the hearts of all His children, nevertheless, He brings them all to see light in His light: to know and feel that there can be no salvation for them but in the Lord alone. By the Spirit’s powerful illuminating and convicting operations the sinner is made to realize the awful disparity there is between God and himself, so that he feebly cries “How can a poor wretch like me ever stand before such a holy God, whose righteous law I have broken in so many ways, and whose ineffable majesty I have so often insulted?” By that light the convicted soul, eventually, is made to feel its utter inability to help itself, or take one step toward the obtainment of holiness and happiness. By that light the quickening soul both sees and feels there can be no access to God, no acceptance with Him, save through the person and blood of Christ; but how to get at Christ the stricken soul knows not.
“And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope” (Hos. 2:15): such is the comforting promise of God to the one whom He proposes to “allure” or to win unto Himself. First, He hedges up the sinner’s way with “thorns” (Hos. 2:6), piercing his conscience with the sharp arrows of conviction. Second, He effectually battles all his attempts to drown his sorrows and find satisfaction again in his former lovers (V. 7).Fourth, He brings him into “the wilderness” (v. 4), making him feel his case is desperate indeed. And then, when all hope is gone, when the poor sinner feels there is no salvation for him, “a door of hope” is opened for him even in “ the valley of Achor” or “trouble,” and what is that “door of hope” but the mercy of God!
It is by putting into his mind thoughts of God’s mercy that the Spirit supports the fainting heart of the convicted sinner from sinking beneath abject despair. Now it is that the blessed Spirit helps his infirmities with “groanings that cannot be uttered,” and in the midst of a thousand
Fears he is moved to cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22- true alike of the initial entrance into the kingdom of grace and the ultimate entrance into the kingdom of glory. The Lord heard the “groaning” of the poor Hebrews in Egypt, and “had respect unto them” Exod. 2:23025), nevertheless, He saw it was good for them to pass through yet sorer trials before He delivered them. The believer was presented to them and hope was kindled in their hearts (Exod. 4:29-31), yet the time appointed for their exodus from the house of bondage had not yet arrived.
And why was the deliverance of the Hebrews delayed after Moses had been made manifest before them? Why were they caused to experience yet more sorely enmity of Pharaoh? Ah, the Lord would make them to feel their impotency as well their wretchedness, and would exhibit more fully His power over the enemy. So it is very often (if not always) in the experience of the quickened soul. Satan is now permitted to rage against him with increased violence and fury (Zech. 3:1). The Devil accuses him of his innumerable iniquities, intensifies his remorse, seeks to persuade him that he has committed the unpardonable sin, assures him he has transgressed beyond all possibility of Divine mercy, and tells him his case is hopeless. And, my reader, were the poor sinner left to himself, the Devil would surely succeed in making him do a Judas did!
But, blessed be His name, the Holy Spirit does not desert the convicted soul, even in its darkest hour: He secretly upholds it and grants at least temporary respites, as the Lord did the Hebrews in Egypt. The poor Satan-harassed soul is enabled “against hope” to believe in hope” (Rom. 4:18) and to cry, “Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee: according to the greatness of Thy power, preserve Thou those that are appointed to destruction” (Ps. 79:11). Yet before deliverance is actually experienced, before that peace which passeth all understanding is communicated to his heart, before the redemption “which is in Christ Jesus” becomes his conscious portion, the soul is made to feel its complete impotency to advance one step toward the same, that it is entirely dependent upon the Spirit for that faith which will enable him to “lay hold of Christ.”
One would naturally suppose that the good news of a free Saviour and a full salvation would readily be embraced by a convicted sinner. One wold think that, as soon as he heard the glad tidings, he would not forbear exclaiming in a transport of joy, “This is the Saviour I want” His salvation is every way suited to my wretchedness. What can I desire more? Here will I rest.” But as a matter of fact this is not always the case, yea, it is rarely so. Instead, the stricken sinner, like the Hebrews in Egypt after Moses had been manifest before them, is left to groan under the lash of his merciless taskmaster. Yet this arises from no defect in God’s gracious provision, nor because of any inadequacy in the salvation which the gospel presents, nor because of any distress in the sinner which the gospel is incapable of relieving; but because the workings of self-righteousness hinder the sinner from seeing the fullness and glory of Divine grace.
Strange as it may seem to those who have but a superficial and non-experimental acquaintance with God’s truth, awakened souls are exceedingly backward from receiving comfort in the glorious gospel of Christ. They think they are utterly unworthy and unfit to come to Christ just as they are, in all their vileness and filthiness. They imagine some meetness must be wrought in them before they are qualified to believe the gospel, but there must be certain holy dispositions in their hearts before they are entitled to conclude that Christ will receive them. They fear that they are not sufficiently humbled under a sense of sin, that they have not a suitable abhorrence of it, but their repentance is not deep enough; that they must have fervent breathings after Christ and pantings after holiness, before they can be warranted to seek salvation with a well-grounded hope of success. All of which is the same thing as hugging the miseries of unbelief in order to obtain permission to believe.
