WHAT’S WRONG WITH EVANGELISM TODAY?

(Walter Chantry Todays Gospel Authentic or Synthetic?)
(Walter Chantry Todays Gospel Authentic or Synthetic?)

Truth and unity

Evangelicals know that all is not well in their churches and missions. Behind the facade of glowing missionary reports and massive statistics there is a profound awareness that the church has little power in evangelism. While bravely trying to produce an aura of joy and victory among their followers, church leaders are uneasy and deeply dissatisfied with their present experience and the results of their efforts. The church is astir with questions about evangelism and hope for revival. Never have there been more missionaries. Never have there been more evangelistic campaigns. Never were more Christians studying to do personal evangelism. Never were there such enormous conferences to examine seriously the causes and cure of lameness in the Gospel ministry.
In 1966, 165 mission agencies and fifty-five schools convened at Wheaton, Illinois in a Congress on the Church’s worldwide Mission. Their task was to address themselves to the barriers preventing success in a world evangelistic thrust. Soon after that, 1300 men of 100 nations met in Berlin. They fervently hoped that this Congress on Evangelism would ‘light the fuse for a worldwide evangelistic explosion.’ In 1969 great numbers met at St Louis to investigate and stimulate evangelism. Other such gatherings are to be expected in the future.
Yet the bewilderment is deepening among missionaries and local churches. After analysing, evaluating, praying and hoping, missions are not revitalized and sinners are not turning to Christ in great numbers. The questions are still being asked, ‘What’s wrong with our evangelism? What is needed to win the world for Christ? Where is the power of Edwards and Whitefield?’
In this honest search for God’s power to return to the preaching of today, evangelicals have been making some crucial errors. Those who believe in God’s Word have been grasping at the same superficial solutions that liberalism has adopted. Relevance, respectability (whether intellectual or social), and especially unity have become the aims of God’s people with the hope that these will revitalize a weakened church.
‘If only all Bible-believing people join together, the world will sit up and listen,’ thinks the church. Let’s merge our mission boards to pool our funds and our personnel. Let’s join giant evangelistic projects. If every evangelical joins in a common organization, we can have greater depth of evangelism. Thus organizational unity becomes the aim of Gospel churches.
Having accepted the theory that unity is all-important for world evangelism, both the church and the individual must lower their estimate of the value of truth. In a large congress on evangelism we could not insist on a truth of God’s Word that would offend any brother evangelical. Thus we must find the lowest common denominator to which all born-again Christians hold. The rest of the Bible will be labelled ‘unessential’ for missions. After all, unity (among Christians) is more essential than doctrinal preciseness.
It is for just this reason that the mission societies have been unwilling carefully to examine the root problem in preaching. Mission boards are hesitant to answer the question, ‘What is the Gospel?’ Thoroughly to answer that would condemn what many of their own missionaries preach. It would destroy the mission society, which is a federation of churches who have differing answers to that question. To adopt the position of one church would be to lose the support of five others. The whole system built on unity and generality would crumble.
The local church may not get too specific about truth either. It may affect its harmony with the denomination or association. To define the Gospel carefully will bring conflict with the organizations working with teen-agers. It will prompt irritating problems with mission boards and embarrassing disagreement with missionaries supported for years. It may condemn the whole Sunday School programme. Giving too much attention to the content of the Gospel will mean friction with other evangelicals. And unity is the key to success.

