LOOKING TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP JESUS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Coming to Christ - Spurgeon pt.8

"Still," says one, "as far as you have hitherto gone, it appears to me that you consider that the reason why men do not come to Christ is that they will not, rather than they cannot." True, most true. I believe the greatest reason of man's inability is the obstinacy of his will. That once overcome, I think the great stone is rolled away from the sepulchre, and the hardest part of the battle is already won. But allow me to go a little further. My text does not say,"No man will come," but it says, "No man can come." Now, many interpreters believe that the can here, is but a strong expression conveying no more meaning than the word will. I feel assured that this is not correct. There is in man, not only unwillingness to be saved, but there is a spiritual powerlessness to come to Christ; and this I will prove to every Christian at any rate. Beloved, I speak to you who have already been quickened by the divine grace, does not your experience teach you that there are times when you have a will to serve God, and yet have not the power? Have you not sometimes been obliged to say that you have wished to believe. but you have had to pray, Lord, help mine unbelief?" Because, although willing enough to receive God's testimony, your own carnal nature was too strong for you, and you felt you needed supernatural help. Are you able to go into your room at any hour you choose, and to fall upon your knees and say,"Now, it is my will that I should be very earnest in prayer, and that I should draw near unto God?" I ask, do you find your power equal to your will? You could say, even at the bar of God himself, that you are sure you are not mistaken in your willingness; you are willing to be wrapt up in devotion, it is your will that your soul should not wander from a pure contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but you find that you cannot do that, even when you are willing, without the help of the Spirit. Now, if the quickened child of God finds a spiritual inability, how much more the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin? If even the advanced Christian, after thirty or forty years, finds himself sometimes willing and yet powerless—if such be his experience,—does it not seem more than likely that the poor sinner who has not yet believed, should find a need of strength as well as a want of will?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Coming to Christ - Spurgeon pt.7

4. Yet once more—conscience, too, has been overpowered by the fall. I believe there is no more egregious mistake made by divines, than when they tell people that conscience is the vicegerent of God within the soul, and that it is one of those powers which retains its ancient dignity, and stands erect amidst the fall of its compeers. My brethren, when man fell in the garden, manhood fell entirely; there was not one single pillar in the temple of manhood that stood erect. It is true, conscience was not destroyed. The pillar was not shattered; it fell, and it fell in one piece, and there it lies along, the mightiest remnant of God's once perfect work in man. But that conscience is fallen, I am sure. Look at men. Who among them is the possessor of a "good conscience toward God," but the regenerated man? Do you imagine that if men's consciences always spoke loudly and clearly to them, they would live in the daily commission of acts, which are as opposed to the right as darkness to light? No, beloved; conscience can tell me that I am a sinner, but conscience cannot make me feel that I am one. Conscience may tell me that such-and-such a thing is wrong, but how wrong it is conscience itself does not know. Did any man s conscience, unenlightened by the Spirit, ever tell him that his sins deserved damnation? Or if conscience did do that, did it ever lead any man to feel an abhorrence of sin as sin? In fact, did conscience ever bring a man to such a self-renunciation, that he did totally abhor himself and all his works and come to Christ? No, conscience, although it is not dead, is ruined, its power is impaired, it hath not that clearness of eye and that strength of hand, and that thunder of voice, which it had before the fall; but hath ceased to a great degree, to exert its supremacy in the town of Mansoul. Then, beloved, it becomes necessary for this very reason, because conscience is depraved, that the Holy Spirit should step in, to show us our need of a Saviour, and draw us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Coming to Christ - Spurgeon pt.6

