31 May 2007

The Arduous Task of Preparation and Preaching

It is true, to ride in armor would be hard work for me. But, on the other hand, I should like to see the horseman who could sit still for an entire day and merely look into a book, even if he had nothing to worry about, to compose, to think, or to read.

Ask a writer, preacher, or speaker what labor writing and speaking are; ask a schoolmaster what labor teaching and training boys is. The pen is light, that is true; nor is any tool of any of the trades easier to get than the tool of the writer, for all you need is goose feathers, and plenty of these may be had anywhere for nothing. At the same time, however, the best part of the body (which is the head) and the noblest of its members (which is the tongue) and the highest of its faculties (which is speech) must here bear the burden and do most of the work. In other occupations only the fist or the foot or the back or some other such member has to work. Meanwhile people can cheerfully sing and freely jest, which a writer certainly must forego. Three fingers do the work, people say of writers; but a man’s entire body and soul are at work.

Martin Luther

30 May 2007

Words to remember in life and death

“We are beggars. That is true.”

These were the last thoughts of Martin Luther on the day before he died.

29 May 2007

Tremble at His Word

“The Holy Scriptures require a humble reader who shows reverence and fear toward the Word of God and constantly says, ‘Teach me, teach me, teach me!’ The Spirit resists the proud. Though they study diligently and some preach Christ purely for a time, nevertheless God excludes them from the church if they’re proud. Wherefore every proud person is a heretic, if not actually, then potentially. However, it’s difficult for a man who has excellent gifts not to be arrogant. Those whom God adorns with great gifts he plunges into the most severe trials in order that they may learn that they’re nothing. Paul got a thorn in the flesh to keep him from being haughty....Pride drove the angel out of heaven and spoils many preachers. Accordingly it’s humility that’s needed in the study of sacred literature.”

--Martin Luther

28 May 2007

Salt of the Earth

Perhaps the words heard more often around dinner tables than any others are, "Please pass the salt." Salt is a necessary ingredient in our foods, and our health depends upon a proper intake of salt. It is added to our food not only to make the food more palatable, but also to sustain the delicate balance in the body so necessary to health.

Salt has been valued from time immemorial. Roman soldiers were paid in salt and, if one were derelict in his duties, he was said to be “not worth his salt.”

• Salt was used throughout ancient societies as a sign of friendship, a concept that continues to the present day. In the Arab world, if one man partakes of the salt of another man, that is, eats a meal with him, he is under his protection and care. If a man’s worst enemy came into his tent and ate of his salt, he would be obliged to protect and to provide for him as though he were his dearest friend.

• A salt covenant is referred to in 2 Chronicles 13:5, where God speaks of a covenant of salt made with David.

• God prescribed salt as a necessary part of the sacrifices. “Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt” (Lev 2:13).

Jesus’ Kingdom Mission

The central theme of Jesus message is the coming of the kingdom of God... It may be rightly said that the whole of the preaching of Jesus Christ and his apostles is concerned with the kingdom of God.

What had arrived? Power of God in Christ by the Spirit to restore humanity to again live under the rule of God.

Reign of God announced

Matthew 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Matt4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Announcement of God’s power to restore God’s rule

Demand for decision: Repent and believe! Follow me! (Mark 1:14-18)

Demonstrated reign of God with deeds

Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Explained kingdom of God with teaching

See especially Matthew 5-7

 receive the gift of the kingdom; enter the realm of the kingdom

 Receive blessing of kingdom.

 Receive demands of kingdom.

Jesus suffered for reign of God

Jesus formed a community to live under rule of God

Jesus promised he would build His church.


Now, Jesus says that anyone who has these characteristics is happy (alt. “blessed”). And he goes on to say that such people are the salt of the earth. Salt is drawn from the earth and has a usefulness to people that is pretty nearly essential to civilization.

Jesus makes it clear: The Christian is not someone who lives in isolation. He is in the world, though he is not of it; and he bears a relationship to that world. In the Scriptures you always find these two things going together. The Christian is told that he must be otherworldly in his mind and outlook; but that never means that he retires out of the world.

You notice that in the second chapter of his first Epistle, Peter does exactly the same thing. He says, "We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."

Php 2:12-15 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

In the words of Paul, we will manifest “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of [Christ] in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2 Cor. 2:14–16).


What does it mean to live as salt today? As university students? As citizens? As parents? As grandparents? As husbands, wives, children? As workers in education, business, government, service? What constitutes the “saltiness” of a Follower of Christ? Well, Jesus had just been pointing out some of these characteristics in the run-up to this verse, where he described eight fundamental traits of the “blessed.”

1. A Follower of Christ is “poor in spirit.”

2. A Follower of Christ is ready to mourn.

3. A Follower of Christ is meek.

4. A Follower of Christ is hungry and thirsty for righteousness.

5. A Follower of Christ is merciful.

6. A Follower of Christ is pure in heart.

7. A Follower of Christ is a peacemaker.

8. A Follower of Christ shall be persecuted.

25 May 2007

A Godly Person Loves God's Word

"O how love I your law." (Psa. 119:97)

Part A: Godly Man Loves the Word Written

Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden set with ornaments and flowers. A godly man delights to walk in this garden and sweetly solace himself. He loves every branch and part of the Word:

1. He loves the counselling part of the Word, as it is a directory and rule of life. The Word is the direction sign which points us to our duty. It contains in it things to be believed and practiced. A godly man loves the directions of the Word.

2. He loves the threatening part of the Word. The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates. This is the threatening of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness. "God will wound the head of His enemies, the hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses." (Psa. 68:21). The Word gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt half-way between God and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (I Kings 3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out threats against the very appearance of evil. It is like that flying scroll full of curses (Zech. 5:1).

A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God's threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat.

3. He loves the consolatory part of the Word - the promises. He goes feeding on these as Samson went on his way eating the honeycomb (Judges 14:8,9). The promises are all marrow and sweetness. They are reviving to us when we are fainting; they are the conduits of the water of life. "In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul." (Psa. 94:19). The promises were David's harp to drive away sad thoughts; they were the breast which gave him the milk of divine consolation.

A godly man shows his love to the Word written:

(a) By diligently reading it. The noble Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11). Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:12). The Word is our Magna Carta for heaven; we should be daily reading over this charter. The Word shows what is truth and what is error. It is the field where the pearl of price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man's heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16). It is reported of Melanchthon that when he was young, he always carried the Bible with him and read it greedily. The Word has a double work: to teach us and to judge us. Those who will not be taught by the Word shall be judged by the Word. Oh, let us make ourselves familiar with the Scripture! What if it should be as in the times of Diocletian, who commanded by proclamation that the Bible be burned? Or as in Queen Mary's days, when it spelled death to have a Bible in English? By diligent conversing with Scripture, we may carry a Bible in our heads.

(b) By frequently meditating on it: "It is my meditation all the day" (Psa. 119:97). A pious soul meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He not only has a few transient thoughts, but leaves his mind steeping in the Scripture. By meditation, he sucks from this sweet flower and ruminates on holy truths in his mind.

(c) By delighting in it. It is his recreation: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." (Jer 15:16) Never did a man take such delight in a dish that he loved as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All that he ever hopes to be worth is contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father's will and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him?

(d) By hiding it: "Your word I have hidden in my heart" (Psa 119:11) - as one hides a treasure so that it should not be stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must be locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory, but not in their heart. And why would David enclose the Word in his heart? "That I might not sin against you." As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice, but because they have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart?

(e) By defending it. A wise man will not let his land be taken from him but will defend his title. David looked upon the Word as his land of inheritance: "Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart." (Psa 119:111) And do you think he will let his inheritance be wrested out of his hands? A godly man will not only dispute for the Word but die for it: "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God." (Rev 6:9)

(f) By preferring it above things most precious:

Above food: "I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food." (Job. 23:12).

Above riches: "The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver." (Psa. 119:72).

Above worldly honour. Memorable is the story of King Edward the Sixth. On the day of his coronation, when they presented three swords before him, signifying to him that he was monarch of three kingdoms, the king said, "There is still one sword missing." On being asked what that was, he answered, "The Holy Bible, which is the 'sword of the Spirit' and is to be preferred before these ensigns of royalty."