Tradition in evangelism

Evangelicals cherish their Reformation heritage. We stand in the line of Luther and others who have broken the back of Papal superstitions. The Bible, God’s Holy Word, is our guide in all things. We bow to no human authority.
Such a claim flows from a right spirit of supreme allegiance to God. Yet the cry ‘Sola Scriptura’ is more often an indication of good intention than it is fact. The evangelical wing of the Protestant church is saturated with doctrine and practices which have no Biblical foundation. Many teachings and habits touching the Gospel are as much the products of human invention and tradition as were the indulgences of Tetzel. And certain doctrines in our midst are quite as dangerous.
In the central issue of the way of salvation, large segments of Protestantism are engrossed in neo-traditionalism. We have inherited a system of evangelistic preaching which is unbiblical. Nor is this tradition very ancient. Our message and manner of preaching the Gospel cannot be traced back to the Reformers and their creeds. They are much more recent innovations. Worse, they cannot be traced to the Scriptures. They have clearly arisen from superficial exegesis and a careless mixture of twentieth-century reason with God’s revelation.
The resulting product is a dangerous conglomerate – just the sort that Satan uses to delude the souls of sinners. What cult has not learned to use verses of the Bible and half truths to establish their lies? That has been the Devil’s strategy from the beginning [Genesis 3:5]. By selling another gospel to our generation, Satan has been employing many sincere men in preaching a dethroned Christ. The glories of the Saviour are being hidden even from His servants because preachers will not give careful attention to the Gospel of God’s Word alone.
Products of modern evangelism are often sad examples of Christianity. They make a profession of faith, and then continue to live like the world. ‘Decisions for Christ’ (To become a Christian, a sinner must decide to turn from sin and trust the Saviour. Repentance and faith are inward acts of the human will. But these must be carefully distinguished from the outward procedure of going forward, verbally confessing sin and publicly asking Christ to be one’s Saviour. In this paper the term ‘decision’ will refer to formal ceremonies connected with evangelistic services; for these have become identified with ‘decisions’ in the evangelical mind, with the unfounded assumption that participants in outward ceremonies have inwardly decided to follow Christ.) mean very little. Only a small proportion of those who ‘make decisions’ evidence the grace of God in a transformed life.
When the excitement of the latest campaign has subsided, when the choir sings no more thrilling choruses, when large crowds no longer gather, when the emotional hope in the evangelist’s ‘invitation’ has moved to another city, what do we have that is real and lasting? When every house in our mission village has been visited, what has been done? The honest heart answers, ‘Very little.’ There has been a great deal of noise and dramatic excitement, but God has not come down with His frightful power and converting grace.
All of this is related to the use of a message in evangelism that is unbiblical. The truth necessary for life has been hidden in a smoke screen of human inventions. On the shallow ground of man’s logic, large numbers have been led to assume they have a right to everlasting life and have been given an asssurance which does not belong to them. Evangelicals are swelling the ranks of the deluded with a perverted Gospel. Many who have ‘made decisions’ in modern churches and been told in the inquiry rooms that their sins have been forgiven, will be surprised as Tetzel’s customers to hear, ‘I never knew you; depart from me’ [Matthew 7:23].
Many of you who read these pages have inherited practices and teachings which you have assumed to be the right way of evangelism. You have never seen a lively church actively evangelize in any other way, so you have never questioned it. I know that there are some who claim to possess a more precise theology of evangelism who do nothing to win sinners to Christ. Absence of evangelistic zeal is a dreadful predicament on one hand. But there is also the danger of zeal which is not according to knowledge. Could you be misleading souls and misdirecting the labours of other Christians? Have you closely examined your message and methods in the light of God’s Word?
Pastors, this is no idle question. Have you not wondered about those ‘converts’ who are as carnal as ever? What about those who have ‘decided for Christ’ and you cannot tell what they decided? They are not godly like the Saviour they profess, nor zealous for His cause. They do not study the Word and do not mind if they are absent when it is preached. Consequently, you know that they give no evidence of true conversion. Have you considered the possibility that they were never evangelized at all? Have your
preaching and methods led them to comfort apart from Christ?
Unless our churches rethink the way of salvation by an honest search of God’s Word, evangelical Protestantism will be choked in the morass of human tradition, as was Rome years ago. Already many of its members are shackled as sadly as the ignorant subjects of the Pope. Unity must not be sought at the expense of the Gospel.
Many case histories of our Lord’s personal evangelism and many apostolic sermons would serve well for defining the Gospel. Jesus’ interview with the rich young ruler has been chosen because it is a vivid instance of the elements essential to Gospel preaching which are found everywhere in the New Testament. The words of Mark 10:17-27 stand in stark contrast with the prevailing doctrine of evangelicals today. The difference between today’s gospel and Jesus’ Gospel are not in minor details, but in the core of the matter. Modern changes are serious enough to grieve the Spirit and yield empty nets. They are dangerous enough to misguide souls for eternity.
Some will immediately retreat behind the convenient shield of relativism. The excuse, ‘It’s only a matter of emphasis,’ will be used to escape a serious self-examination in the light of
God’s Word. But the ensuing contrasts between Christ’s Gospel and today’s popularized ‘gospel’ are crucial, not peripheral. In these contrasting messages may lie the difference between life and death for a soul, between vitality and sterility for a church.
No sincere Christian intends to deceive sinners. In love for souls, true evangelicals invariably present some profound truths in their witnessing. Yet by the unconscious omission of essential ingredients of the Gospel, many fail to communicate even that portion of God’s Word which they mean to convey. When a half truth is presented as the whole truth, it becomes an untruth.
Though the answers may be painful, you must ask if your church, your missionaries, your evangelists, your Sunday School teachers, and you, yourself, are preaching our Lord’s Gospel. Though the answer may bring discomfort, conflict, mis-understanding, and loss of friends, you cannot dishonour God by ignoring His truth. If you are unwilling to take a firm stand on the content of the Gospel, then say no more about zeal, sacrifice and activity. If you are not willing to insist that the ‘story to tell to the nations’ be precisely Jesus’ story, why go on with ‘evangelism’ and ‘missions’ at all?
Look closely then at the Master Evangelist of all ages. Listen to His message, observe His motives, and note His methods. Then reflect on your own ministry. In the young man of 30 AD you will see the faces of young men of 1970. To reach them, you must say what our Lord said. To please God you must labour as Christ laboured. Cast off the shackles of evangelical traditions! Refuse to pay for outward unity with the coins of fundamental truth. Learn to follow the Christ of the Scriptures in evangelism. Lay hold of the authentic Gospel and discard the synthetic.

 

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11

(New) The Spirit Quickening

We shall now confine ourselves to the initial operation of the Spirit within the elect of God. Different writers have employed the term “regeneration” with varying latitude: some restricting it unto a single act, others including the whole process by which one becomes a conscious child of God. This has hindered close accuracy of thought, and has introduced considerable confusion through the confounding of things which, though intimately related, are quite distinct. Not only has confusion of thought resulted from a loose use of terms, but serious divisions among professing saints have issued therefrom. We believe that much, if not all, of this would have been avoided had theologians discriminated more sharply and clearly between the principle of grace (spiritual life) which the Spirit first imparts unto the soul, and His consequent stirrings of that principle into exercise.