3. Again, the affections, which constitute a very great part of man, are depraved. Man, as he is, before he receives the grace of God, loves anything and everything above spiritual things. If ye want proof of this, look around you. There needs no monument to the depravity of the human affections. Cast your eyes everywhere—there is not a street, nor a house, nay, nor a heart, which doth not bear upon it sad evidence of this dreadful truth. Why is it that men are not found on the Sabbath Day universally flocking to the house of God? Why are we not more constantly found reading our Bibles? How is it that prayer is a duty almost universally neglected? Why is it that Christ Jesus is so little beloved? Why are even his professed followers so cold in their affections to him? Whence arise these things? Assuredly, dear brethren, we can trace them to no other source than this, the corruption and vitiation of the affections. We love that which we ought to hate, and we hate that which we ought to love. It is but human nature, fallen human nature, that man should love this present life better than the life to come. It is but the effect of the fall, that man should love sin better than righteousness, and the ways of this world better than the ways of God. And again, we repeat it, until these affections be renewed, and turned into a fresh channel by the gracious drawings of the Father, it is not possible for any man to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Coming to Christ - Spurgeon pt.5

2. Again, not only is the will obstinate, but the understanding is darkened. Of that we have abundant Scriptural proof. I am not now making mere assertions, but stating doctrines authoritatively taught in the Holy Scriptures, and known in the conscience of every Christian man—that the understanding of man is so dark, that he cannot by any means understand the things of God until his understanding has been opened. Man is by nature blind within. The cross of Christ, so laden with glories, and glittering with attractions, never attracts him, because he is blind and cannot see its beauties. Talk to him of the wonders of the creation, show to him the many-coloured arch that spans the sky, let him behold the glories of a landscape, he is well able to see all these things; but talk to him of the wonders of the covenant of grace, speak to him of the security of the believer in Christ, tell him of the beauties of the person of the Redeemer, he is quite deaf to all your description; you are as one that playeth a goodly tune, it is true; but he regards not, he is deaf, he has no comprehension. Or, to return to the verse which we so specially marked in our reading, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned;" and inasmuch as he is a natural man, it is not in his power to discern the things of God. "Well," says one, "I think I have arrived at a very tolerable judgment in matters of theology; I think I understand almost every point." True, that you may do in the letter of it; but in the spirit of it, in the true reception thereof into the soul, and in the actual understanding of it, it is impossible for you to have attained, unless you have been drawn by the Spirit. For as long as that Scripture stands true, that carnal men cannot receive spiritual things, it must be true that you have not received them, unless you have been renewed and made a spiritual man in Christ Jesus. The will, then, and the understanding, are two great doors, both blocked up against our coming to Christ, and until these are opened by the sweet influences of the Divine Spirit, they must be for ever closed to anything like coming to Christ

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Coming to Christ - Spurgeon pt.4

I. First, it lies in the obstinacy of the human will. "Oh!" saith the Arminian, "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the if they will that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it—"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. "Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer—Did you ever meet with any person who was? Scores and hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians have I conversed with, of different opinions, young and old, but it has never been my lot to meet with one who could affirm that he came to Christ of himself, without being drawn. The universal confession of all true believers is this—"I know that unless Jesus Christ had sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, I would to this very hour have been wandering far from him, at a distance from him, and loving that distance well." With common consent, all believers affirm the truth, that men will not come to Christ till the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Coming to Christ - Spurgeon pt.3