(g) By talking about it: "My tongue shall speak of your word." (Psa. 119:172). As a covetous man talks of his rich purchase, so a godly man speaks of the Word. What a treasure it is, how full of beauty and sweetness! Those whose mouths the devil has gagged, who never speak of God's Word, indicate that they never reaped any good from it.

(h) By conforming to it. The Word is his compass, by which he sets his life, the balance in which he weighs his actions. He copies out the Word in his daily walk: "I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7). St Paul kept the doctrine of faith, and lived the life of faith.

Question: Why is a godly man a lover of the Word?

Answer: Because of the excellence of the Word.

1. The Word written is our pillar of fire to guide us. It shows us what rocks we are to avoid; it is the map by which we sail to the new Jerusalem.

2. The Word is a spiritual mirror through which we may see our own hearts. The mirror of nature, which the heathen had, revealed spots in their lives, but this mirror reveals spots in the imagination; that mirror revealed the spots of their unrighteousness, this reveals the spots of our righteousness. "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Rom. 7:9). When the Word came like a mirror, all my opinion of self-righteousness died.

3. The Word of God is a sovereign comfort in distress. While we follow this cloud, the rock follows us. "This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life." (Psa. 119:50). Christ is the fountain of living water, the Word is the golden pipe through which it runs. What can revive at the hour of death but the word of life (Phil. 2:16)?

Part B: A Godly Man Loves the Word, Because of the Efficacy it has had upon Him

A godly man loves the Word preached, which is a commentary upon the Word written. This day-star has risen in his heart, and ushered in the Sun of righteousness. The Scriptures are the sovereign oils and balsams; the preaching of the Word is the pouring of them out. The Scriptures are the precious spices; the preaching of the Word is the beating of these spices, which causes a wonderful fragrance and delight. The Word preached is "the rod of God's strength" (Psa. 11O:2) and "the breath of his lips" (Isa. 11:4). What was once said of the city of Thebes, that it was built by the sound of Amphius' harp, is much more true of soul conversion. It is built by the sound of the gospel harp. Therefore the preaching of the Word is called "the power of God to salvation" (Rom 1:16). By this, Christ is said (now) to speak to us from heaven (Heb. 12:25). This ministry of the Word is to be preferred before the ministry of angels.

A godly man loves the Word preached, partly from the good he has found by it - he has felt the dew fall with this manna - and partly because of God's institution. The Lord has appointed this ordinance to save him. The king's image makes the coin current. The stamp of divine authority on the Word preached makes it an instrument conducive to men's salvation.

Application: Let us test by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we lovers of the Word?

1. Do we love the Word written? What sums of money the martyrs gave for a few pages of the Bible! Do we make the Word our bosom friend? As Moses often had 'the rod of God' in his hand, so we should have 'the Book of God' in our hand. When we want direction, do we consult this sacred oracle? When we find corruptions strong, do we make use of this "sword of the Spirit" to hew them down? When we are disconsolate, do we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort? Then we are lovers of the Word! But alas, how can they who are seldom conversant with the Scriptures say they love them? Their eyes begin to be sore when they look at a Bible. The two testaments are hung up like rusty armour which is seldom or never made use of. The Lord wrote the law with his own finger, but though God took pains to write, men will not take pains to read. They would rather look at a deck of cards than at a Bible.

2. Do we love the Word preached? Do we prize it in our judgments? Do we receive it into our hearts? Do we fear the loss of the Word preached more than the loss of peace and trade? Is it the removal of the ark that troubles us?

Again, do we attend to the Word with reverential devotion? When the judge is giving his charge from the bench, all attend. When the Word is preached, the great God is giving us his charge. Do we listen to it as to a matter of life and death? This is a good sign that we love the Word.

Again, do we love the holiness of the Word (Psa. 119:140)? The Word is preached to beat down sin and advance holiness. Do we love it for its spirituality and purity? Many love the Word preached only for its eloquence and notion. They come to a sermon as to a performance (Ezek. 33:31,32) or as to a garden to pick flowers, but not to have their lusts subdued or their hearts bettered. These are like a foolish woman who paints her face but neglects her health.

Again, do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of reproof at our sins? It is the minister's duty sometimes to reprove. He who can speak smooth words in the pulpit, but does not know how to reprove, is like a sword with a fine hilt but without an edge. "Rebuke them sharply" (Titus 2:15). Dip the nail in oil, reprove in love, but strike the nail home. Now Christian, when the Word touches on your sin and says, "You are the man", do you love the reproof? Can you bless God that "the sword of the Spirit" has divided between you and your lusts? This is indeed a sign of grace and shows that you are a lover of the Word.

A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word, but not the reproofs: "They hate the one who rebukes in the gate." (Amos 5:1O). "Their eyes flash with fire!" Like venomous creatures that at the least touch spit poison, "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth." (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched them to the quick, they were mad and could not endure it.

Question: How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?

Answer 1: When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.

Answer 2: When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it found out and executed. We do not want sin covered, but cured. We can open our breast to the bullet of the Word and say, "Lord, smite this sin."

Answer 3: When we are thankful for a reproof: "Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked." (Psa. 141:5). David was glad of a reproof. Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man, would he not be thankful? So, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death, shall we not be thankful? A gracious soul rejoices when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess. He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: "Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to an obedient ear." (Prov. 25:12).

To conclude, it is convincing preaching which must do the soul good. A nipping reproof prepares for comfort, as a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring.

[From The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson, Banner of Truth.

24 May 2007

Standing against Satan's Devices

Satan is a spirit of mighty abilities; and his abilities to lay snares before us are mightily increased by that long experience of his. He has had time enough to study all those ways and methods which tend most to ensnare and undo the souls of men. He has made it his whole study, his only study, his constant study to find out strategems to entangle and overthrow the souls of men. When he was but a young serpent, he did easily deceive and outwit Eve; but now he is grown that 'old serpent' as John says in Rev. 12; he is as old as the world and is grown very cunning in experience. If Satan has such a world of devices to ensnare the souls of men, then, instead of wondering that so few are saved, sit down and wonder that any are saved, that any escape the snares of this cunning fowler.

I intend to set before you some special helps against all his devices.

Now, to prevent objections, I shall first lay down this proposition:

Though Satan has his devices to draw souls to sin, yet we must be careful that we do not lay all our temptations upon Satan, that we do not wrong the devil, and father upon him that is to be fathered upon our own base hearts. Man has such an evil root within him, that were there no devil to tempt him, no wicked men in the world to entice him, yet that cursed sinful nature that is in him would draw him to sin, though he knows beforehand that the wages of sin is eternal death.

The whole frame of man is out of frame: the understanding is dark, the will cross, the memory slippery, the affections crooked, the conscience corrupted, the tongue poisoned, and the heart wholly evil, only evil, and continually evil. Should God chain up Satan, and give him no liberty to tempt the sons of men to vanity or folly, yet they would not, they could not but sin against Him by reason of that cursed nature that is in them. Satan has only a persuading sleight, not an enforcing might. He may tempt us, but without ourselves he cannot conquer us. In every sin our hearts carry the greatest stroke: the fire is our wood, though it be the devil's flame. Satan can never undo a man without himself; but a man may easily undo himself without Satan. Don't excuse yourself by your accusing him.
Now for the helps I want to offer.

1. Walk by rule. He that walks by rule walks most safely, most honorably, most sweetly. When men throw off the Word, then God throws off them, and then Satan takes them by the hand, and leads them into snares at his pleasure. He that thinks himself to be too good to be ruled by the Word, will be found too bad to be owned by God; and if God do not or will not own him, Satan will by his strategems overthrow him. They that keep to the rule, shall be kept in the hour of temptation, Rev. 3:10, "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee in the hour of temptation."

2. Take heed of grieving the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that is best able to discover Satan's plots against us; it is only He that can point out all his snares, and enable men to escape those pits that he has digged for their precious souls. Be sure the Spirit be not grieved by your enormities, nor by your refusing the cordials He sets before you, nor by slighting and despising His gracious actings in others.