QUICKENING IS THE INITIAL OPERATION OF THE SPIRIT In earlier years we did not ourselves perceive the distinction which is pointed by John 6:63 and 1 Peter 1:23: the former referring unto the initial act of the Spirit in “quickening” the spiritually-dead soul, the latter having in view the consequent “birth” of the same. While it is freely allowed that the origin of the “new creature” is shrouded in impenetrable mystery, yet of this we may be certain, that life precedes birth. There is a strict analogy between the natural birth and the spiritual: necessarily so, for God is the Author of them both, and He ordained that the former should adumbrate the latter. Birth is neither the cause nor the beginning of life itself: rather is it the manifestation of a life already existent: there had been a Divine “quickening” before the child could issue from the womb. In like manner, the Holy Spirit “quickens” the soul, or imparts spiritual life to it, before its possessor is “brought forth” (as James 1:18 is rightly rendered in the R.V.) and “born again” by the Word of God ( 1 Peter 1:23). James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23, and parallel passages, refer not to the original communication of spiritual life to the soul, but rather to our being enabled to act from that life and induced to love and obey God by means of the Word of Truth—which presupposes a principle of grace already planted in the heart. In His work of illumination, conviction, conversion, and sanctification, the Spirit uses the Word as the means thereto, but in His initial work of “quickening” He employs no means, operating immediately or directly upon the soul. First there is a “new creation” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10), and then the “new creature” is stirred into exercise. Faith and all other graces are wrought in us by the Spirit through the instrumentality of the Word, but not so with the principle of life and grace from which these graces proceed.

QUICKENING IMPARTS LIFE In His work of “quickening,” by which we mean the impartation of spiritual life to the soul, the Spirit acts immediately from within, and not by applying something from without. Quickening is a direct operation of the Spirit without the use of any instrument: the Word is used by Him afterwards to call into exercise the life then communicated. “Regeneration is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human spirit. It is the action of Spirit upon spirit, of a Divine Person upon a human person, whereby spiritual life is imparted.

Nothing, therefore, of the nature of means or instruments can come between the Holy Spirit and the soul that is made alive. God did not employ an instrument or means when He infused physical life into the body of Adam. There were only two factors: the dust of the ground and the creative power of God which vivified that dust. The Divine omnipotence and dead matter were brought into direct contact, with nothing interposing. The dust was not a means or instrument by which God originated life. So in regeneration there are only two factors: the human soul destitute of spiritual life, and the Holy Spirit who quickens it. “The Word and Truth of God, the most important of all the means of grace, is not a means of regeneration, as distinct from conviction, conversion and sanctification. This is evident when we remember that it is the office of a means or instrument to excite or stimulate an already existing principle of life. Physical food is a means of physical growth, but it supposes physical vitality. If the body is dead, bread cannot be a means or instrument. Intellectual truth is a means of intellectual growth, but it supposes intellectual vitality. If the mind be idiotic, secular knowledge cannot be a means or instrument. Spiritual truth is a means of spiritual growth, in case there be spiritual vitality. But if the mind be dead to righteousness, spiritual truth cannot be a means or instrument. “The unenlightened understanding is unable to apprehend, and the unregenerate will is unable to believe. Vital force is lacking in these two principal factors. What is needed at this point is life and force itself. Consequently, the Author of spiritual life Himself must operate directly, without the use of means or instruments; and outright give spiritual life and power from the dead: that is, ex nihilo. The new life is not imparted because man perceives the truth, but he perceives the truth because the new life is imparted. A man is not regenerated because he has first believed in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerated” (W. T.

Shedd, Presbyterian, 1889).

FIRST THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT, THEN THE WORD Under the guise of honoring the written word, many have (no doubt unwittingly) dishonored the Holy Spirit. The idea which seems to prevail in “orthodox” circles today is that all which is needed for the salvation of souls is to give out the Word in its purity, God being pledged to bless the same. How often we have heard it said, “The Word will do its own work.”

Many suppose that the Scriptures are quite sufficient of themselves to communicate light to those in darkness and life to those who are dead in sins. But the record which we have of Christ’s life ought at once to correct such a view. Who preached the Word as faithfully as He, yet how very few were saved during His three and a half years’ ministry?!

The parable of the Sower exposes the fallacy of the theory now so widely prevailing. The “seed” sown is the Word. It was scattered upon various kinds of ground, yet notwithstanding the purity and vitality of the seed, where the soil was unfavorable, no increase issued therefrom. Until the ground was made good, the seed yielded no increase. That seed might be watered by copious showers and warmed by a genial sum, but while the soil was bad there could be no harvest. The ground must be changed before it could be fertile. Nor is it the seed which changes the soil: what farmer would ever think of saying, The seed will change the soil! Make no mistake upon this point: the Holy Spirit must first quicken the dead soul into newness of life before the Word obtains any entrance.