Burdened with guilt and filed with terrifying apprehensions of eternal destruction, the convicted sinner, yet experimentally ignorant of the perfect righteousness which the gospel reveals for the justification of the ungodly, strives to obtain acceptance with God by his own labors, tears, and prayers. But as he becomes better acquainted with the high demands of the law, the holiness of God, and the corruptions of his own heart, he reaches the point where he utterly despairs of being justified by his own striving. “What must I do to be saved?” is now his agonized cry. Diligently searching God’s Word for light and help, he discovers that “faith” is the all-important thing needed, but exactly what faith is, and how it is to be obtained, he is completely at a lost to ascertain. Well-meaning people, with more zeal than knowledge, urge him to “believe,” which is the one thing above all others he desires to do, but finds himself utterly unable to perform.
If saving faith was nothing more than a mere mental assent to the contents of John 3:16, then any man could make himself a true believer whenever he pleased-the supernatural enablement of the Holy Spirit would be quite unnecessary. But saving faith is very much more than a mental assenting to the contents of any verse of Scripture; and when a soul has been Divinely quickened to its awful state by nature, it is made to realize that no creature-act of faith, no resting on the bare letter of a text by a “decision” of his own will, can bring pardon and peace. He is now made to realize that “faith” is a Divine gift (Eph. 2:8, 9), and not a creature work; that it is wrought by “the operation of God” (Col. 2:12), and not by the sinner himself. He is now made conscious of the fact that if ever he is to be saved, the same God who invites him to believe (Isa. 45:22), yea, who commands him to believe (1 John 3:23), must also impart faith to him Eph. (6:23).
Cannot you see, dear reader, that if a saving belief in Christ was the easy matter which the vast majority of preachers and evangelists of today say it is, that the work of the Spirit would be quite unnecessary! Ah, is there any wonder that the mighty power of the Spirit of God is now so rarely witnessed in Christendom?-He has been grieved, insulted, quenched, not only by the scepticism and worldliness of the “Modernists,” but equally so by the creature-exalting freewillism and self-ability of man to “receive Christ as his personal Saviour” of the “Fundamentalists”! ! Oh, how very few today really believe those clear and emphatic words of Christ, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me [by His Spirit] draw him” (John 6:44).
H, my dear reader, when GOD truly takes a soul in hand, He brings him to the end of himself. He not only convicts him of the worthlessness of his own works, but He convinces him of the impotency of his will. He not only strips him of the filthy rags of his own self-righteousness, but He empties him of all self-sufficiency. He not only enables him to perceive that there is “no good thing” in him (Rom. 7:18), but he also makes him feel he is without strength” (Rom. 5:6). Instead of concluding that he is the man whom God will save, he now fears that he is the man who must be lost forever. He is now brought down into the very dust and made to feel that he is no more able to savingly believe in Christ than he can climb up to Heaven.
We are well aware that what has been said above differs radically from the current preaching of this decadent age; but we will appeal to the experience of the Christian reader. Suppose you had just suffered heavy financial reverse and were at your wits’ end to know how to make ends meet: bills are owing your bank has closed, you look in vain for employment, and are filled with fears over future prospects. A preacher calls and rebukes your unbelief, bidding you lay hold of the promises of God. That is the very thing which you desire to do, but can you by an act of your own will? Or, a loved one is suddenly snatched from you: your heart is crushed, grief overwhelms you. A friend kindly bids you to “sorrow not even as others who have no hope.” Are you able by a “personal decision” to throw off your anguish and rejoice in the Lord? Ah, my reader, if a mature Christian can only “cast all his care” upon the Lord by the Holy Spirit’s gracious enablement, do you suppose that a poor sinner who is yet “ in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity” can lay hold of Christ by a mere act of his own will?
Just as to trust in the Lord with all his heart, to be anxious for nothing, to let the morrow take care of its own concerns, is the desire of every Christian, but “how to perform that which is good” he “finds not” (Rom. 7:18), until the Holy Spirit is pleased to graciously grant the needed enablement; so the one supreme yearning of the awakened and convicted sinner is to lay hold of Christ, but until the Spirit draws him to Christ, he finds he has no power to go out of himself, no ability to embrace what is proffered him in the gospel. The fact is, my reader that the heart of a sinner is as naturally indisposed for loving and appropriating the things of God, as the wood which Elijah laid on the alter was to ignite, when he had poured so much water upon it, as not only to saturate the wood, but also to fill he trench round about it (1 Kings 18:33): a miracle is required for the one as much as it was for the other.
The fact that if souls were left to themselves-to their own “freewill”-after they had been truly convicted of sin, none would ever savingly come o Christ! A further and distinct operation of the Spirit is still needed to actually “draw” the heart to close with Christ Himself. Were the sinner left to himself, he would sink in abject despair; he would fall victim to the malice of Satan. The Devil is far more powerful than we are, and never is his rage more stirred than when he fears he is about to lose one of his captives: see Mark 9:20. But blessed be His name, the Spirit does not desert the soul when His work is only half done: He who is “The Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2) to quicken the dead, He who is “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) to instruct the ignorant, is also “the Spirit of faith” (II Cor. 4:13) to enable us to savingly believe.