3. Labor for more heavenly wisdom. Though there is no fear of knowing too much, there is much fear in practicing too little. There are many knowing souls, but there are but a few wise souls. There is oftentimes a great deal of knowledge where there is but little wisdom to improve that knowledge. Ah! souls, you have need of a great deal of heavenly wisdom to see where and how Satan lays his snares, and wisdom to find out proper remedies against his devices, and wisdom to apply those remedies seasonably, inwardly and effectually to your own heart, that so you may avoid the snares which that evil one has laid for your precious souls.

4. Make present resistance against Satan's first motions. It is safe to resist, it's dangerous to argue. Eve argues, and falls in paradise; Job resists, and conquers upon the dunghill. He that will play with Satan's bait, will quickly be taken with Satan's hook. The promise of conquest is made over to resisting, not to arguing: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," James 4:7. Ah, souls! were you better at resisting than at disputing, your temptations would be fewer.

5. Labor to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord is a Spirit of light and power; and what can a soul do without light and power "against spiritual wickedness in high places?" (Eph 4:12). That is a sweet word of the apostle, "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18); i.e., labor for abundance of the Spirit. He that thinks he has enough of the Holy Spirit, will quickly find himself vanquished by the evil spirit.

Satan has his snares to take you in prosperity and adversity, in health and sickness, in strength and weakness, when you are alone and when you are in company, when you come on to spiritual duties and when you come off from spiritual duties; and if you are not filled with the Spirit, Satan will be too hard and too crafty for you, and will easily and frequently take you in his snares, and make a prey of you in spite of your souls. Therefore labor more to have your hearts filled with the Spirit, than to have your heads filled with notions, or your shops with wares, your chests with silver, or your bags with gold; so shall you escape the snares of this fowler and triumph over all his plots.

6. Keep humble.
A humble heart will rather lie in the dust than rise by wickedness, and sooner part with all than the peace of a good conscience. Humility keeps the soul free from many darts of Satan's casting, and snares of his spreading; as the low shrubs are free from many violent gusts and blasts of wind which shake and rend the taller trees. The devil has least power to fasten a temptation on him that is most humble.

He that has a gracious measure of humility, is neither affected with Satan's proffers nor terrified with his threatenings. It is reported of Satan that he should say thus of a humble man: You do always overcome me; when I would exalt and promote you, you keep yourself in humility; and when I would throw you down, you lift up yourself in assurance of faith.

God has said that 'He will teach the humble,' that 'He will dwell with the humble,' and that 'He will fill and satisfy the humble.' And if the teachings of God, the indwellings of God, the pourings-in of God will not keep the soul from falling into Satan's snares, I do not know what will. And therefore as you would be happy in resisting Satan and blessed in triumphing over Satan and all his snares, keep humble; I say again, keep humble.

7. Keep a strong, close, and constant watch (1 Thess 5:6). A secure soul is already an ensnared soul. That soul that will not watch against temptations, will certainly fall before the power of temptations. Satan works most strongly on the fancy when the soul is drowsy. The soul's security is Satan's opportunity to fall upon the soul and to spoil it, as Joshua did the men of Ai.

The best way to be safe and secure from all Satan's assaults is, with Nehemiah and the Jews, to watch and pray, and pray and watch. By this means they became too hard for their enemies, and the work of the Lord did prosper sweetly in their hands. Remember how Christ did chide His sluggish disciples, "What! could ye not watch with Me one hour?" What, can you watch with Me, how will you then die with Me? Satan always keeps a crafty and malicious watch, 'seeking whom he may devour.' Shall Satan keep a crafty watch, and shall not Christians keep a holy spiritual watch?

8. Engage not against Satan in your own strength, but be every day drawing new strength from the Lord Jesus. Undoubtedly, that soul that engages against any old or new temptation without new strength, new influences from on high, will fall before the power of the temptation. You may see this in Peter; he rested upon some old received strength— "Though all men should deny Thee, yet will not I," and therefore he falls sadly before a new temptation, denying Christ thrice, that had thrice appeared gloriously to him.

Ah, souls! remember this, that your strength to stand and overcome must not be expected from grace received, but from the renewed influences of heaven. You must lean more upon Christ than upon your duties; you must lean more upon Christ than upon your experience; you must lean more upon Christ than upon your graces, or else Satan will carry you into captivity.

9. Be much in prayer. Prayer is a shelter to the soul, a sacrifice to God and a scourge to the devil. There is nothing that renders plots fruitless like prayer; hence says Christ, "Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation." Ah, souls! take words to yourselves and tell God that Satan has spread his snares in all places and in all companies; tell God that he digs deep and that he has plot upon plot, and device upon device, and all to undo you; tell God that you have neither skill nor power to escape his snares; tell God that it is a work too hard for any created being to work your deliverance, unless He put under His own everlasting arms; tell God how His honor is engaged to stand by you, and to bring you off, that you be not ruined by Satan's plots; tell God how the wicked would triumph if you should fall in his snares; tell God if He will make it His honor to save you from falling into Satan's snares, you will make it your glory to speak of His goodness and to live out His kindness.

Many a man by a common hand of providence escapes many a snare that man has laid for him, but yet escapes not the snares that Satan has laid for him. Many men are lifted up above the snares of men by a common hand of providence, that are left to fall into the snares of the devil by a hand of justice. Deliverance from Satan's snares does carry with it the clearest evidence of the soul and heart of God to be towards us (Psa 140, 141). This world, this wilderness, is full of snares: all employments are full of snares, and all enjoyments are full of snares. In civil things, Satan has his snares to entrap us; and in all spiritual things he has his snares to catch us.

Satan, who acts by an untiring power, and who will never let the saints rest till they are taken up to an everlasting rest in the bosom of Christ, is so powerful and subtle that he will often make the greatest and dearest mercies to become our greatest snares.

How should the consideration of these things make your soul say with the church, "Make haste, my Beloved, and be like a roe or a young hart upon the mountain of spices," and to love, and look, and long for the coming of Christ. Till you are taken up in the bosom of Christ, your comforts will not be full, pure and constant; till then Satan will still be dealing you blows and spreading snares to entangle you; therefore you should always be crying out with the church, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Taken from Thomas Brooks work Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices

23 May 2007

Christ in the City of London

Since September, I've been learning to live and minister in London, a great city that many consider, probably correctly, the world's capital (sorry New York). Tim Keller's ministry has come with several recommendations. And so I am reading and considering the following:

A Biblical Theology of the City by Timothy Keller


God designed the city with the power to draw out the resources of creation (of the natural order and the human soul) and thus to build civilisation.

A. God's invention

God's future redeemed world and universe is depicted as a 'city'. Abraham sought the city 'whose builder and maker is God' (Hebrews 11.10). Revelation 21 describes and depicts the apex of God's redemption, as a city! His redemption is building us a city - the new Jerusalem.

In fact, when we look at the New Jerusalem, we discover something strange. In the midst of the city is a crystal river, and on each side of the river is the Tree of Life, bearing fruit and leaves which heal the nations of all their wounds and the effects of the divine covenant curse. This city is the Garden of Eden, remade. The City is the fulfilment of the purposes of the Eden of God. We began in a garden but will end in a city; God's purpose for humanity is urban! Why? So the city is God's invention and design, not just a sociological phenomenon or invention of humankind.

B. Why cities develop culture

'The city is not to be regarded as an evil invention of ungodly fallen man... The ultimate goal set before humanity at the very beginning was that human-culture should take city-form... there should be an urban structuring of human historical existence... The cultural mandate given at creation was a mandate to build the city. Now, after the fall, the city is still a benefit, serving humankind as refuge from the howling wilderness condition into which the fallen human race, exiled from paradise, has been driven... The common grace city has remedial benefits even in a fallen world. It becomes the drawing together of resources, strength and talent no longer just for mutual complementation in the task of developing the resources of the created world, but now a pooling of power for defence against attack, and as an administrative community of welfare for the relief of those destitute by reason of the cursing of the ground' (Meredith G. Kline, 'Kingdom Prologue').