To say that life is communicated to the soul by the Spirit’s application of the Word, and then to affirm that it is the principle of life which gives efficacy to the Word, is but to reason in a circle. The Word cannot profit any soul spiritually until it be “mixed with faith” ( Hebrews 4:2), and faith cannot be put forth unless it proceeds from a principle of life and grace; and therefore that principle of life is not produced by it. “We might as well suppose that the presenting of a picture to a man who is blind can enable him to see, as we can suppose that the presenting of the Word in an objective way is the instrument whereby God produces the internal principle by which we are enabled to embrace it” (Thomas Ridgley, Presbyterian, 1730— quoted by us to show we are not here inculcating some new doctrine.)

Yet notwithstanding what has been pointed out above, many are still likely to insist upon the quickening power which inheres in the Word itself, reminding us that its voice is that of the Almighty. This we freely and fully acknowledge, but do not all the unregenerate resist, and refuse to heed that Voice? How, then, is that opposition to be removed? Take an illustration.

Suppose the window of my room is darkened by an iron wall before it. The sun’s beams beat upon it, but still the wall remains. Were it of ice, it would melt away, but the nature of iron is to harden and not soften under the influence of heat. How, then, is the sun to enter my room? Only by removing that wall: a direct power must be put forth for its destruction. In like manner, the deadly enmity of the sinner must be removed by the immediate operation of the Spirit, communicating life, before the Word enters and affects him. “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness” ( Matthew 7:22,23).

By the “eye” is not here meant the mind only, but the disposition of the heart (cf. Mark 7:22). Here Christ tells us in what man’s blindness consists, namely, the evil disposition of his heart, and that the only way to remove the darkness, and let in the light, is to change the heart. An “evil eye” is not cured or its darkness removed merely by casting light upon it, any more than the rays of the sun communicate sight unto one whose visive faculty is dead. The eye must be cured, made “single,” and then it is capable of receiving the light. “It is said the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended unto the things that were spoken by Paul ( Acts 16:14). It would be a contradiction, and very absurd, to say that God’s Word spoken by Paul was that by which her heart was opened; for she knew not what he did speak, until her heart was opened to attend to his words and understand them. Her heart was first opened in order for his words to have any effect or give any light to her. And this must be done by an immediate operation of the Spirit of God on her heart. This was the regeneration now under consideration, by which her heart was renewed, and formed unto true discerning like the single eye” (Samuel Hopkins, 1792).

The soul, then, is quickened into newness of life by the direct and supernatural operation of the Spirit, without any medium or means whatever. It is not accomplished by the light of the Word, for it is His very imparting of life which fits the heart to receive the light. This initial work of the Spirit is absolutely indispensable in order to have spiritual illumination.

It is depravity or corruption of heart which holds the mind in darkness, and it is in this that unregeneracy consists. It is just as absurd to speak of illumination being conveyed by the Word in order to have a change of heart, or the giving of a relish for spiritual things, as it would be to speak of giving the capacity to a man to taste the sweetness of honey while he was devoid of a palate.

No, men are not “quickened” by the Word, they must be quickened in order to receive and understand the Word. “And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God” ( Jeremiah 24:7): that statement would be quite meaningless if a saving knowledge of or experimental acquaintance with God were obtained through the Word previous to the “new heart” or spiritual life being given, and was the means of our being quickened. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” ( Proverbs 1:7); the “fear of the Lord” or Divine grace communicated to the heart (spiritual life imparted) alone lays the foundation for spiritual knowledge and activities.

CHARACTERISTICS OF QUICKENING “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will” ( John 5:21); “It is the Spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing” ( John 6:63).

All the Divine operations in the economy of salvation proceed from the Father, are through the Son, and are executed by the Spirit. Quickening is His initial work in the elect. It is that supernatural act by which He brings them out of the grave of spiritual death on to resurrection ground. By it He imparts a principle of grace and habit of holiness; it is the communication of the life of God to the soul. It is an act of creation ( 2 Corinthians 5:17). It is a Divine “workmanship” ( Ephesians 2:10). All of these terms denote an act of Omnipotency. The origination of life is utterly impossible to the creature. He can receive life; he can nourish life; he can use and exert it; but he cannot create life.

In this work the Spirit acts as sovereign. “The wind bloweth where it listeth (or “pleaseth”)… so is everyone that is born of the Spirit” ( John 3:8).

This does not mean that He acts capriciously, or without reason and motive, but that He is above any obligation to the creature, and is quite uninfluenced by us in what He does. The Spirit might justly have left everyone of us in the hardness of our hearts to perish forever. In quickening one and not another, in bringing a few from death unto life and leaving the mass still dead in trespasses and sins, the Spirit has mercy “on whom He will have mercy.” He is absolutely free to work in whom He pleases, for none of the fallen sons of Adam have the slightest claim upon Him.

The quickening of the spiritually dead into newness of life is therefore an act of amazing grace: it is an unsought and unmerited favor. The sinner, who is the chosen subject of this Divine operation and object of this inestimable blessing, is infinitely ill-deserving in himself, being thoroughly disposed to go on in wickedness till this change is wrought in him. He is rebellious, and will not hearken to the Divine command; he is obstinate and refuses to repent and embrace the Gospel. However terrified he may be with the fears of threatened doom, however earnest may be his desire to escape misery and be happy forever, no matter how many prayers he may make and things he may do, he has not the least inclination to repent and submit to God. His heart is defiant, full of enmity against God, and daily does he add iniquity unto iniquity. For the Spirit to give a new heart unto such an one is indeed an act of amazing and sovereign grace.