And how does the Spirit work faith in the convicted sinner’s heart? By effectually testifying to him of the sufficiency of Christ for his every need; by assuring him of the Saviour’s readiness to receive the vilest who comes to Him. He effectually teaches him that no good qualifications need to be sought, no righteous acts performed, no penance endured in order to fit us for Christ. He reveals to the soul that conviction of sin, deep repentings, a sense of our utter helplessness, are not grounds of acceptance with Christ, but simply a consciousness of our spiritual wretchedness, rendering relief in a way of grace truly welcome. Repentance is needful not as inducing Christ to give, but as disposing us to receive. The Spirit moves us to come to Christ in the very character in which alone He receives sinners-as vile, ruined, lost. Thus, from start to finish “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9)-of the Father in ordaining it, of the Son in purchasing it, of the Spirit in applying it. (Pp73-78)
Satan is not an initiator but an imitator. God has an only begotten Son-the Lord Jesus, so has Satan-“the son of Perdition” (2 Thess.2:3). There is a Holy Trinity, and there is likewise a Trinity of Evil (Rev. 20:10). Do we read of the “children of God,” so also we read of “the children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38). Does God work in the former both to will and to do of His good pleasure, then we are told that Satan is “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2).
Is there a “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16), so also is there a “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess 2:7). Are we told that God by His angels “seals” His servants in their foreheads (Rev 7:3), so also we learn that Satan by his agents sets a mark in the foreheads of his devotees (Rev. 13:16). Are we told that “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10), then Satan also provides his “deep things” (Greek-Rev. 2:24). Did Christ perform miracles, so also can Satan (2 Thess. 2:9). Is Christ seated upon a throne, so is Satan (Greek-Rev. 2:13). Has Christ a Church, then Satan has his “synagogue” (Rev 2:9). Is Christ the Light of the world, then so is Satan himself “transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Did Christ appoint “apostles,” then Satan has his apostles, too (2 Cor. 11:13). And this leads us to consider: “The Gospel of Satan.”
Satan is the arch-counterfeiter. The Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed. He is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by another plant, the tares, which closely resembles the wheat in appearance. In a word, by a process of imitation he is aiming to neutralize the Work of Christ. Therefore, as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former. So closely does the gospel of Satan resemble that which it parodies, multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by it.
It is to this gospel of Satan the apostle refers when he says to the Galatians, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6,7). This false gospel was being heralded even in the days of the apostle, and a most awful curse was called down upon those who preached it. The apostle continues, “But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” By the help of God we shall now endeavor to expound, or rather, expose this false gospel.
The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great “brotherhood.” It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to “the best that is within – It aims to make this world such a comfortable and congenial habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.
In contradistinction to the Gospel of Christ, the gospel of Satan teaches salvation by works. It inculcates justification before God on the ground of human merits. Its sacramental phrase is “Be good and do good”; but it fails to recognize that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It announces salvation by character, which reverses the order of God’s Word-character by, as the fruit of, salvation. Its various ramifications and organizations are manifold. Temperance, Reform Movements, “Christian Socialist Leagues,” Ethical Culture Societies, “Peace Congresses” are all employed (perhaps unconsciously) in proclaiming this gospel of Satan-salvation by works. The pledge card is substituted for Christ; social purity for individual regeneration, and politics and philosophy, for doctrine and godliness. The cultivation of the old man is considered more practical than the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus; whilst universal peace is looked for apart from the interposition and return of the Prince of Peace.
The apostles of Satan are not saloon-keepers and white-slave traffickers, but are for the most part ordained ministers. Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to “flee from the wrath to come” they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment. Instead of declaring that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” they merely hold up Christ as the great Exemplar and exhort their hearers to “follow in His steps.” Of them it must be said, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). Their message may sound very plausible and their aim appear very praiseworthy, yet we read of them-“for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (imitating) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing [not to be wondered at] if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
In addition to the fact that today hundreds of churches are without a leader who faithfully declares the whole counsel of God and presents His way of salvation, we also have to face the additional fact that the majority of people in these churches are very unlikely to learn the Truth themselves. The family altar, where a portion of God’s Word was wont to be read daily is now, even in the homes of nominal Christians, largely a thing of the past. The Bible is not expounded in the pulpit and it is not read in the pew. The demands of this rushing age are so numerous, that multitudes have little time and still less inclination to make preparation for the meeting with God. Hence the majority who are too indolent to search for themselves, are left at the mercy of those whom they pay to search for them; many of whom betray their trust by studying and expounding economic and social problems rather than the Oracles of God.
In Proverbs 14:12 we read, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.” This “way” which ends in” death” is the Devil’s Delusion-the gospel of Satan-a way of salvation by human attainment. It is a way which “seemeth right,” that is to say, it is presented in such a plausible way that it appeals to the natural man: it is set forth in such a subtle and attractive manner, that it commends itself to the intelligence of its hearers. By virtue of the fact that it appropriates to itself religious terminology, sometimes appeals to the Bible for its support (whenever this suits its purpose), holds up before men lofty ideals, and is proclaimed by those who have graduated from our theological institutions, countless multitudes are decoyed and deceived by it.