Permit me to show you wherein this inability of man really does lie. It lies deep in his nature. Through the fall, and through our own sin, the nature of man has become so debased, and depraved, and corrupt, that it is impossible for him to come to Christ without the assistance of God the Holy Spirit. Now, in trying to exhibit how the nature of man thus renders him unable to come to Christ, you must allow me just to take this figure. You see a sheep; how willingly it feeds upon the herbage! You never knew a sheep sigh after carrion; it could not live on lion's food. Now bring me a wolf; and you ask me whether a wolf cannot eat grass, whether it cannot be just as docile and as domesticated as the sheep. I answer, no; because its nature is contrary thereunto. You say, "Well, it has ears and legs; can it not hear the shepherd's voice, and follow him whithersoever he leadeth it?" I answer, certainly; there is no physical cause why it cannot do so, but its nature forbids, and therefore I say it cannot do so. Can it not be tamed? cannot its ferocity be removed? Probably it may so far be subdued that it may become apparently tame; but there will always be a marked distinction between it and the sheep, because there is a distinction in nature. Now, the reason why man cannot come to Christ, is not because he cannot come, so far as his body or his mere power of mind is concerned, but because his nature is so corrupt that he has neither the will nor the power to come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit. But let me give you a better illustration. You see a mother with her babe in her arms. You put a knife into her hand, and tell her to stab that babe to the heart. She replies, and very truthfully, "I cannot." Now, so far as her bodily power is concerned, she can, if she pleases; there is the knife, and there is the child. The child cannot resist, and she has quite sufficient strength in her hand immediately to stab it to its heart. But she is quite correct when she says she cannot do it. As a mere act of the mind, it is quite possible she might think of such a thing as killing the child, and yet she says she cannot think of such a thing; and she does not say falsely, for her nature as a mother forbids her doing a thing from which her soul revolts. Simply because she is that child's parent she feels she cannot kill it. It is even so with a sinner. Coming to Christ is so obnoxious to human nature that, although, so far as physical and mental forces are concerned, (and these have but a very narrow sphere in salvation) men could come if they would: it is strictly correct to say that they cannot and will not unless the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them. Let us enter a little more deeply into the subject, and try to show you wherein this inability of man consists, in its more minute particulars.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Coming to Christ - Spurgeon pt.2

I shall endeavour this morning, first of all, to notice man's inability, wherein it consists. Secondly, the Father's drawings—what these are, and how they are exerted upon the soul. And then I shall conclude by noticing a sweet consolation which may be derived from this seemingly barren and terrible text.
I. First, then, MAN'S INABILITY. The text says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." Wherein does this inability lie?
First, it does not lie in any physical defect. If in coming to Christ, moving the body or walking with the feet should be of any assistance, certainly man has all physical power to come to Christ in that sense. I remember to have heard a very foolish Antinomian declare, that he did not believe any man had the power to walk to the house of God unless the Father drew him. Now the man was plainly foolish, because he must have seen that as long as a man was alive and had legs, it was as easy for him to walk to the house of God as to the house of Satan. If coming to Christ includes the utterance of a prayer, man has no physical defect in that respect, if he be not dumb, he can say a prayer as easily as he can utter blasphemy. It is as easy for a man to sing one of the songs of Zion as to sing a profane and libidinous song. There is no lack of physical power in coming to Christ. All that can be wanted with regard to the bodily strength man most assuredly has, and any part of salvation which consists in that is totally and entirely in the power of man without any assistance from the Spirit of God. Nor, again, does this inability lie in any mental lack. I can believe this Bible to be true just as easily as I can believe any other book to be true. So far as believing on Christ is an act of the mind, I am just as able to believe on Christ as I am able to believe on anybody else. Let his statement be but true, it is idle to tell me I cannot believe it. I can believe the statement that Christ makes as well as I can believe the statement of any other person. There is no deficiency of faculty in the mind: it is as capable of appreciating as a mere mental act the guilt of sin, as it is of appreciating the guilt of assassination. It is just as possible for me to exercise the mental idea of seeking God, as it is to exercise the thought of ambition. I have all the mental strength and power that can possibly be needed, so far as mental power is needed in salvation at all. Nay, there is not any man so ignorant that he can plead a lack of intellect as an excuse for rejecting the gospel. The defect, then, does not lie either in the body, or, what we are bound to call, speaking theologically, the mind. It is not any lack or deficiency there, although it is the vitiation of the mind, the corruption or the ruin of it, which, after all, is the very essence of man's inability.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Coming To Christ - Spurgeon

A Sermon
(No. 182)
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 7, 1858 by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.