It is widely understood that when God tells Adam and Eve to 'have dominion' and 'fill the earth' he is directing them to build a God-honouring civilisation. They are to bring forth the riches that God put into creation by developing science, art, architecture, human society. Kline reveals, however, that since Revelation reveals that the 'end' of creation (the climax of the work of the 'Second Adam' Jesus Christ) is a city - that therefore God was calling Adam and Eve to be city builders. City building is an ordinance of God just like work and marriage. And indeed, cities draw together human talent and resources and tap the human potential for cultural development as nothing else does.

There is no absolute way to define a 'city'. A human settlement becomes more 'urban' as it becomes more a) dense and b) diverse in its population. God made the city to be a developmental tool, a form of cultural 'gardening', designed to draw out the riches he put into the earth, nature and the human soul at creation. Even after the fall, cities are places of 'common grace' though each factor also now can be used (and is!) for evil purposes.

C. How it does it

1. First, the city (as the Garden) is a place of refuge and safety.
It has always been a place where people come who are too weak to live in other places. In the earliest days, cities provided refuge from wild animals and marauding tribes and criminals. When Israel moved into the promised land, the first cities were built by God's direction as 'cities of refuge', where the accused person could flee for safety and civil justice. Thus God invented cities to be a sign of divine, not self, protection. Even today, people like the homeless, or new immigrants, or the poor, or people with 'deviant' lifestyles, must live in the city. The city is always a more merciful place for minorities of all kinds. Why? The density of the city creates the possibility of strong minority communities. Density creates diversity. The dominant majorities often dislike cities, but the weak and powerless need them. They cannot survive in the suburbs and small towns. Cain built his cities for self-protection from God and the vengeance of others. So the refuge of the city can be misused, as when people with sinful lifestyles find refuge in the city from the disapproval of the broader culture.

Practical note: It is hard for middle-class families to live in the cities, and thus the cities are seen as hostile places. But for anyone who is not part of the dominant culture (singles, the poor, ethnic minorities, etc.) the city has great advantages over non-urban areas.

2. Second, the city as a cultural mining/development centre.

Even the description of the wicked city of Babylon shows the power of the city to draw out the resources of creation - of the physical world and the human soul. In Revelation 18 we see that the city is a place of 1) music and the arts (v.22a), 2) crafts and works of all arts and manufacturing (v.22b), 3) trade and retailing (v.23c), 4) technological advance (v.23a), 5) family building (v.23b). This is what the city was designed by God to do, as an instrument of glorifying him by 'mining' the riches of creation and building a God-honouring civilisation.

Practical note: The city, then, has a powerful magnifying glass effect. Since God invented it as a 'cultural mine', it brings out whatever is in the human heart. Why? The density and therefore diversity of the city brings out the best (and the worst - see below) in the human heart. How does it do so? The divinely-given ability of the city to do 'culture-making' can be discerned at the most practical level by the urban resident.

The city puts me together with unique numbers of people unlike me.

The city attracts the minorities of any society who can band together for mutual support. Thus the city is deeply merciful to those with less power, creating safe enclaves for singles vs. families, the poor (and even the rich!) vs. the bourgeois, immigrants vs. longer-term residents, racial minorities vs. majorities. Thus the city will always be the most diverse human-life structure.

Because I am put together (by its density) with unique numbers of diverse people, all my thinking and views are radically challenged. I am confronted with creative new ways to think about things, and I must abandon my traditional ways or become far more knowledgeable and committed to them than I was before. Thus I become vastly more creative, committed, skilful in all I am or do.

Sin takes this divine-strength - the diversity of the city - and turns it into a place of conflict and strife. The gospel is needed to resist the dark side of this gift.

The city puts me together with unique numbers of people like me.

The city also attracts the strongest as well as the weakest (see above). The challenge of the city attracts the most talented, ambitious (and restless, see below). Thus, whoever you are, when you come to the city you are confronted by far more people who are far better than you at whatever you do.

Because I am put together with unique numbers of like-but-extremely-skilled people in my field, I am radically challenged to 'reach down deep' and do my very best. More than that, I feel driven and pressed by the intensity of the density to realise every ounce of my potential.

Sin takes this divine strength - the culture-forming intensity - and turns it into a place (also) of both deadly hubris and burn-out. The gospel is needed to resist the dark side of this gift.

Cities draw and gather together human resources and tap their potential for cultural development as no other human-life organisation structure can.

It is quite wrong to see the city as intrinsically evil! It was designed by God to 'draw out' and to 'mine' what God made. We should appreciate the power of the city and realise that the tremendous evil has been brought to it by us!

3. Third, the city as the place to meet God.

Ancient cities were religious institutions. They were usually built around a 'ziggurat' - the original skyscrapers! They were temples where a particular god was thought to 'come down'. The cities were seen to be the royal residences of the god, and the city was dedicated to him/her. The city was where the cultus for that god was centred, and where you went if you wanted to serve him or her. All of this was probably a twisted 'memory trace' of the original design of God, that the Edenic city, the new Jerusalem, would be the place where people would meet him, where his temple/presence would be.

After Eden was lost to us (temporarily) through sin, God creates a new city in the desert, by dwelling among his people in the tabernacle, and around his Tent is a city of tents. The city of God will be his dwelling place. Later, the earthly city of Jerusalem becomes a symbol and sign to the future city of God. In the earthly Jerusalem, God's dwelling place, the temple, stands as the central integrating point of the city's architecture and as apex of its art and science and technology. As a result, Jerusalem is 'the joy of the whole earth' (Psalm 48.2). But she is only a sign of the city of God which is heavenly and which is to come. All true believers even now have as their mother, 'the Jerusalem that is above, is free' (Galatians 4.26).

Why are cities always 'religious hotbeds' where people are spiritually seeking and restless? The density and diversity of the city - the same dynamics that produce cultural development - also keep people spiritually 'off balance' and restless. Cities, therefore, are the key to evangelism in any area. Paul's missionary journeys essentially ignored the countryside. When he entered a new region, he planted churches in the biggest city, and then left!

Why? The reason for ministry in cities mirrors what we've seen about the nature of cities.

Cultural cruciality. In the village, you might win the one or two lawyers to Christ, but if you wanted to win the legal profession, you need to go to the city where you have the law schools, the law journals published, etc.

Global cruciality. In the village, you can win only the single people group that is there, but if you want to spread the gospel into 10-20 new national groups and languages at once, you go to the city where they can all be reached through the lingua franca of the place.

Personal cruciality. In the village little changes and people live in very stable environments. Thus they are suspicious of any major change. Because of the diversity and intensity of the cities, urbanites are much more open to radically new ideas - like the gospel! Because they are surrounded by so many people like and unlike themselves (see above), and so much more mobile and subject to change, urbanites are far more open to change/conversion than any other kind of resident. They may have moved to the city out of a searching restlessness. But even if not, once they get to the city, the pressure and diversity makes even the most traditional and hostile people open to the gospel.

Result? By year 300 AD, 50% of the urban populations of the Roman empire were Christian, while over 90% of the countryside was still pagan. (Note: Some believe that the very word 'pagan' comes from the Greek paganus meaning a farmer or man of the country.) Because Christianity captured the cities, it eventually captured the society, as must always be the case. What captivates the cities also captivates the arts, media, scholarship and the professions. Cities are the 'culture-forming wombs' of the society, made by God to be so.

D. How sin breaks the city

1. The diversity of the city under sin creates a place of racism, classism, and violence. Also the city becomes a refuge, not from the wilderness or persecution, but from God and his law.

For example, people have gone to the cities to engage in sexual practices that are proscribed by many places in society, but the natural 'tolerance of diversity' that cities inherently have is twisted into a place where 'anything goes'. People go to the city to create their own moralities. Second, while cities still do attract and sustain enormous race and cultural diversity, human sin makes cities places of constant racial strife, class warfare, crime and violence. This can be seen perfectly in Genesis 11 and Babel. The Babel-builders specifically sought to build a city that would gather people for their own glory (see below). (Many scholars believe that, since Genesis 9 and 10 indicates God wanted human spread and cultural differentiation, Babel may have actually been built in resistance to cultural diversity. See Vos.) In any case, the result of the sin of Babel is confusion. People cannot communicate. Any human effort at unity based on common defiance of God resulted in fragmentation and greater disunity. So today, cities built on human defiance of God and for 'making a name' for the human builders find enormous strife and confusion and violence between diverse groups of people.