The success of an illegitimate coiner depends largely upon how closely the counterfeit resembles the genuine article. Heresy is not so much the total denial of the truth as a perversion of it. That is why half a lie is always more dangerous than a complete repudiation. Hence when the Father of Lies enters the pulpit it is not his custom to flatly deny the fundamental truths of Christianity, rather does he tacitly acknowledge them, and then proceed to give an erroneous interpretation and a false application. For example: he would not be so foolish as to boldly announce his disbelief in a personal God; he takes His existence for granted and then gives a false description of His character. He announces that God is the spiritual Father of all men, when the Scriptures plainly tell us that we are “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26), and that “as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). Further, he declares that God is far too merciful to ever send any member of the human race to Hell, when God Himself has said, “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the Lake of Fire” (Rev. 20:15). Again; Satan would not be so foolish as to ignore the central figure of human history-the Lord Jesus Christ; on the contrary, his gospel acknowledges Him to be the best man that ever lived. Attention is drawn to His deeds of compassion and works of mercy, the beauty of His character and the sublimity of His teaching. His life is eulogized, but His vicarious Death is ignored, the all-important atoning work of the cross is never mentioned, whilst His triumphant and bodily resurrection from the grave is regarded as one of the credulities of a superstitious age. It is a bloodless gospel, and presents a crossless Christ, who is received not as God manifest in the flesh, but merely as the Ideal Man.
In 2 Corinthians 4:3 we have a scripture which sheds much light upon our present theme. There we are told, “if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world [Satan] 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.” He blinds the minds of unbelievers through hiding the light of the Gospel of Christ, and he does this by substituting his own gospel. Appropriately is he designated “The Devil and Satan which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). In merely appealing to “the best that is within man,” and in simply exhorting him to “lead a nobler life” there is afforded a general platform upon which those of every shade of opinion can unite and proclaim this common message.
Again we quote Proverbs 14:12-“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” It has been said with considerable truth that the way to Hell is paved with good intentions. There will be many in the Lake of Fire who commended life with good intentions, honest resolutions and exalted ideals-those who were just in their dealings, fair in their transactions and charitable in all their ways; men who prided themselves in their integrity but who sought to justify themselves before God by their own righteousness; men who were moral, merciful and magnanimous, but who never saw themselves as guilty, lost, hell-deserving sinners needing a Saviour. Such is the way which “seemeth right.” Such is the way that commends itself to the carnal mind and recommends itself to multitudes of deluded ones today. The Devil’s Delusion is that we can be saved by our own works, and justified by our own deeds; whereas, God tells us in His Word : “By grace are ye saved through faith. ..not of works lest any man should boast.” And again, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”
A few years ago the writer became acquainted with one who was a lay preacher and an enthusiastic “Christian worker.” For over seven years this friend had been engaged in public preaching and religious activities, but from certain expressions and phrases he used, the writer doubted whether this friend was a “born again” man. When we began to question him, it was found that he was very imperfectly acquainted with the Scriptures and had only the vaguest conception of Christ’s Work for sinners. For a time we sought to present the way of salvation in a simple and impersonal manner and to encourage our friend to study the Word for himself, in the hope that if he were still unsaved God would be pleased to reveal the Saviour he needed.
One night to our joy, the one who had been preaching the Gospel (?) for several years, confessed that he had found Christ only the previous night. He acknowledged (to use his own words) that he had been presenting “the Christ ideal” but not the Christ of the Cross. The writer believes there are thousands like this preacher who, perhaps, have been brought up in Sunday School, taught about the birth, life, and teachings of Jesus Christ, who believe in the historicity of His person, who spasmodically endeavor to practice His precepts, and who think that that is all that is necessary for their salvation. Frequently, this class when they reach manhood go out into the world, encounter the attacks of atheists and infidels and are told that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth never lived. But the impressions of early days cannot be easily erased, and they remain steadfast in their declaration that they “believe in Jesus Christ.” Yet, when their faith is examined, only too often it is found that though they believe many things about Jesus Christ they do not really believe in him. They believe with the head that such a person lived (and, because they believe this imagine that therefore they are saved), but they have never thrown down the weapons of their warfare against Him, yielded themselves to Him, nor truly believed with their heart in Him.
The bare acceptance of an orthodox doctrine about the person of Christ without the heart being won by Him and the life devoted to Him, is another phase of that way “which seemeth right unto a man” but the end thereof are “the ways of death.” A mere intellectual assent to the reality of Christ’s person, and which goes no further, is another phase of the way which “seemeth right unto a man” but of which the end thereof “are the ways of death,” or, in other words, is another aspect of the gospel of Satan.
And now, where do you stand? Are you in the way which “seemeth right,” but which ends in death; or, are you in the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life? Have you truly forsaken the Broad Road which leadeth to death? Has the love of Christ created in your heart a hatred and horror of all that is displeasing to Him? Are you desirous that he should “reign over” you? (Luke 19:14). Are you relying wholly on His righteousness and blood for your acceptance with God?
Those who are trusting to an outward form of godliness, such as baptism or “confirmation!” those who are religious because it is considered a mark of respectability; those who attend some Church or Chapel because it is the fashion to do so; and, those who unite with some Denomination because they suppose that such a step will enable them to become Christians, are in the way which “ends in death”-death spiritual and eternal. However pure our motives, however noble our intentions, however well-meaning our purposes, however sincere our endeavors, God will not acknowledge us as His sons, until we accept His Son.