"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him."—John 6:44.
COMING to Christ" is a very common phrase in Holy Scripture. It is used to express those acts of the soul wherein, leaving at once our self-righteousness, and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness to be our covering, and his blood to be our atonement. Coming to Christ, then, embraces in it repentance, self-negation, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it sums within itself all those things which are the necessary attendants of these great states of heart, such as the belief of the truth, earnestness of prayer to God, the submission of the soul to the precepts of God's gospel, and all those things which accompany the dawn of salvation in the soul. Coming to Christ is just the one essential thing for a sinner's salvation. He that cometh not to Christ, do what he may, or think what he may, is yet in "the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity." Coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration. No sooner is the soul quickened than it at once discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him. Where there is not this coming to Christ, it is certain that there is as yet no quickening; where there is no quickening, the soul is dead in trespasses and sins, and being dead it cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. We have before us now an announcement very startling, some say very obnoxious. Coming to Christ, though described by some people as being the very easiest thing in all the world, is in our text declared to be a thing utterly and entirely impossible to any man, unless the Father shall draw him to Christ. It shall be our business, then, to enlarge upon this declaration. We doubt not that it will always be offensive to carnal nature, but, nevertheless, the offending of human nature is sometimes the first step towards bringing it to bow itself before God. And if this be the effect of a painful process, we can forget the pain and rejoice in the glorious consequences.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Our Worst Enemies - Spurgeon

Our worst enemies!

(Charles Spurgeon)

Beware of no man more than yourself!

We carry our worst enemies within us!

"The human heart is most deceitful and
desperately wicked." Jeremiah 17:9

"Deliver me, O Lord, from that evil man
--myself!" Augustine

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Wondrous Work of the Holy Spirit in a Genuine Believer

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 (New King James Version)
New King James Version (NKJV)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Their Good Example

2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, 4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. 5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. 8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. 9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Paul had much to thank God for here with the Thessalonian church.

The church's beginning is seen in Acts 17:1-10. The time period was about AD 51. We see in Acts that Paul spent three Sabbaths "reasoning with them from the scriptures". Some scholars hold that that is all the time Paul had spent in Thessalonica. Others claim that Paul must have spent additional time in Thessalonica due to the amount of doctrine that is covered in these two letters. Either way, Paul had to move on and preach elsewhere; That meant that this young church had to live the Christian life on its own.

Note the hardships faced: "having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,". We would see later in the letter that they received much persecution from their own countrymen, as did the church in Jerusalem. See 1 Thess. 2:14.

But, notice the wonderfull work of God the Holy Spirit in these lives: "3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,".

"Faith, love, and patience of hope". Brings 1 Corinthians 13 to mind, eh? Ah! the great and marvelous workings of the Holy Spirit! He is the One Who regenerates us, inparting new life within, the very life of Jesus.

Note also that Paul said of these folks: "6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. 8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything."

"You became followers of us and of the Lord". Their faith was volitional and resolute. They followed Paul as he was an example of how Jesus would have them walk. Keep in mind, they did so while suffering heavy persecution.

Genuine faith is seen in turning to God, in order to serve Him. Observe:"and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." What is seen here is evidence of the workings of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. His mission is to reproduce the image of Christ in the life of that person, or, in this case, the Thessalonian church. A genuine believer is going to exhibit the results of the Spirit's workings.

Over all, the Spirit does a marvelous thing, taking a sinner and turning them into a mighty and fearless servant of Christ.

Dear reader, how about you? Do you wish to repent from your life of sin to serve Jesus? He died on the cross that your sins might be washed away by His blood. Do you wish to wait for Him to come and take you to be with Him for all eternity? All you need do is believe, believe that you are a sinner and that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is your only hope of being saved. His is the only sacrifice that God has accepted. Only His blood can wash away your sin. Three days later He rose from the dead, The Father had accepted His sacrifice, the only true sacrifice for sin.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

John 8:51

John 8:51 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

51I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone observes My teaching [lives in accordance with My message, keeps My word], he will by no means ever see and experience death.
John 8:51 (Contemporary English Version)
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

51I tell you for certain that if you obey my words, you will never die."
John 8:51 (New Life Version)
New Life Version (NLV)
Copyright © 1969 by Christian Literature International

51For sure, I tell you, if anyone keeps My Word, that one will never die."
John 8:51 (New International Reader's Version)
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Copyright © 1996, 1998 by International Bible Society

51What I'm about to tell you is true. Anyone who obeys my word will never die."
John 8:51 (Worldwide English (New Testament))
Worldwide English (New Testament) (WE)
Copyright © by SOON Educational Publications

51I tell you the truth. If anyone obeys my word, he will never die.'