This quickening by the Spirit is instantaneous: it is a Divine act, and not a process; it is wrought at once, and not gradually. In a moment of time the soul passes from death unto life. The soul which before was dead toward God, is now alive to Him. The soul which was completely under the domination of sin, is now set free; though the sinful nature itself is not removed nor rendered inoperative, yet the heart is no longer en rapport (in sympathy) with it. The Spirit of God finds the heart wholly corrupt and desperately wicked, but by a miracle of grace He changes its bent, and this by implanting within it the imperishable seed of holiness. There is no medium between a carnal and a spiritual state: the one is what we were by nature, the other is what we become by grace, by the instantaneous and invincible operation of the Almighty Spirit.

This initial work of quickening is entirely unperceived by us, for it lies outside the realm and the range of human consciousness. Those who are dead possess no perception, and though the work of bringing them on to resurrection ground is indeed a great and powerful one, in the very nature of the case its subjects can know nothing whatever about it until after it has been accomplished. When Adam was created, he was conscious of nothing but that he now existed and was free to act: the Divine operation which was the cause of his existence was over and finished before he began to be conscious of anything. This initial operation of the Spirit by which the elect become new creatures can only be known by its effects and consequences. “The wind bloweth where it listeth,” that is first; then “thou hearest the sound thereof ” ( John 3:8): it is now made known, in a variety of ways, to the conscience and understanding.

Under this work of quickening we are entirely passive, by which is meant that there is no co-operation whatever between the will of the sinner and the act of the Holy Spirit. As we have said, this initial work of the Spirit is effected by free and sovereign grace, consisting of the infusion of a principle of spiritual life into the soul, by which all its faculties are supernaturally renovated. This being the case, the sinner must be entirely passive, like clay in the hands of a potter, for until Divine grace is exerted upon him he is utterly incapable of any spiritual acts, being dead in trespasses and sins. Lazarus co-operated not in his resurrection: he knew not that the Savior had come to his sepulcher to deliver him from death.

Such is the case with each of God’s elect when the Spirit commences to deal with them. They must first be quickened into newness of life before they can have the slightest desire or motion of the will toward spiritual things; hence, for them to contribute the smallest iota unto their quickening is utterly impossible.

The life which the Spirit imparts when He quickens is uniform in all its favored subjects. “As seed virtually contains in it all that afterwards proceeds from it, the blade, stalk, ear, and full corn in the ear, so the first principle of grace implanted in the heart seminally contains all the grace which afterwards appears in all the fruits, effects, acts, and exercises of it” (John Gill).

Each quickened person experiences the same radical change, by which the image of God is stamped upon the soul: “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit ” ( John 3:6), never anything less, and never anything more. Each quickened person is made a new creature in Christ, and possesses all the constituent parts of “the new man.” Later, some may be more lively and vigorous, as God gives stronger faith unto one than to another; yet there is no difference in their original: all partake of the same life.

While there is great variety in our perception and understanding of the work of the Spirit within us, there is no difference in the initial work itself.

While there is much difference in the carrying on of this work unto perfection in the growth of the “new creature”—some making speedy progress, others thriving slowly and bringing forth little fruit—yet the new creation itself is the same in all. Each alike enters the kingdom of God, becomes a vital member of Christ’s mystical body, is given a place in the living family of God. Later, one may appear more beautiful than another, by having the image of his heavenly Father more evidently imprinted upon him, yet not more truly so. There are degrees in sanctification, but none in vivification. There has never been but one kind of spiritual quickening in this world, being in its essential nature specifically the same in all.

ONLY THE BEGINNING Let it be pointed out in conclusion that the Spirit’s quickening is only the beginning of God’s work of grace in the soul. This does not wholly renew the heart at once: no indeed, the inner man needs to be “renewed day by day” ( 2 Corinthians 4:16). But from that small beginning, the work continues— God watering it “every moment” ( Isaiah 27:3)—and goes on to perfection; that is, till the heart is made perfectly clean and holy, which is not accomplished till death. God continues to work in His elect, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” they being as completely dependent upon the Spirit’s influence for every right exercise of the will after, as for the first. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which bath begun a good work within you will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ” ( Philippians 1:6).
A. W. Pink (Pp. 54-60)

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11

ARMINIANS

I much question whether the man that dies an Arminian can go to heaven. But certainly he will not be an Arminian when he is in heaven. The employ of the blessed is to cast their crowns at the feet of God and the Lamb, and to sing, “Not unto us, O Lord.”   

    Should it be thought harsh to question the salvation of one who dies under the blindness of Arminianism; as if a man who only robs God in part might miss of glory; let it be considered that, even on earth, if a person robs me only of my watch, or of a single guinea, he has forfeited his life to the law, as much as if he had robbed me of all I am worth.

    The old Arminians mentioned in scripture are blamed for thinking wickedly that God was such an one as themselves; but our new Arminians out-sin their predecessors, and actually represent God as a being in many respects considerably inferior to themselves. They suppose him both to form schemes with less wisdom, and to execute them with less power, spirit, and success, than a prime minister of common sense forms and executes his. They dare ascribe to God such impotence, blunders, imperfections and disappointments, as they would blush to ascribe to a Xiemenes, or a Sully.