A yet more specious form of Satan’s gospel is to move preachers to present the atoning sacrifice of Christ and then tell their hearers that all God requires from them is to “believe” in His Son. Thereby thousands of impenitent souls are deluded into thinking they have been saved. But Christ said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). To “repent” is to hate sin, to sorrow over it, to turn from it. It is the result of the Spirits making the heart contrite before God. None except a broken heart can savingly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Saviour,” who have not first received Him as their LORD. The Son of God did not come here to save His people in their sin, but “from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). To be saved from sins, is to be saved from ignoring and despising the authority of God, it is to abandon the course of self-will and self-pleasing, it is to “forsake our way” (Isa. 55:7). It is to surrender to God’s authority, to yield to His dominion, to give ourselves over to be ruled by Him. The one who has never taken Christ’s “yoke” upon him, who is not truly and diligently seeking to please Him in all the details of life, and yet supposes that he is “resting on the Finished Work of Christ” is deluded by the Devil.
In the seventh chapter of Matthew there are two scriptures which give us approximate results of Christ’s Gospel and Satan s counterfeit. First, in verses 13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for 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.” Second; in verses 22-23, “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [preached] in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out demons, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Yes, my reader, it is possible to work in the name of Christ, and even to preach in his name, and though the world knows us, the Church knows us, yet to be unknown to the Lord! How necessary is it then to find out where we really are; to examine ourselves and see whether we be in the faith; to measure ourselves by the Word of God and see if we are being deceived by our subtle Enemy; to find out whether we are building our house upon the sand, or whether it is erected on the Rock which is Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit search our hearts, break our wills, slay our enmity against God, work in us a deep and true repentance, and direct our gaze to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
During the last century there have been two cardinal errors made concerning much that is contained in the Gospels—errors which have prevailed extensively among professing Christians and which have wrought great havoc. Each of those errors concern that interpretation and application of the contents of the four Evangelists as to what does and does not pertain to the Lord’s people today. The first of these errors was a dispensational one. The view was falsely taken that because our Lord’s ministry was confined to Palestine, while the Temple still stood in Jerusalem, it was therefore exclusively “Jewish” in its character, and that the saints of our era must turn only to the Epistles of the Apostle to the Gentiles for their marching orders. Such an error is refuted by the opening verses of Hebrews (where the ministry of Christ is contrasted from that of the Prophets) and by the fact that the great division of time between B.C. and A.D. is dated from the birth of Christ, and not from His death or even His ascension.
The second error is a practical one. Here the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. In the former case an insidious and insistent attempt was made to deprive the saints of a valuable part of their legitimate heritage, taking from them needed precepts and precious promises under the pretext they were the sole property of the Jews. But in the latter case, which is now more fully to engage our attention, promises which were made to a particular class have been allocated universally, promises which belonged only to the Apostles and the primitive Christians have been wrongly applied to all believers in general. The result has been that false expectations were engendered, vain hopes raised, wild fanaticism encouraged—and those who have come into contact with this perversion of the Truth have seen what tragic effects followed —thousands making complete shipwreck of the faith.
No doubt it will seem to some of our friends that we are now treading on delicate ground, for to assure them that some of the promises made by Christ to His disciples, promises which numbers of our readers may have been taught are the legitimate grounds on which to rest their faith, do not—in their prime sense— belong to them at all, must prove disquieting and disappointing. We shall, therefore, proceed cautiously and slowly, and ask them to weigh with extra diligence what follows. “And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out demons, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17, 18). Now those are the words of the Lord Jesus, but may we appropriate them today and expect a literal fulfillment of the same? There are those who answer with an emphatic Yes, though we very much doubt if many regular readers of these pages would do so.
Now the verses just quoted respect the miracles which attended the preaching of the Gospel in the early days of this Christian dispensation, and it is to be duly noted that those miracles resulted from the exercise of faith. This we think will be so evident to our readers as to occasion no difficulty. But there are other passages in the Gospels dealing with the same subject—similar promises from the lips of the Saviour which may not appear so simple—and it is to them that we now turn. “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22). This same promise, slightly varied, is found again in, “Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). How often has this promise been appropriated by Christians and earnestly pleaded before God, only to meet with no response. Such have attributed this lack of response to the failure of their faith, (or been told that is the cause), instead of perceiving they were resting their faith on an unwarrantable foundation.
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22). Our first concern should be to ascertain to whom those words were first addressed, and the circumstance which occasioned them—considerations that are usually of first importance as aids to a true application of a verse, for if the context is ignored mistakes are sure to follow. The verses immediately preceding record our Lord’s cursing of the fig tree and the effect this had upon those attending Him. Verse 20 says, “When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away.” Mark tells us, “And Peter (the spokesman of the Apostles) calling to remembrance saith unto Him, Master, behold, the fig tree which Thou cursedst is withered away” (11:21). Then it was that Christ replied, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:21-22).
It must be borne in mind that at an earlier date Christ had appointed 12 of His disciples to preach the Gospel and to perform miracles in confirmation of their commission. “And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all manner of sickness” (Matt. 10:1)—those miraculous powers were primarily what Paul referred to when he spoke of, “The signs of an Apostle were wrought among you” (2 Cor. 12:12). Luke tells us that, “after these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place whither He Himself would come” (10:1), bidding them “heal the sick” (v. 9). The same duly returned and declared, “even the demons are subject unto us through Thy name” (v. 17). Thus, it is quite clear that the promise of Matthew 21:22 was made to those who were in possession of miraculous powers and was designed for their personal encouragement.