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sandemanianism - Michael Haykin


by Michael Haykin

Andrew Fuller and the Sandemanians

In December 1967, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave an address to what was then known as the Puritan Conference on the topic of ‘Sandemanianism’. Our initial reaction might be that the topic is esoteric, of little interest or value to modern men and women. But we would not feel this way if we were well-versed in the history of eighteenth-century Evangelicalism, the womb from which this particular doctrinal viewpoint came forth. Dr Lloyd-Jones proceeded to show that this theological aberration is of paramount importance for our own day. This article seeks to explore some aspects of the long-forgotten Sandemanian controversy.

Sandemanianism and the nature of saving faith

The roots of Sandemanianism lie in the 1720s when John Glas (1695-1773), minister of the Church of Scotland work in Tealing, Scotland, and a man of considerable erudition, gradually came to the conviction that Christ’s kingdom is one that is completely spiritual and, as such, independent of both state control and support. A church of some seventy believers was formed in the parish of Tealing, and over the next couple of decades ‘Glasite’ congregations could be found in Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh and booming textile centres such as Paisley and Dunkeld. Although the Glasites were never numerous, Glas’ views exerted wide influence throughout the British Isles and America, especially through the travels and writings of his son-in-law Robert Sandeman (1718-1771), whom Lloyd-Jones rightly describes as ‘a born controversialist’. In addition to adopting such practices as foot-washing, holy kissing, the use of lots to determine God’s will, and an insistence on unanimity in all church decisions, Glas’ and Sandeman’s followers also distinguished themselves from other eighteenth-century Evangelicals by a predominantly intellectualist view of faith. They became known for their cardinal theological tenet that saving faith is ‘bare belief of the bare truth’.

Bare faith

Sandeman, who assumed the leadership of the movement in the 1750s, insisted that faith becomes a work of human merit if it includes anything beyond simple assent to the truth of what God has done through Christ’s death and resurrection. In Sandeman’s reading of New Testament passages like Romans 4:5, justification by faith has everything to do with God instilling into the minds of impenitent men and women, the belief that God gave his dear Son for sinners. Essentially, it has nothing to do with the exercise of the will in repentance or the engagement of the heart’s affections towards God. Sandeman also turns to 1 John 5:1 to argue that regeneration accompanies intellectual assent to the central truth of the Christian faith, namely, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ and that he died and rose again for sinners. Thus, Sandeman can talk of ‘bare faith’ and ‘bare persuasion of the truth’.

In a genuine desire to exalt the utter freeness of God’s salvation, Sandeman sought to remove any vestige of human reasoning, willing or desiring in the matter of saving faith. He was convinced that if the actions of the will or the affections are included in saving faith, then the Reformation assertion of ‘faith alone’ is compromised. Thus, in the Sandemanian system, saving faith is reduced to intellectual assent to the gospel proclamation about Christ. To be fair to Sandeman, it should be noted that he was quite prepared to admit that affections come into play once a person believes. But at the time of conversion, they play no role in saving faith.

It should occasion no surprise that many of those who embraced Sandeman’s intellectualist view of faith became stunted in their Christian lives. For instance, Christmas Evans (1766-1838), an influential Welsh Baptist leader, adopted Sandemanian views for a number of years in the late 1790s, but eventually found himself dwelling in ‘the cold and sterile regions of spiritual frost’, and in the grip of ‘a cold heart towards Christ, and his sacrifice, and the work of his Spirit’.

Sandemanianism, however, did not go unopposed. A number of key eighteenth-century Evangelical leaders wrote replies and rebuttals of this system, including; William Williams of Pantycelyn (1717-1791), the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist poet and hymn writer; Isaac Backus (1724-1806), the American Baptist champion of religious liberty; and Thomas Scott (1747-1821), the Anglican biblical commentator. It was the Calvinistic Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), though, who drew up what many regard as the definitive response to Sandeman and his views.