Practical note: Many people hate cities because of the diversity of cultures, people 'not like us', but we see that God enjoys and wills the diversity of cultures as bringing forth the richness of his creation. Christians should rejoice and enjoy diversity of cultures, recognising that they all stand judged by God's Word.

2. The cultural-development power of the city under sin creates a place of pride, arrogance, excess, over-work, and exhaustion.

The quintessential City of Rebellion is Babel. 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth' (Genesis 11.4). The first skyscraper is built in clear defiance of God. The original mandate of God to humankind was to be 'miners' of all the riches of creation. They were to turn to the natural resources of the physical universe and the personal resources of their own creation in the image of God. They were thus to be culture builders, developing science and art and civic life, building civilisation that glorified God as its source and ground. Now we have a city dedicated to 'mining cultural riches' for human glorification and to show its independence of God.

Since the human heart is made in the image of God and is totally depraved, therefore the city brings out the very, very best and worst of human capabilities. Adam would have developed a city of God and all the potentialities of creation (physical nature and human spirit) would have been untainted and thus the city would be glorious.

Today, however, art and science and technology and education serve to both bring out the best and worst. We can all feel it. Nothing challenges and presses you to excellence like the city. But nothing drives you to reach down deep and do well. In sin that all becomes tainted and idolatrous and exhausting, of course. The purpose of the City of Rebellion is 'to make a name for ourselves'. This is still a deep drive and engine in the building of any human city. It is a spirituality of darkness of enormous force, it is a motivation moving many or most people who move toward the city.

3. The spiritual restlessness of the city under sin makes the city a hotbed of cults and false belief.

Cities are always the hotbed of religious cults. They are inveterately religious. Every city is dedicated to a god - even if it is the secular 'religion'. In cities, ordinarily, the Christian churches can be found with the best ministries, theological resources, churches, etc. Until recently, that is. Protestant Christians abandoning the city inevitably make it easier for the city to turn to false gods.

Because God invented cities to be religious centres, human idolatries are enhanced in the city. It is not surprising that cities were the places in which the 'new' ideas of the Enlightenment first took place and where irreligion first became rampant in Western society. Cities are always places that are 'ahead of the curve'. But it stands to reason that these would be the first places where secular people who are steeped in the unbelief of their culture would be the most open to Christianity as a new idea. Cities would be the place where any new vision of Christianity would take shape and begin to capture the culture's imagination again.

Reach the city to reach the culture. Protestant (evangelical) Christians are the least urban religious group and thus have the least impact culturally. Three kinds of people here affect the future: a) elites, b) new immigrants, c) the poor. The single most effective way for Christians to 'reach' the US would be for 25% of them to move to two or three of the largest cities and stay there for three generations.

Reach the city to reach your region and the world. a) Region. You can't reach the city from the suburbs, but can reach all the metro area from the city. b) World. The return of the 'city-state'. The cities of the world are now linked more to one another than to their own states and countries. Each major city is a 'portal' to the other major cities of the world.

Reach the city to reach your own heart with the gospel.

In the city you'll find a) people that seem 'hopeless' spiritually, and b) people of other religions or no religion and of deeply non-Christian lifestyles that are wiser, kinder, and deeper than you. This will shock you out of your moralism and force you to either finally believe the gospel of sheer grace, or give it up altogether. You may get top marks on justification by faith alone, but functionally, believe salvation by works. The city will show this to you as nothing else will.

In the city you will find that the poor and the broken are often much, much more open to the idea of gospel grace and much more dedicated to its practical outworkings than you are.

You should eventually come to see that you need the city more than the city needs you.


A. Models of life in the city

B. In every earthly city, there are two 'kingdoms' present, two 'cities' vying for control. They are the City of Baal (or Satan or the god of this world) and the City of God.

The city of Satan deifies power and wealth and human culture itself (making art, technology, business an end in itself instead of a way of glorifying God).

The city of God is marked by God shalom (Jeru-shalom) - his peace. His peace is a place where stewardship of God, creation, justice, compassion and righteousness lead to harmony and family building and cultural development under God.

Christians are to see the earthly city as something to love and win. They are to win it by seeking its shalom (Jeremiah 29) and seeking to spread the city of God within it, and to battle the city of Satan within it.

We are to see that, though the fight between these two kingdoms happens everywhere in the world, earthly cities are the flashpoints on the battlelines, the places where the fighting is most intense, where the war can be won.
Models of urban ministry are then:

We despise the city. Church as fortress. (Forgetting the city as Jerusalem).
We are the city. Church as mirror. (Forgetting the city as Babylon).
We use the city. Church as space capsule. (Forgetting the city as battleground).
We love the city. Church as leaven. Jeremiah 29.

Any theological model of the city will fail if one or more of these three biblical themes of the city is neglected, omitted, or over-emphasised.

B. Basic methods/ministries

WORD (Ezra). Ezra recovered the Word for the people. Preaching, discipling, teaching. evangelising in a way contextualised to the concerns and capacities of the people of the city.

DEED (Nehemiah). Nehemiah made the city safe and functional. Mercy and Justice! Holistic ministry. Safe streets, good jobs, decent housing, good schools.

WORK (Esther). Esther rose high in a pagan society but then used her position at great risk to work for justice in society and for her people. A key part of city ministry is to equip Christians to work distinctively as Christians in their vocation.

COMMUNITY (Jeremiah). Jeremiah's letter (chapter 29) told the exiles to neither assimilate nor separate but live out their lives as a community 'seeking the peace of the city'. So we are not only to be 'witnesses' by our individual lives, but by the beauty of our communal life. a) Generosity with money and simplicity of life, b) races and classes loving together over barriers, c) sexual purity and respect shown by men/women to one another in relationships.

C. Getting the power

Jesus went down to the city, and was crucified 'outside the gate': sent into howling wilderness, the biblical metaphor for forsakenness - losing the city! Jesus lost the city that was, so we can be citizens of the city to come, making us salt and light in the city that is! Our citizenship in the City-to-come, by his grace, equips us for the city that is.

Does it Bear Witness to Jesus?

Paul Lamey at Expository Thoughts makes an excellent point in his article titled Insert Jesus Here. He draws attention to the need that preaching must smell of Jesus. I ask myself this question everytime I preach or listen to a sermon, "What makes this sermon distinctly Christian?"

Jesus is not only our sacrifice for sin, He is also the source of our ability to walk in holiness in this life. Colossians 2:6-10 points out that growth and development of the Christian comes through the redemptive work of Jesus, not through moral reform:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (NIV)

22 May 2007

Know the Truth; Live the Truth

At a recent deacon and elder meeting, we discussed the importance of a right understanding of conversion for the health of our church. A part of that discussion included looking at the New Hampshire Confession. That confession is included below in its entirity. Read it carefully and study it, looking through the cited passages as you do.

Trinity Road Chapel had its beginnings from Charles Spurgeon and the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and has maintained a strong, warm, evangelistic, and Christ-centred Calvinistic position. The source of that doctrinal position comes from the English 1689 Baptist Confession, similar to the Wesminster Confession of Faith.

The New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833
Declaration of Faith

1. Of the Scriptures

We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke 16:29-31; Psa. 119:11; Rom. 3:1-2 that it has God for its author, salvation for its end 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:16; John 5:38-39, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18-19; Rom. 3:4 that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us Rom. 2:12; John 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 4:3-4; Luke 10:10-16; 12:47-48 and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union Phil. 3:16; Eph. 4:3-6; Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried 1 John 4:1; Isa. 8:20; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Cor. 8:5; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3:5; Eph. 6:17; Psa. 119:59-60; Phil. 1:9-11

2. Of the True God

We believe that there is one, and only one, living and true God, an infinite, intelligent Spirit, whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of Heaven and earth John 4:24; Psa. 147:5; 83:18; Heb. 3:4; Rom. 1:20; Jer. 10:10 inexpressibly glorious in holiness Exod. 15:11; Isa. 6:3; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; Rev. 4:6-8, and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love Mark 12:30; Rev. 4:11; Matt. 10:37; Jer. 2:12-13 ; that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost Matt. 28:19; John 15:26; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 1 John 5:7 ; equal in every divine perfection John 10:30; 5:17; 14:23; 17:5, 10; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 2:10-11; Phil. 2:5-6 , and executing distinct and harmonious offices in the great work of redemption Eph. 2:18; 2 Cor. 13:14; Rev. 1:4-5; comp. 2, 7.