Before proceeding further, let it be pointed out that what we are advancing in this article is no novelty of our own devising, but rather a line of interpretation (alas, unknown to many in this superficial age) given out by many eminent servants of God in the past. For example, in his notes on Matthew 21:21, 22, Thomas Scott wrote, “When Jesus observed the surprise of the disciples He again showed them the energy of faith, with a special reference to the power of working miracles in His name. Whenever a proper occasion offered of performing a miracle in support of their doctrine, and they went about it relying on His power and not doubting His concurrence, they would not only be enabled to perform as wonderful works as that of withering the barren fig tree, but even the Mount of Olives, which they were then passing, might, at their word be removed and cast into the sea! That is, nothing that they undertook would be impossible for them.” So also Matthew Henry said on Mark 11:22, 23, “This is to be applied first to that faith of miracles which the Apostles and first preachers of the Gospel were endowed with, who did wonders in things natural.”
Let us next inquire as to the extent of this promise: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Though this language be indefinite and unqualified, yet we are not warranted in drawing the conclusion that it is to be taken without any limitation. From the immediate context it is quite clear that this promise had sole respect unto the working of miracles. Christ’s object was to assure His Apostles that if they prayed in faith for any supernatural gift or power in particular, that that gift or power would be granted to them. But we have no ground for believing that if those Apostles prayed for something different, no matter how firm their expectation, that they would receive the same. They were not justified in extending the terms of the promise any further than was warranted by the obvious design of their Master on that special occasion.
Though the Twelve had been endowed with supernatural powers yet had they prayed for the bestowment on themselves of any temporal or spiritual blessing, there was nothing whatever in this particular promise which guaranteed an answer to any such request. Like we, the Apostles and the primitive Christians were subject to poverty, disease, and all the common trials and afflictions of this present life. We have no reason to doubt that they—for they were men subject to like infirmities as we are—prayed for their removal or mitigation, yet we know from other Scriptures that their prayers respecting these things were not always granted. This at once shows us the promise of Matthew 21:22 was not a universal one, for in that case they might have sought any temporal favours with the same faith and assurance of being heard as when they prayed that miracles should be wrought by their hands.
But let us now take note of the proviso which our Lord laid down: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” The same stipulation is found again in the parallel passage: “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). This promise made by Christ with respect to the working of miracles was thus conditioned upon the exercise of a certain kind of faith. If those unto whom it was made really acted out the requisite faith, then their faith absolutely secured the fulfillment of the promise. On the other hand, if they failed to put forth the faith specified, then their request was not granted. Like most of the promises in Scripture, this also was a conditional one.
Matthew 17 furnishes us with an illustration of the Apostles being unable to perform a desired miracle because of their failure to meet the proviso attached to the promise we are here considering. There we read of a certain man coming to Christ on behalf of his sorely-vexed son, begging the Saviour to have mercy on him, and saying, “I brought him to Thy disciples and they could not cure him” (v. 16). After the Lord had healed the demon possessed youth, His disciples asked why they had been unable to perform this miracle. His answer is instructive, for it definitely confirms what we have said above: “And Jesus said unto them, because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (v. 20). We must next inquire wherein did this faith to work miracles differ from any other kind of faith? The answer: It rested on an entirely different foundation. In the first place, it could only be exercised by those who had been specially endowed by supernatural power to work miracles, which pertained alone to Christ’s servants at the beginning of this Christian era. And in the second place, such faith had to rely implicitly upon the specific promises which Christ had made unto such, namely, that upon their counting on His assistance to enable them thereto, He would infallibly make good His word respecting the same. The same thing may be seen, as pointed out in an earlier paragraph, in the promises recorded in Mark 16:17, 18. Such were quite distinct from that faith which secures eternal life, resting upon quite another sort of promise. In proof of what has last been said we refer to Acts 3. There we read of the beggar who had been lame from his birth asking alms of the Apostles as they were about to enter the Temple. To him Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (v. 6, and cf. “in My name” in Mark 16:17). Later, in explaining to the wondering bystanders what had happened, Peter, after charging them with delivering up the Lord Jesus to Pilate, declared that God glorified His Son adding, “and His name, through faith in His name, hath made this man strong” (Acts 3:16). Peter, then, had definitely acted faith upon such promises as had been given to the Apostles in Matthew 21:21, 22, and Mark 16:17, 18, etc.
Saving faith consists of the heart’s appropriation of the Gospel: it is laying hold of Christ Himself as He is offered therein to poor sinners: it is trusting in the mercy of God in the Redeemer. But the faith to perform miracles could only be effectually exercised by those to whom special promises for the working of such had been given. Christ had endowed the Apostles with supernatural powers and had given assurance that He would assist them in the bringing of wondrous signs to pass for the glory of His name and the extension of His kingdom. And that promise of His was to be the ground of their faith. Thus, their faith had as definite and sure ground to rest upon as ours today in connection with eternal life. Nevertheless the former was vastly inferior to the latter. Judas had the one, but not the other. Hence Paul declares that it was possible in those days to have faith so as to “remove mountains” and yet be destitute of a holy love (1 Cor. 13:2).