Andrew Fuller of Kettering

Andrew Fuller was born in Wicken, a small agricultural village in Cambridgeshire. His parents, Robert Fuller (1723-1781) and Philippa Gunton (1726-1816), were farmers who rented a succession of dairy farms. In 1761 his parents moved a short distance to Soham, where he and his family began to attend the local Calvinistic Baptist church, and where Fuller was converted in November 1769. After being baptized the following spring, he became a member of the Soham church. In 1774 Fuller was called to the pastorate of this work. He stayed until 1782, when he became the pastor of the Calvinistic Baptist congregation at Kettering.

His time as a pastor in Soham was a decisive period for the shaping of Fuller’s theological perspective. It was during this period that he began a lifelong study of the works of the New England divine Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) which, along with his humble submission to the authority of the infallible Scriptures and the fearless exercise of his mind, enabled him to become what his close friend John Ryland Jr (1753-1825) once described as ‘perhaps the most judicious and able theological writer that ever belonged to our [the Calvinistic Baptist] denomination’.

Strictures on Sandemanianism

Fuller came into contact with Sandemanianism when he travelled throughout Scotland in the 1790s and 1800s seeking to raise financial support for the Baptist Missionary Society and their mission at Serampore, India. Never one to allow what he considered vital error to go unchecked, Fuller penned a series of letters to a friend on the Sandemanian system, which he eventually published in 1810 as Strictures on Sandemanianism.

Fuller was quite willing to admit that there was much in Sandemanianism that he considers ‘worthy of serious attention’. Sandeman’s critique of the undue subjectivism that reigned in certain quarters of eighteenth century Evangelicalism, for instance, was not without merit. As Fuller notes: ‘If the attention of the awakened sinner, instead of being directed to Christ, be turned inward, and his mind be employed in searching for evidences of his conversion, the effect must, to say the least, be uncomfortable, and may be fatal; as it may lead him to make a righteousness of his religious feelings, instead of looking out of himself to the Saviour.’ Fuller shared Sandeman’s concern that some professing believers of their day were more taken with their experiences of Christ than with Christ himself. For them, faith is all but reduced to religious feeling.

Yet, he goes on to argue, the solution to such an unbalanced focus on the subjective elements of Christianity is not to be found by rejecting them out of hand: ‘Subjective religion is as necessary in its place as objective.’ While faith can never be identified simply with feeling, nor can it be ever divorced from the affections of the heart. Genuine faith ‘does not pertain to the understanding only’, Fuller stresses. In elaborating this position, Fuller makes a number of telling points against the Sandemanian system.

First, if faith does concern only the mind, then there would be no way to distinguish genuine Christianity from nominal Christianity. A nominal Christian mentally assents to the truths of Christianity, but those truths do not grip the heart and re-orient his or her affections. The so-called faith of a nominal Christian, Fuller points out, is really little different from that of the fallen angels, whom we are told in James 2:19 ‘believe’ in the existence of one God and ‘tremble’.

More than knowledge

Second, the opposite of saving faith in Scripture, Fuller notes, is not ‘simple ignorance’, which it would be if the Sandemanian view of faith were correct. Its opposite is an ignorance which has its roots in a deep-seated hatred of the true God. Christ can therefore state that unbelief rejects him because, in the words of John 3:19, ‘darkness is loved rather than light’. When Ephesians 4:18 talks about the understanding of unbelievers being darkened ‘because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart’, surely, Fuller reasons, the ignorance in view here is much more than mere lack of knowledge. Does it not entail, he asks, a deep-seated aversion to God and holy things? But if unbelief comprises much more than ignorance, then faith must entail more than knowledge. If unbelief involves an aversion to the truth and a forthright rejection of the gospel, then faith in it must include a love and receptive approbation of the truth.

Third, knowledge of Christ and the things of God is a distinct type of knowledge. Knowing Christ, for instance, involves far more than knowing certain things about him, such as the fact of his virgin birth or the details of his crucifixion. It involves a desire for fellowship with him, a delight in his presence, and a recognition that among all the beings of this universe he truly is the most beautiful.