    Arminians consider the grace that is inspired into a true believer’s heart, as a text of scripture written upon a pane of glass, liable to be demolished by the first hand that flings a stone at it.

    All the disputes between us and the Arminians may be reduced to these two questions: 1. Is God dependent on man, or is man dependent on God? 2. Is man a debtor to God, or God a debtor to man?

    When the Arminians foolishly affirm concerning the will of an unregenerate man, vis., that “Its liberty consists in an indifferency to good or evil, like a balance in equal poise;” holds true of a regenerate man in some circumstances, and in some respect, vis., that a person who is happily resigned to God’s providential disposals, may (in point of absolute acquiescence) be said to have his will in equilibrio, i.e., he wishes to be quite conformed to the divine pleasure, and to incline neither to prosperity nor adversity, life nor death, but is desirous that God’s own hand may incline the scale. We are never truly contented, nor of (course) truly happy, until God and we have but one will between us.

    The Arminians think, that in conversion God does little or nothing for men, but gives them a pull by the elbow, to awake them from their sleep. Rather, he acts as maritime officers do by their sailors; he cuts down the hammock of carnal security in which the elect are; down they fall, and the bruises and surprise they receive awaken them to themselves whether, they will or no.

    According to Arminians, grace has the name, but free-will has the game.

   Arminians suppose God to give us heaven, as the king grants a brief for building a church. The brief runs, “We have granted our most gracious letters patent.” But these same most gracious letters are amply paid for before they are granted. No free, no brief.

   Some people (especially the Arminians) seem to speak of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Established Church, as if those articles were like Mr. Van Bushel’s newly-in-vented elastic garters, which are so contrived by springs, that they will accommodate and fit themselves to any leg that should wear them.

    Arminians will ask, “Where’s the use of preaching the doctrines of grace, even supposing them to be true? since we may go to heaven without a clear knowledge of them.” And a man may go to heaven with broken bones; yet it is better to go thither in a whole skin. A man may get to his journey’s end, though it rain and thunder all the way; yet it is more comfortable to travel in fair weather. You or I might make a better shift to live upon a scanty allowance of bread and water; yet, surely, and easy fortune, and a decent table are, in themselves, abundantly preferable to poverty and short commons. Who would wish to go upon thorns when his way may be strewed with roses?

    Where is the difference between Arminianism and Epicurism? To suppose a fortuitous concourse of incidents is no less Atheistical than to suppose a fortuitous concourse of atoms.

   I can compare some ranting Arminian preachers, who represent salvation as a matter of chance, and press men to help forward their own conversion, upon pain of damnation, to none so well as to auctioneers; who, with the hammer in their hands, are always bawling out, “Now is your time; now is your time; a-going a- going, a–going.”

    Such a method is equally inconsistent with the analogy of faith, and subversive of the majesty of the gospel. Shall I order a dead soul to awake, and rise itself to life? Let me rather address the living God, and say, “Awake, and put on thy strength, O arm of the Lord! Breathe on these slain, that they may live!”

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11

Memories at Kellswaterrpc

MrsTracy McCrum chatting with Leona
Mrs Courtney chatting with Mrs Fitzpatrick wife ofMr. Mark Fitzpatrick minister of Arann Reformed Baptist Church Dublin, after lecture in the hall
Courtney’s from M.I. USA with Granma Courtney
Little Albert and Granma with Rebekah and Emilia after service
Pastor Coates directing traffic
Mrs Halliday with her daughter Leia visiting from our Newtownards congregation. Also in photo, Miss Joan Gillespie.
Rebekah, sister Emilia with Abigail Cowang
Preaching in the open air due to Covid-19

S of S 5:13 “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.”

Young visitor's from USA
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11

Psalm 119:75

I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”  
 

Thus is the Christian’s acknowledgement – fully satisfied with the dispensation of God. This is his confidence-so invigorating to his own soul-so cheering to the church. The Lord’s dealing are called his judgments-not a having judicial curses, but as the acts of his justice in the chastening of sin. (1 Pet. iv. 17.) Perhaps also-as the administration of his wise judgments in their measure and application. (Jer. x. 24. Comp. Isa. xxvvii.8.) But here is not only the confession of the Lord’s general judgment, but of his special faithfulness to himself. And this he knew-not from the dictates of the flesh 9which would have given a contrary verdict), but from the testimony of the word (Deut. xxxii. 4), and the witness of his own experience. (Verse 137; cxlv. 17.) It could not be doubted-much less denied-‘I know, O Lord, that thy rules of proceeding are agreeable to thy perfect justice and wisdom; and I am equally satisfied, that the afflictions that thou has laid upon me from time to time, are only to fulfil thy gracious and faithful promise of making me eternally happy in thyself.’ Blessed fruit of affliction! When we can thus “see the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy”-that his “thoughts towards us are thoughts of peace, and not of evil!”(Jam. v. 11. Jer. xxix. 11.) “The patience and faith of the saints” teach this difficult but most consoling lesson, in deciphering the mysterious lines in God’s providence.