After all that has been pointed out above it should be obvious that Christians at this day are quite unwarranted in applying such a promise to themselves in any case they feel inclined, and that ministers of the Gospel are seriously misleading their hearers when they say to them, “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive them.” We are fully aware that some godly but misguided preachers have so misapplied this text, and that some devout believers have taken this promise for themselves. Yet this is no proof that either of them were right in so doing. We have personally attended more than one “Faith-healing service” where such a promise was “claimed” by the one in charge and have witnessed the pathetic disappointment of the sick hobbling away on their crutches at the close. How many sober-minded people were led into open infidelity by such a fiasco only the Day will reveal. Perhaps some of our readers are beginning to better grasp our meaning when we say, from time to time, Many who fail to understand the sense of a verse are frequently misled by the sound of it.
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22). We have already seen that this promise was made to those who had been endowed with supernatural powers, and that it was given for the purpose of encouraging them to exercise faith that Christ would continue to assist in their working of miracles, for the glory of His name and the good of His cause. We have also shown that the Apostles themselves had no warrant whatever to apply this particular promise to ordinary blessings of either a temporal or spiritual nature. It should, therefore, be quite apparent that Christians today have no right to appropriate this promise unto themselves and expect a literal fulfillment of the same. To make this still clearer, let the following considerations be carefully weighed. Even the primitive Christians themselves were not all endowed with supernatural gifts. Proof of this is found in that statement of the Apostles, “Are all Apostles? are all Prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles. Have all gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor. 12:29-30). This is the more striking in that those extraordinary gifts abounded more copiously at Corinth than in any of the apostolic churches; yet these questions, with their strong emphasis, clearly denotes that there was not an equality of endowment. Paul’s obvious design here was to suppress on the one hand all discontent and envy, and on the other all pride and arrogance, for he had expressly reminded them that the Spirit apportioned His gifts “to every man severally as He will” (v. 11).
The manifest limitation of the promise we are here considering forbids that Christians today should give it a general and universal application: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” There are very few passages in Scripture where the expression “all things” is to be understood without qualification, and certainly this is not one of those few. The preceding “and” clearly connects with what is said in verse 21, and therefore must signify all such things as are there in view, namely, the work- ing of miracles. As we have previously pointed out, this promise did not even give the Apostles themselves carte blanche, so that if they prayed for anything whatever (provided they did so with unshaken faith) they were infallibly assured of receiving the same. How much less, then, may ordinary Christians today give such a scope to this promise!
Scripture itself records more than one instance of pious souls earnestly supplicating God for certain things, and the Holy Spirit has conveyed no suggestion that it was because they prayed unbelievingly their requests were not granted. Moses (Deut. 3:23-26) is a case in point. So also David both fasted and prayed on behalf of his sick child that it might recover, yet it died (2 Sam. 12:16-19). So, too, in this New Testament era we find that the beloved Apostle besought the Lord thrice that his thorn in the flesh might be removed (2 Cor. 12:7-9), yet it was not; though he received assurance from the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for thee”—to endure the affliction. Most certainly Paul was acquainted with this promise in Matthew 21:22! Surely, then, Christians now have no right to exercise faith in it when praying for anything. If Christians of this day determine to appropriate Matthew 21:22 unto themselves, then they must do so on the principle that believing a thing to be true will make it true. The language used by Christ on that occasion is too clear to be mistaken: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”—to the same effect is, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). But this principle that believing a thing to be true necessarily makes it true is manifestly untenable and erroneous. Were I to pray for the salvation of one whom God had not eternally chosen in Christ, no believing on my part would effect his salvation: and to insist that God should save him, would be presumption and not faith. If I were seriously sick and believed God would heal me, no such believing would bring my healing to pass; and if such were not the Lord’s will for me, then such “believing” would be fanaticism and not faith.
Since Christians in our day have no right to appropriate this special promise to themselves, they have no warrant to ask for any favour, whether temporal or spiritual, private or public, absolutely and unsubmissively. True prayer is not an endeavouring to bring the Divine will into subjection to ours, but a seeking to yield up our wills to God’s. What the Lord has predestinated cannot be changed by any appeals of ours, for with Him there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God’s eternal decrees were framed by perfect goodness and unerring wisdom, and therefore He has no need to forego the execution of any part of them: “But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth” (Job 23:13). It is a most grotesque and God-dishonouring idea to suppose that prayer has been appointed for the purpose of the creature’s exercising his persuasive powers so as to induce the Almighty to give something He does not wish to bestow.
“This is the confidence that we have in Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14). Ah, that is what we need to lay hold of and act upon in this blatant and presumptuous age. We come to the Throne of Grace not as dictators, but suppliants. We approach the One seated thereon not as equals, but as beggars. We go there not to demand our rights, but to beg favours. We stand not on our dignity, but bow the knee in conscious unworthiness. We present not ultimatums, but make “requests.” And those requests we do not make in a spirit of self-assertiveness, but in humble submissiveness. If we approach the Throne of Grace in a correct frame, we go there conscious of our ignorance and foolishness, fully assured that the Lord knows far better than we what it would be good to bestow upon us and what it would be best to withhold from us.