Two kinds of knowledge

To substantiate this point, Fuller reproduces a lengthy passage from Jonathan Edwards’ Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, which was first published in 1746. For Fuller, as we have noted, Edwards was his major theological tutor after the Word of God. ‘No man’, he once said of Edwards, ‘possessed a clearer insight into these difficult subjects’, namely, the various roles played by the understanding, the will and the affections in the matter of conversion and the Christian life.

The passage that Fuller cites is from Part III, Section 4 of the Religious Affections, in which Edwards is detailing the fourth of twelve ways or signs in which genuine Christian spirituality reveals itself. Edwards is arguing that biblical Christianity has at its core a spiritual way of knowing or understanding which encompasses both the will’s inclinations and the heart’s affections. In Edwards’ words: ‘spiritual understanding...consists in a sense of the heart, of the supreme beauty and sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of divine things, together with all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion, that depends upon, and flows from such a sense’. Edwards then contrasts this understanding, that the Spirit imparts to all true believers, with that which is purely intellectual.

‘That sort of knowledge’, Edwards writes, ‘by which a man has a sensible perception of amiableness and loathsomeness, or of sweetness and nauseousness, is not just the same sort of knowledge with that, by which he knows what a triangle is, and what a square is. The one is mere speculative knowledge; the other sensible knowledge, in which more than the mere intellect is concerned; the heart is the proper subject of it, or the soul as a being that not only beholds, but has inclination, and is pleased or displeased. And yet there is the nature of instruction in it; as he that has perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it, than he who has only looked upon and felt of it.’

Merely intellectual knowledge, which the Sandemanians maintained was the essence of saving faith, feels no attraction or aversion to the object known. Knowledge of geometrical shapes, for example, is unaccompanied by either a relish for them or a hatred of them. Genuine knowledge of God in true Christian experience, though, is inseparable from a delight in him and a relish of his person. Such knowledge differs as much from a merely speculative knowledge as the taste of honey differs from the simple understanding that honey is sweet. The essence of true Christianity lies in genuine spiritual affections in which mind and heart, affections and understanding, are as intimately united as heat and light in a fire.

Lessons for today

What can we conclude from this brief survey of Sandemanianism and Andrew Fuller’s rebuttal of it? Well, this controversy contains a couple of important lessons for contemporary western Evangelicalism, both of them linked to this issue of spiritual affections.

First, it lays bare one of the reasons for the spiritual aridity of far too many Evangelical causes. Prevalent in many Evangelical circles is a notion of conversion and faith that is all too similar to Sandemanianism, in that it excludes emotion and the exercise of the affections. Men and women have been counselled that coming to Christ is as simple as reciting a prayer or raising their hand at an evangelistic crusade; that if they say they believe in certain propositions about Jesus, then they must be saved. They are told that faith can run independently of their affections and inclinations. They are thus given a false sense of assurance and the consequence is that our churches have within their walls numbers of men and women who base the authenticity of their Christian lives on a one-time decision.

How different is genuine conversion! Yes, the intellect is involved as it yields to the truth of the gospel. But the affections are also vitally involved as the person takes delight in the person of Christ and his love for sinners so perfectly displayed on the cross.


There is a second lesson that the Sandemanian controversy teaches with regard to the affections of the heart, and that is their vital importance in the ongoing life of the church. The barrenness of much of Evangelical church life and worship has not gone unnoticed over the past two decades. In seeking to remedy the situation, some have swung to the opposite extreme and for them the Christian life has become a restless search for extraordinary experiences and spiritual ‘highs’. In response to these ‘restless experientialists’, others have entrenched themselves more deeply in a merely intellectual approach to Christianity and scorn experience. The solution? The interwoven balance of heart and head, understanding and affection, proposed by Fuller and Edwards. Fuller does not quote the following passage from Edwards as far as I know, but it perfectly sums up the way both of these men recognized that full-orbed Christianity engages both the understanding and the affections in a passionate delight in God.

‘God glorifies himself towards the creatures in two ways: one, by appearing to their understanding, and two, by communicating himself to their hearts and in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations which he makes of himself. God is glorified not only by his glories being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it, his glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.’