3. Of the Fall of Man

We believe that man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker Gen. 1:27, 31; Eccl. 7:29; Acts 16:26; Gen. 2:16; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state Gen. 3:6-24; Rom. 5:12; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners Rom. 5:19; John 3:6; Psa. 51:5; Rom. 5:15-19; 8:7, not by constraint, but choice Isa. 53:6; Gen. 6:12; Rom. 3:9-18; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 1:18, 32; 2:1-16; Gal. 3:10; Matt. 20:15, without defense or excuse Ezek. 18:19-20; Rom. 1:20; 3:19; Gal. 3:22.

4. Of the Way of Salvation

We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace Eph. 2:5; Matt. 18:11; 1 John 4:10; 1 Cor. 3:5-7; Acts 15:11, through the mediatorial offices of the Son of God John 3:16; 1:1-14; Heb. 4:14; 12:24; who by the appointment of the Father, freely took upon him our nature, yet without sin Phil. 2:6-7; Heb. 2:9, 14; 2 Cor. 5:21; honored the divine law by his personal obedience Isa. 42:21; Phil. 2:8; Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 3:21, and by his death made a full atonement for our sins Isa. 53:4-5; Matt. 20:28; Rom. 4:25; 3:21-26; 1 John 4:10; 2:2; 1 Cor. 15:1-3; Heb. 9:13-15; that having risen from the death, he is now enthroned in heaven Heb. 1:8, 3; 8:1; Col. 3:1-4; and uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, he is every way qualified to be a suitable, a compassionate, and an all-sufficient Saviour Heb. 7:25; Col. 2:9; Heb. 2:18; 7:26; Psa. 89:19; Psa. 14.

5. Of Justification

We believe that the great gospel blessing which Christ John 1:16; Eph. 3:8 secures to such as believe in him is Justification Acts 13:39; Isa. 3:11-12; Rom. 8:1; that Justification includes the pardon of sin Rom. 5:9; Zech. 13:1; Matt. 9:6; Acts 10:43, and the promise of eternal life on principles of righteousness Rom. 5:17; Titus 3:5-6; 1 Pet. 3:7; 1 John 2:25; Rom. 5:21; that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in the Redeemer's blood Rom. 4:4-5; 5:21; 6:28; Phil. 3:7-9; by virtue of which faith his perfect righteousness is freely imputed to us of God Rom. 5:19; 3:24-26; 4:23-25; 1 John 2:12; that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity Rom. 5:1-3, 11; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Matt. 6:33; 1 Tim. 4:8.

6. Of the Freeness of Salvation

We believe that the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel Isa. 55:1; Rev. 22:17; Luke 14:17; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial, penitent, and obedient faith Rom. 16:26; Mark 1:15; Rom. 1:15-17; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth but his own inherent depravity and voluntary rejection of the gospel John 5:40; Matt. 23:37; Rom. 9:32; Prov. 1:24; Acts 13:46; which rejection involves him in an aggravated condemnation John 3:19; Matt. 11:20; Luke 19:27; 2 Thess. 1:8.

7. Of Grace in Regeneration

We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again John 3:3, 6-7; 1 Cor. 1:14; Rev. 8:7-9; 21:27; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind 2 Cor. 5:17; Ezek. 36:26; Deut. 30:6; Rom. 2:28-29; 5:5; 1 John 4:7; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth John 3:8; 1:13; James 1:16-18; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 2:13, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel 1 Pet. 1:22-25; 1 John 5:1; Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:9-11; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life Eph. 5:9; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 5:16-23; Eph. 3:14-21; Matt. 3:8-10; 7:20; 1 John 5:4, 18.

8. Of Repentance and Faith

We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God Mark 1:15; Acts 11:18; Eph. 2:8; 1 John 5:1; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ John 16:8; Acts 2:37-38; 16:30-31, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy Luke 18:13; 15:18-21; James 4:7-10; 2 Cor. 7:11; Rom.10:12-13; Psa. 51; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 3:22-23: Heb. 4:14; Psa. 2:6; Heb. 1:8; 8:25; 2 Tim. 1:12.

9. Of God's Purpose of Grace

We believe that Election is the eternal purpose of God, according to which he graciously regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners 2 Tim. 1:8-9; Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; Rom. 11:5-6; John 15:15; 1 John 4:19; Hos. 12:9; that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Acts 13:48; John 10:16; Matt. 20:16; Acts 15:14; that it is a most glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, being infinitely free, wise, holy, and unchangeable Exod. 33:18-19; Matt. 20:15; Eph. 1:11; Rom. 9:23-24: Jer. 31:3; Rom. 11:28-29; James 1:17-18; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 11:32-36; that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, love, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy 1 Cor. 4:7; 1:26-31; Rom. 3:27; 4:16; Col. 3:12; 1 Cor. 3:5-7; 15:10; 1 Pet. 5:10; Acts 1:24; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 2:9; Luke 18:7; John 15:16; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 2:12; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Cor. 9:22; Rom. 8:28-30; John 6:37-40; 2 Pet. 1:10; that it may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly believe the gospel 1 Thess. 1:4-10; that it is the foundation of Christian assurance Rom. 8:28-30; Isa. 42:16; Rom. 11:29; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves demands and deserves the utmost diligence 2 Pet. 1:10-11; Phil. 3:12; Heb. 6:11.

10. Of Sanctification

We believe that Sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:23; 2 Cor. 7:1; 13:9; Eph. 1:4; that it is a progressive work Prov. 4:18; 2 Cor. 3:18; Heb. 6:1; 2 Pet. 1:5-8; Phil. 3:12-16; that it is begun in regeneration John 2:29; Rom. 8:5; John 3:6; Phil. 1:9-11; Eph. 1:13-14; and that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means-especially the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and prayer Phil. 2:12-13; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18; 2 Cor. 13:5; Luke 11:35; 9:23; Matt. 26:41; Eph. 6:18; 4:30.

11. Of the Perseverance of Saints

We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end John 8:31; 1 John 2:27-28; 3:9; 5:18; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors 1 John 2:19; John 13:18; Matt. 13:20-21; John 6:66-69; Job 17:9; that a special Providence watches over their welfare Rom. 8:28; Matt. 6:30-33; Jer. 32:40; Psa. 121:3; 91:11-12; and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13; Jude 24-25; Heb. 1:14; 2 Kings 6:16; Heb. 13:5; 1 John 4:4.

12. Of the Harmony of the Law and the Gospel

We believe that the Law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of his moral government Rom. 3:31; Matt. 5:17; Luke 16:17; Rom. 3:20; 4:15; that it is holy, just, and good Rom. 7:12, 7, 14, 22; Gal. 3:21; Psa. 119; and that the inability which the Scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts arises entirely from their love of sin Rom. 8:7-8; Josh. 24:19; Jer. 13:23; John 6:44; 5:44; to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned obedience to the holy Law, is one great end of the Gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible Church Rom. 8:2, 4; 10:4; 1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 8:10; Jude 20-21; Heb. 12:14; Matt. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 12:28.

13. Of a Gospel Church

We believe that a visible Church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers 1 Cor. 1:1-13; Matt. 18:17; Acts 5:11; 8:1; 11:31; 1 Cor. 4:17; 14:23; 3 John 9; 1 Tim. 3:5, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel Acts 2:41-42; 2 Cor. 8:5; Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 5:12-13; observing the ordinances of Christ 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 3:6; Rom. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 11:23; Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:6; 2 Cor. 2:7; 1 Cor. 4:17; governed by his laws Matt. 28:20; John 14:15; 15:12; 1 John 4:21; John 14:21; 1 Thess. 4.2; 2 John 6; Gal. 6:2; all the Epistles, and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his Word Eph. 4:7; 1 Cor. 14:12; Phil. 1:27; 1 Cor. 12:14; that its only scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons Phil. 1:1; Acts 14:23; 15:22; 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are defined in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.

14. Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper

We believe that Christian Baptism is the immersion in water of a believer Acts 8:36-39; Matt. 3:5-6; John 3:22-23; 4:1-2; Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12; 16:32-34; 18:8, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:47-48; Gal. 3:27-28; to show forth, in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its effect in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:20-21; Acts 22:16; that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a Church relation; and to the Lord's Supper Acts 2:41-42; Matt. 28:19-20; Acts and Epistles, in which the members of the Church, by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ 1 Cor. 11:26; Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; preceded always by solemn self-examination 1 Cor. 11:28; 5:1, 8; 10:3-32; 11:17-32; John 6:26-71.

15. Of the Christian Sabbath

We believe that the first day of the week is the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath Acts 20:7; Gen. 2:3; Col. 2:16-17; Mark 2:27; John 20:19; 1 Cor. 16:1- 2; and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes Exod. 20:8; Rev. 1:10; Psa. 118:24, by abstaining from all secular labor and sinful recreations Isa. 58:13-14; 56:2-8; by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private Psa. 119:15 and public Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 11:26; 13:44; Lev. 19:30; Exod. 46:3; Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2, 3; Psa. 26:8; 87:3; and by preparation for that rest that remaineth for the people of God Heb. 4:3-11.

16. Of Civil Government

We believe that civil government is of divine appointment, for the interests and good order of human society Rom. 13:1-7; Deut. 16:18; 1 Sam. 23:3; Exod. 18:23; Jer.30:21; and that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored and obeyed Matt. 22:21; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13; 1 Tim. 2:1-8; except only in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ Acts 5:29; Matt. 10:28; Dan. 3:15-18; 6:7-10; Acts 4:18-20 who is the only Lord of the conscience, and the Prince of the kings of the earth Matt. 23:10; Rom. 14:4; Rev. 19:16; Psa. 72:11; Psa. 2; Rom. 14:9-13.

17. Of the Righteous and the Wicked

We believe that there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked Mal. 3:18; Prov. 12:26; Isa. 5:20; Gen. 18:23; Jer. 15:19;Acts 10:34- 35; Rom. 6:16; that such only as through faith are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the Spirit of our God, are truly righteous in his esteem Rom. 1:17; 7:6; 1 John 2:29; 3:7; Rom. 6:18, 22; 1 Cor. 11:32; Prov. 11:31; 1 Pet. 4:17-18; while all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are in his sight wicked, and under the curse 1 John 5:19; Gal. 3:10; John 3:36; Isa. 57:21; Psa. 10:4; Isa 55:6-7; and this distinction holds among men both in and after death Prov. 14:32; Luke 16:25; John 8:21-24; Prov. 10:24; Luke 12:4-5; 9:23- 26; John 12:25-26; Eccl. 3:17; Matt. 7:13-14.

18. Of the World to Come

We believe that the end of the world is approaching 1 Pet. 4:7; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Heb. 1:10-12; Matt. 24:35; 1 John 2:17; Matt. 28:20; 13:39-40; 2 Pet. 3:3-13; that at the last day Christ will descend from heaven Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7; Heb. 9:28; Acts 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18;5:1-11, and raise the dead from the grave to final retribution Acts 24:15; 1 Cor. 15:12-59; Luke 14:14; Dan. 12:2; John 5:28-29; 6:40; 11:25-26; 2 Tim. 1:10; Acts 10:42; that a solemn separation will then take place Matt. 13:49, 37-43; 24:30-31; 25:31-33; that the wicked will be adjudged to endless punishment, and the righteous to endless joy Matt. 25:35-41; Rev. 22:11; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Pet. 2:9; Jude 7; Phil. 3:19; Rom. 6:32; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; John 4:36; 2 Cor. 4:18; and that this judgment will fix forever the final state of men in heaven or hell, on principles of righteousness Rom. 3:5-6; 2 Thess. 1:6-12; Heb. 6:1-2; 1 Cor. 4:5; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:2-16; Rev. 20:11-12; 1 John 2:28; 4:17.

21 May 2007

Discerning True Spiritual Change From False


I. For the better understanding of the nature of regeneration, take this along with you, in the first place, that as there are false conceptions in nature, so there are also in grace: by these many are deluded, mistaking some partial changes made upon them for this great and thorough change. To remove such mistakes, let these few things be considered:

1. Many call the Church their mother, whom God will not own to be His children. “My mother’s children,” that is, false brethren, “were angry with me” (Cant. 1:6). All that are baptized, are not born again. Simon was baptized, yet still “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:13–23). Where Christianity is the religion of the country, many are called by the name of Christ, who have no more of Him than the name: and no wonder, for the devil had his goats among Christ’s sheep, in those places where but few professed the Christian religion. “They went out from us, but they were not of us” (1 John 2:19).

2. Good education is not regeneration. Education may chain up men’s lusts, but cannot change their hearts. A wolf is still a ravenous beast, though it be in chains. Joash was very devout during the life of his good tutor Jehoiada; but afterwards he quickly showed what spirit he was of, by his sudden apostasy (2 Chron. 24:2–18). Good example is of mighty influence to change the outward man; but that change often goes off when a man changes his company; of which the world affords many sad instances.

3. A turning from open profanity to civility and sobriety falls short of this saving change. Some are, for a while, very loose, especially in their younger years; but at length they reform, and leave their profane courses. Here is a change, yet only such as may be found in men utterly void of the grace of God, and whose righteousness is so far from exceeding, that it does not come up to the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

4. One may engage in all the outward duties of religion, and yet not be born again. Though lead be cast into various shapes, it remains still but a base metal. Men may escape the pollutions of the world, and yet be but dogs and swine (2 Pet. 2:20–22). All the external acts of religion are within the compass of natural abilities. Yea, hypocrites may have the counterfeit of all the graces of the Spirit: for we read of “true holiness” (Eph. 4:23); and “faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:15); which shows us that there is a counterfeit holiness, and a feigned faith.

5. Men may advance to a great deal of strictness in their own way of religion, and yet be strangers to the new birth. “After the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5). Nature has its own unsanctified strictness in religion. The Pharisees had so much of it that they looked on Christ as little better than a mere libertine. A man whose conscience has been awakened, and who lives under the felt influence of the covenant of works, what will he not do that is within the compass of natural abilities? It is a truth, though it came out of a hellish mouth, that “skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life” (Job 2:4).

6. A person may have sharp soul-exercises and pangs, and yet die in the birth. Many “have been in pain,” that have but, as it were, “brought forth wind.” There may be sore pangs and throes of conscience, which turn to nothing at last. Pharaoh and Simon Magus had such convictions as made them desire the prayers of others for them. Judas repented himself; and under terrors of conscience, gave back his ill-gotten pieces of silver. All is not gold that glitters. Trees may blossom fairly in the spring, on which no fruit is to be found in the harvest: and some have sharp soul exercises, which are nothing but foretastes of hell.

The new birth, however in appearance hopefully begun, may be marred two ways:

First, Some, like Zarah (Gen. 38:28, 29), are brought to the birth, but go back again. They have sharp convictions for a while; but these go off, and they become as careless about their salvation, and as profane as ever and usually worse than ever; “their last state is worse than their first” (Matt. 12:45). They get awakening grace, but not converting grace and that goes off by degrees as the light of the declining day, till it issue in midnight darkness.

Secondly, Some, like Ishmael, come forth too soon; they are born before the time of the promise. (Gen. 16:2; compare Gal. 4:22, etc.) They take up with a mere law-work, and stay not till the time of the promise of the Gospel. They snatch at consolation, not waiting till it be given them; and foolishly draw their comfort from the law that wounded them. They apply the healing plaster to themselves, before their wound is sufficiently searched. The law, that rigorous husband, severely beats them, and throws in curses and vengeance upon their souls; then they fall to reforming, praying, mourning, promising, and vowing, till this ghost be laid; which done, they fall asleep again in the arms of the law: but they are never shaken out of themselves and their own righteousness, nor brought forward to Jesus Christ.