The child of God under the severest chastisement must acknowledge justice. Our gracious reward is always more –our “punishment always less, than our iniquities deserve.” (Ezra, ix. 13. Comp. Job xi. 6.) “Wherefore should a living man complain?” (Lam. iii. 39.) In trouble he is indeed-but not in hell. If he complain, let it be of none but himself, and his own wayward choice. I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right-and who can doubt the wisdom? Who could charge the operator with cruelty, in cutting out the proud flesh, that was bringing death upon the man? Who would not acknowledge the right judgment of his piercing work? Thus, when the Lord’s painful work separates us from our sins, weans us from the world, and brings us nearer to himself, what remains for us, but thankfully to acknowledge his righteousness and truth? Unbelief is put to rebuke; and we, if we have indulged suspicion “that God hath forgotten to be gracious,” must confess, “This is our infirmity.” (Ps. lxxvii. 7-10.)

This assurance of the Lord’s perfect justice, wisdom and intimate knowledge of our respective cases, leads us to yield to his appointments in dutiful silence. Thus Aaron, under his most afflictive domestic calamity, “held his peace.” (Lev. x. 1-3.) Job under a similar dispensation was enabled to say-“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job, i. 21. Comp. ii. 10.) Eli’s language in the same trial was, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” (1 Sam. iii. 18.) David hushed his impatient spirit-“I was dumb; I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.” And when Shimei cursed him, he said, “Let him alone; let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.” (Ps. xxxix. 9. 2 Sam. xvi. 11, 12.) The Shunamite, in the meek resignation of faith, acknowledged –“It is well.” (2 Kings, iv. 26.) Hezekiah kissed the rod, while it was smiting him to the dust-“Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken.” (Isa. xxxix. 8.) Thus uniform is the language of the Lord’s people under chastisement-I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right.

But the confession of justice may be mere natural conviction. (Exod. ix. 27. Judges, i. 7. 2 Chron. xii. 6.) Faith goes further, and speaks of faithfulness. David not only acknowledges God’s right to deal with him as he saw fit, and even his wisdom in dealing with him as he actually had done, but his faithfulness in afflicting-not his faithfulness though he afflicted­-but in afflicting him; not as if it were consistent with his love, but as the very fruit of his love. It is not enough to justify God. What abundant cause is there to praise him! It is not enough to forbear to murmur. How exciting is the display of his faithfulness and love! Yes-the trials appointed for us are none else than the faithful performance of his everlasting engagements. And this cause we may always trace (and it is our privilege to believe it, where we cannot visibly trace it) the reason of much that is painful to the flesh. (Ps. lxxxix. 30-32. Deut. vii. 16. Comp. Ps. cvii. 43.) Let us only mark its gracious effects in our restoration- instruction (Verse 71, and texts),-healing of our backslidings (Hos. ii. 6, 7, 14), and the continual purging of sins (Isa. xxvii. 9; xlviii. 10. Zech. xii. 9. John xv. 2)-and then say -‘Is not the faithfulness of God gloriously displayed?’ The Philistines could not understand Samson’s riddle-how “Meat could come out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong.” (Judg. xvi. 14.) As little can the world comprehend the faithfulness of the Christian’s trials; how his gracious Lord sweetness to him the bitter waters of Marah (see Exod. xv. 23-25), and makes the cross not so much the punishments as the remedy of sin. He finds therefore no inclination, and he feels that he has no interest in having any change made in the Lord’s appointments, revolting as they may be to the flesh. He readily acknowledges that his merciful designs could not have been accomplished in any other way; while under trials many sweet tokens of love are vouchsafed, which, under circumstances of outward prosperity, could not have been received with the same gratitude and delight. You that are living at ease in the indulgence of what this poor world can afford, how little does the Christ envy your portion! How surely in some future day will you be taught by experience to envy his! The world’s riches are daily becoming poorer, and its pleasures more tasteless; and what will they be, and how will they appear, when eternity is at hand! Whereas affliction is the special token of our Father’s love (Heb. xii. 6 Rev. iii. 19), conformity to the image of Jesus, and preparation for his service and kingdom. It is the only blessing that the Lord gives, without requiring us to ask for it. We receive it therefore, as promised, not as threatened; and when the “peaceable fruits of righteousness,” which it worketh in God’s time and way, spring up in our hearts, humbly and gratefully will we acknowledge the righteousness of his judgments, and the faithfulness of his correction

“They that fear thee, will be glad when they see me: because I have hope in thy word.”  (Verse 74, Psalm 119)

How cheering is the sight of a man of God! How refreshing his converse! How satisfactory and enlivening is the exhibition of his faith! The goodness of God to one becomes thus the joy and comfort of all. What an excitement is this to close communion with our God that the light which we thus receive will shine on those around us! What a comfort will it be even in our own hour of temptation, that the hope, which we may then be enabled to maintain in the word of God, shall prove the stay, not only of our own souls, but of the Lord’s people! Many a desponding Christian, oppressed with such fears as this- “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul” (1 Sam. xxvii.1)-when he hears of one and another exercised in the same trials, and who have hoped in God’s word, and have not been disappointed, will be glad when he sees them. Thus David recorded his conflicts, that we may not despair of our own; and his triumphs, that “in the name of our God we might set up our banners.” (Psalm xx. 5.) “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Ps. xxvii. 13, 14.) Thus also, under affliction, he was comforted with the thought of comforting others with the history of his own experience-“My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O praise the Lord with me, and let us magnify his name together. He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name; the righteous shall compass me about, for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.” (Ps. xxxiv. 2, 3, P. T.; cxlii. 7. Comp. also lxix. 30-32.)