God has infallibly purposed when and where and upon whom He will bestow His favour, and Christians have no right, and when in their right mind, no desire to ask Him to alter any of His determinations respecting either themselves or others. Consequently, since they have no means of knowing beforehand what He has decreed concerning the granting of any specific favour, they are not justified in asking Him for anything absolutely, but rather must they proffer each request with unreserved submission to His good pleasure. They may greatly desire to see the salvation of some particular person, but as they know not whether he is one of God’s elect, they must not ask for it unconditionally, but subject to His Divine purpose. They may have a loved one who is seriously sick, and while it is both their duty and privilege to ask for his or her recovery, yet they must not pray for the same absolutely but in subjection to the will of God.
Christ has left us a perfect example of submission in prayer, as in everything else. Behold Him in the garden of Gethsemane—the ante-chamber of Calvary—entering upon His inconceivable sufferings. Mark His posture: He is not erect, but on His knees, and later on His face. Hearken to His language: “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). It was His holy desire for the Father to remove that awful cup from Him, if He were graciously pleased to do so; but if not—He asked that His petition might be denied and the will of His Father done. Can we in the face of that, my reader, come before God and insist that any request of ours be granted irrespective of whether or not it be accordant with the Divine will? No indeed, rather must we earnestly seek grace to emulate the example left us by the Redeemer.
Sad indeed is it to witness and read of much that is going on in the religious world today. Nor is it that the lawless spirit of the age has had an evil influence upon the churches: rather did the evil begin in the churches and later infest society generally. The Law of God was banished from the pulpits before lawlessness became so rife in the state. Irreverence characterized the pew before infidelity stalked the streets. The Most High was insulted in public prayer before it became the common thing to take His name in vain on the stage and over the air. Instead of bowing before the Throne of Grace many conducted their public “devotions” as though they themselves occupied that Throne. Genuine and unreserved submission to the Divine will is now a thing of the past save among that insignificant remnant who have, by His grace, been given broken and contrite hearts.
Since Christians have no right, at this date, to exercise faith in the promise of Matthew 21:22, then clearly they have no right to exercise faith in their own peculiar feelings. The Apostles themselves who possessed supernatural powers did not believe that all things whatsoever they asked in faith should be granted to them because they had peculiar feelings respecting what they asked for; but they believed that when they requested a miracle should be wrought by them, Christ would enable them thereto, because they based their faith on His promise to that end. They knew that promise was made to their faith, and not to their feelings. That being the case with the Apostles themselves, how much less may the ordinary Christian now claim a fulfillment of Matthew 21:22 because of some strong feeling he is the subject of!
But though Christians today have no such promise to rest upon as Matthew 21:22, some of them have a deep feeling that what they pray for shall be granted. That is quite wrong and reprehensible. We have no Scriptural warrant whatever to base our confidence of being heard upon any feeling, however deep and persistent, and must not expect God to answer us unless we can plead some promise of His. There are no promises made in the Word to any feelings. All the promises of the Gospel are made to holy exercises or affections, and to nothing in which men are entirely passive. Our hearts are deceitful above all things, and those who rely upon inward impulses and secret feelings are in great danger of running into the grossest errors and the wildest delusions. Evil spirits as well as the Holy Spirit can impress our minds.
Many have prayed for particular favours with the mistaken assurance that if they ask for them in unwavering faith those favours would certainly be granted them. This idea “led George Whitefield confidently to expect what he had no right to confidently expect. He had an amiable, promising little son, whom he ardently desired and prayed might be an eminently useful minister; and he had such strong and agreeable feelings concerning him that he confidently expected that he would be what he ardently desired and prayed that he might be. But his son died when he was about four years old and the event not only disappointed him, but cured him of his error” (N. Emmons, to whom we are indebted for several thoughts in this discussion). We may add that when C. H. Spurgeon lay dying, tens of thousands fasted and offered special prayer for the sparing of his life; but as the sequel showed, such was not according to God’s will.
In seeking to correct one error we must endeavour to guard against another. Though the promise of Matthew 21:22 belongs not unto us today, there are scores of promises in both the Old and New Testaments which Christians may lawfully take to themselves and plead before God. In those promises they have all the encouragement to pray in faith which they can reasonably desire. God has never said to the seed of Jacob, “seek ye Me in vain,” but has assured them that if they pray aright they shall be heard, and either receive what they ask for or something more for His glory and their good. In order to pray aright they must pray with a real desire for the things they request, and with a genuine submission to the will of God whether He shall grant or deny their petitions. When a believer presents suitable petitions unto God, in a right manner, grounded on the Divine promises, then he should not doubt either His willingness or ability to grant them, either on account of his own unworthiness or because of any difficulty in the way. “If we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14).
See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
“See that ye refuse not him that speaketh”-note carefully the present tense: not “that spoke.” Christ is still speaking through His Gospel, by His Spirit, and instrumentally through His own commissioned servants, calling upon all who come under the sound of his voice to serve and obey Him. There are many ways in which we may “refuse” to hear and heed Him. First, by neglecting to read daily and diligently the Scriptures through which He speaks. Second, by failing to attend public preaching where His Word is faithfully dispensed-if so be we live in a place where this holy privilege is obtainable. Third, by failing to comply with the terms of His Gospel and yield ourselves unto His authority. Fourth, by forsaking the Narrow Way of His commandments and going back again to the world. Fifth, by abandoning the truth for error, which generally ends in total apostasy. How we need to pray for an hearing ear, that is, for a responsive heart and yielded will.
A.W. Pink commentary