Lastly, There may be a wonderful moving of the affections, in souls that are not at all touched with regenerating grace. Where there is no grace, there may, notwithstanding, be a flood of tears, as in Esau, “who found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Heb. 12:17). There may be great flashes of joy; as in the hearers of the Word, represented in the parable by the stony ground, who “anon with joy receive it” (Matt. 13:20). There may also be great desires after good things, and great delight in them too; as in those hypocrites described in Isa. 58:2: “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways: they take delight in approaching to God.” See how high they may sometimes stand, who yet fall away (Heb. 6:4–6). They may be “enlightened, taste of the heavenly gift,” be “partakers of the Holy Ghost, taste the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” Common operations of the Divine Spirit, like a land flood, make a strange turning of things upside down: but when they are over, all runs again in the ordinary channel. All these things may be, where the sanctifying Spirit of Christ never rests upon the soul, but the stony heart still remains; and in that case these affections cannot but wither, because they have no root.

But regeneration is a real thorough change, whereby the man is made a new creature. (2 Cor. 5:17.) The Lord God makes the creature a new creature, as the goldsmith melts down the vessel of dishonor, and makes it a vessel of honor. Man is, in respect of his spiritual state, altogether disjointed by the fall; every faculty of the soul is, as it were, dislocated: in regeneration the Lord loosens every joint, and sets it right again. Now this change made in regeneration, is:

1. A change of qualities or dispositions: it is not a change of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. Vicious qualities are removed, and the contrary dispositions are brought in, in their room. “The old man is put off” (Eph. 4:22); “the new man put on” (ver. 24). Man lost none of the rational faculties of his soul by sin: he had an understanding still, but it was darkened; he had still a will, but it was contrary to the will of God. So in regeneration, there is not a new substance created, but new qualities are infused; light instead of darkness, righteousness instead of unrighteousness.

2. It is a supernatural change; he that is born again, is born of the Spirit. (John 3:5.) Great changes may be made by the power of nature, especially when assisted by external revelation. Nature may be so elevated by the common influences of the Spirit, that a person may thereby be turned into another man, as Saul was, (1 Sam. 10:6, ) who yet never becomes a new man. But in regeneration, nature itself is changed, and we become partakers of the Divine nature; and this must needs be a supernatural change. How can we, that are dead in trespasses and sins, renew ourselves, more than a dead man can raise himself out of his grave? Who but the sanctifying Spirit of Christ can form Christ in a soul, changing it into the same image? Who but the Spirit of sanctification can give the new heart? Well may we say, when we see a man thus changed: “This is the finger of God.”

3. It is a change into the likeness of God. “We, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18). Everything that generates, generates its like; the child bears the image of the parent; and they that are born of God bear God’s image. Man aspiring to be as God, made himself like the devil. In his natural state he resembles the devil, as a child doth his father. “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). But when this happy change comes, that image of Satan is defaced, and the image of God is restored. Christ Himself, who is the brightness of His Father’s glory, is the pattern after which the new creature is made. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). Hence He is said to be formed in the regenerate. (Gal. 4:19.)

4. It is a universal change; “all things become new,” (2 Cor. 5:17). Original sin infects the whole man; and regenerating grace, which is the salve, goes as far as the sore. This fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness; goodness of the mind, goodness of the will, goodness of the affections, goodness of the whole man. He gets not only a new head, to know religion, or a new tongue to talk of it; but a new heart, to love and embrace it in the whole of his conversation.

Quoted in The Fundamentals (3:128-133).

20 May 2007

"In doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility. . ."

My friend, Phil Johnson, provides an excellent reminder from Scripture that truth must not only be loved, but defended. In our pluralistic age, that is a message that demands repeating.

Pyromaniacs: "In doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility. . ."

19 May 2007

It Goes Way Beyond Having a Purposeful Life

What would you say if given an opportunity to write a letter to explain the gospel? Charles Spurgeon provides an excellent model:

“Knowing, in some humble measure, at least, the value of religion, let me also bring it before your attention. If you give yourself time to think, you will soon remember that you must die; and if you meditate one more moment, you will recollect that you have a soul, and that soul will never die, but will live for ever; and if you die in your present state, it must live in endless torment.

“You are an accountable being; God, who made you, demands perfect obedience. But you must own that you have sinned; say not, ‘I am not a great sinner,’ for one sin only would be sufficient to sink your soul for ever in the pit of perdition. The sentence of death stands against you, and mercy alone stays its execution. Seeing now that you are in such danger, how do you think to escape? Surely you will not be content to die as you are, for you will one day find it no light matter to endure the hot displeasure of an angry God. Do you imagine that, if you live better for the future, God will forgive your past offences? That is a mistake; see if you can find it in the Bible.

“Perhaps you intend to think about religion after you have enjoyed sin a little longer; or possibly you think that you are too young to die. But who knows whether that future time will be afforded, and who said that you can turn to Christ just when you please? Your heart is deceitful above all things, and your natural depravity so great that you will not turn to God. Trust not, then, to resolutions made in your own strength, they are but wind; nor I to yourself, who are but a broken reed; nor to your own heart, or you are a fool. There is no way of salvation but Christ; you cannot save yourself having no power even to think one good thought; neither can your parents’ love and prayers save you; none but Jesus can, He is the Saviour of the helpless, and I tell you that He died for all such as feel their vileness and come to Him for cleansing.

“You do not deserve salvation; well, there is not a jot of merit on the sinner’s part mentioned in the covenant. You have nothing; you are nothing; but Christ is all, and He must be everything to you, or you will never be saved. None reach Heaven but by free-grace, and through free-grace alone. Even a faint desire after any good thing came from God, from whom you must get more, for He giveth liberally, and no poor sinner, begging at His door, was ever yet sent empty away.

“Look the blessedness of real religion, no one is truly happy but a child of God. The believer is safe, for God has promised to preserve him; and if once you have the pearl of great price, it cannot be taken from you. The way to Heaven is faith, ‘looking unto Jesus;’ this faith is the gift of God, and none but those who have it know its value. “Oh, may you possess it!” is the earnest prayer of −

Yours faithfully,

Charles H. Spurgeon

17 May 2007

An 18th Century Guide to Debating Doctrine in the Blogosphere

John Newton's Letters are some of the richest treasures bequeathed to our generation. I'm most pleased the Banner of Truth is issuing an expanded edition of his letters, which are brimming with pastoral wisdom.

One of my favourites is his letter on controversy, where he cautions a friend who is about to enter into public debate over a point of doctrine. Newton advises him in several areas, asking him to consider the effect of his words. Newton's words deserve a careful reading, especially in today's blogosphere, where many things are offered publically before they are weighed carefully.

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, nay friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle. But I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a coat of armor; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great armory provided for the Christian soldier, the word of God. I take it for granted, that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

1. As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: "Deal gently with him for my sake." The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever. But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace, (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit,) he is a more proper object of your pity and compassion than of your anger. Alas! "he knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the Gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, those who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy; but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose, "if perhaps God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth."

If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling-blocks in the way of the blind, or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their prejudices, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

2. By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions. First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are pre-engaged in favor of those sentiments which are least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrines; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer's spirit. They know that that meekness, humility, and love, are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no beneficial influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the Gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments.

The Scriptural maxim, that "the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God," is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service to the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring-it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth's sake. If we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer: and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification, if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm.

There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a befitting zeal in the cause of God. I readily believe, that the leading points of Arminianism spring from, and are nourished by, the pride of the human heart; but I would be glad if the reverse was always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of an humble mind. I have known some Arminians—that is, people who, for lack of clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace—who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord. And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of.

Whatever it is which makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party—is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yes, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule—and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

3. This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient, they appear to be so in our day, when errors abound on all sides, and every truth of the Gospel is either directly denied, or grossly misrepresented. And yet we find but very few writers of controversy, who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which at most are but of a secondary value. This shows, that, if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause, and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made! Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray, for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you: he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who, "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not." This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, "not rendering railing for railing, but, contrariwise, blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called." The wisdom which is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the lack of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow-creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of Gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord Almighty, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts, that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.