In this view, the believer, who has been “sifted in the sieve” of temptation, without the least “grain” of faith or hope “falling upon the earth” (Amos ix. 9), stands forth as a monument of the Lord’s faithfulness, to “strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees, and to say to them that are fearful heart, Be strong, fear not.” (Isa. xxxv. 3, 4.) Those that are “fearful, and of little faith,” are glad when they see him. They “thank God” for him, and “take courage” (Acts, xxviii. 15) for themselves. What a motive is this to keep us from despondency; that, instead of destroying by our unbelief, those who are already “cast down,” we may enjoy the privilege of upholding their confidence, and ministering to their comfort! And how should the weak and distressed seek for and prize the society of those, who have been instructed by the discipline of the Lord’s school!

Believer! What have you to tell to your discouraged brethren of the faithfulness of your God? Cannot you put courage into their hearts, by declaring that you have never been “ashamed of your hope?” Cannot you tell them from your own experience, that Jesus “is for a foundation-stone, a tried stone, a sure foundation?” (Isa. xxviii. 16.) Cannot you show them, that, because he has borne the burden of their sins, he is able to “bear their griefs, and to carry their sorrows” (Isa. liii. 4)? That you have tried him, and that you have found him so? Oh! Be animated to know more of Christ yourself; let your hope in him be strengthened, that you may cause gladness in the hearts of those that, see you; so that, “whether you be afflicted, or whether you be comforted, it may be for their consolation and salvation.” (2 Cor. i. 6.)

But, O my God! How much cause have I for shame, that I impart so little of thy glorious light to those around me! Perhaps some poor trembling sinner has been glad when he saw me, hoping to hear something of the Saviour from my lips, and has found me straitened, and cold, and dumb. Oh! That I may be so “filled with the Spirit,” so experienced in thy heavenly ways, that I may invite “all that fear thee to come to me,” that I may “declare what thou hast done for my soul” (Ps. lxvi. 16); so that, “when men are cast down, they may say, There is lifting up.” (Job, xxii. 29.)   

Psalm 119:22
“Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.”

The proud under the rebuke of God are usually distinguished by their enmity to his people. They delight to pour upon them “reproach and contempt,” with no other provocation given, than that their keeping the testimonies of God condemns their own neglect. (Heb. xi. 7.) This must, however, be counted as the cost a decided, separate, and consistent profession. Yet it is such a portion as Moses valued above all the treasures of the world (Heb. xi. 24-26); yet it is that reproach, which our Master himself “despised,” as “reckoning it not worthy to be compared with” “the joy that was set before him.” (Heb. xii. 2.) For did he bear his cross only on the way to Calvary? It was laid for every step in his path; it met him in every form of suffering, of “reproach and contempt.” Look then at him, as taking up his daily cross in breathing the atmosphere of a world of sin, and “enduring the contradiction of sinners against himself.” (Heb. xii. 3.) Mark him consummating his course of “reproach and contempt,” by suffering “without the gate;” and can we hesitate to “go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach?” (Heb. xiii. 12, 13.) …….

But let us beware of that “way of escape” in returning to the world, which the insincere are ever ready to purse. They dare not act according to the full conviction of their consciences: they dare not confront their friends with the avowal of their full determination to form their conduct by the principles of the word of God. This is hard – this is impossible. They know not the “victory that overcometh the world” (see 1 John, v. 4, 5), and, therefore, cannot bear the mark upon their foreheads – “These are they, which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” (Rev. xiv. 4.) Far better, however, will be the heaviest weight of “reproach and contempt,” than any such endeavour to remove it from ourselves. The desire to escape the cross convicts the heart of unfaithfulness, and makes way for tenfold difficulties in our path. Every worldly compliance against the voice of God is a step into the by-path, which deviates wider and wider from the strait and narrow way, brings discredit upon our professions, proves a stumbling block in the way of the weak, and will cause us, if not actually to come short, at least to “seem to come short, of the promised rest.” (Heb. iv. 1.)

But is the weight of the cross really “above that we are able to bear?” He that bore it for us will surely enable us to endure it for him, and upheld by him, we cannot sink. It is a sweet exchange, by which the burden of sin is removed and bound to his cross; and what remains to us is the lighter cross of “reproach and contempt,” – the badge of our discipleship. (Matt. xvi. 24.) If, than, we have the testimony of our consciences, that in the midst of the persecuting world we “keep his testimonies” (Verses 61, 69, 87, 95, 110), here is our evidence of adoption, of our Father’s special love, of the indwelling, comforting, supporting Spirit. (John, xiv. 15-18. 21-23.) Here, then, is our warrant of hope, that the overwhelming weight will be removed from us; and that we shall be able to testify to our Master’s praise in the Churches of God, that “his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.” (Matt. xi. 30.)

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“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11