-Michael Haykin

This article first appeared in September of 1998 on: The Evangelical Times website.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006



"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."
– 1 Thessalonians 1:4

(the following is by Don Fortner)

This blessed, glorious, doctrine of election is one
of the most delightful doctrines of the gospel.

What does the Word of God teach about election?
Election is "in Christ."
Election is "unto salvation."
Election is an act of God's pure, absolute, sovereignty.
Election took place in eternity.
Election's source and cause is God's eternal love
for his people.
Election is an act of free, unconditional grace.
Election is God's personal choice of specific sinners
to eternal life in Christ.
Election is irreversible.
Election is effectual.
Election is distinguishing (Isa. 43:1-4).
Election is the cause of all blessedness.

Who are the elect?
The elect are people who hear and receive the Gospel.
The elect are those who are called by the effectual,
irresistible power and grace of the Holy Spirit.
The elect are those who follow Christ.
Chosen sinners, when saved by the grace of
God, are made disciples, followers of Christ,
voluntary servants of King Jesus.
The elect are a people who are committed to
Christ and the Gospel of his grace.
The elect experience repentance and conversion
by the power of his grace. They turn from their
idols to serve the living God.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Is Calvinism Important? - Pastor Reid Ferguson

Is Calvinism Important?

By Pastor Reid Ferguson

If we are to deal with a question like this with any clarity, and if we are to understand the new birth and what attends it, we must take seriously some of the similes given to us in Scripture. For instance, regeneration is indeed called being "born again." That it holds the connotation of beginning again, while also having an element of the reality that we begin at a "younger" stage and need to grow up, is evident by many other terms as well. We are to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18a), which implies that we do not know everything about Him, and neither do we know how to live His new life within us (perfectly) right away. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us that we are given certain gifts by Christ (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor/teachers) for the express purpose of aiding in this growth process, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a MATURE man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

Now to inch closer to the question proper, let me add that we also know that such regeneration is a sovereign work of God. It is this that infallibly enables us to believe unto salvation. In other words, everyone whom God regenerates looks to Christ alone for his salvation. In fact, this illumination by the Spirit always produces three chief effects toward this end; Jesus gave them to us in John 16. He says when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world concerning sin (because they do not believe in Him); concerning righteousness (He alone must be righteous because He alone went to the Father in resurrection); and concerning impending judgment (which is evident because Satan has been judged). This is what a new believer knows: He knows of his guilt, the reality that God should judge and condemn him, and that Christ is the One he trusts in as his only deliverance. This knowledge is very basic and unadorned. He then begins to read the Bible and to sit under Biblical teaching, and, in the process, begins to grow in his knowledge of true doctrine.

That brings us back to the original question: How important is Calvinism? That depends on what you mean. Does one need to know the doctrines of grace to be saved? No, because salvation (in terms of regeneration) is not the result of believing but is that work whereby the person CAN believe. The Puritans rightly put it this way: "regeneration precedes conversion." If we keep that straight, then we clear up a lot of garbage. Let me put it another way: I am given sight that I might see; I do not try to see that I might gain sight. I am regenerated that I might believe; I do not believe that I might be regenerated.

John Flavel has a wonderful saying about the nature of our comprehension of some spiritual truths when we are still new in Christ. He remarks that a child looking up from the crib is no less a true child because he does not yet have clear conceptions of his parents. As he grows, he will learn of them, but at first he knows precious little about the parents who gave him physical life. We come into saving faith very much the same. To hear some talk, you aren't really a viable Christian until you reach puberty, or get your driver's license, or reach drinking or voting age. But the truth is, we grow. We grow because He has given us spiritual life. We do not come into the world fully grown. That would be contrary to all the Bible testifies.

An understanding of Calvinism becomes even more important as one grows in Christ. Without a good handle on the doctrines of grace, a number of things usually ensue: (1) One is more susceptible to error. (2) One can make little true progress in sanctification. (3) The Bible will be very confusing. (4) The experience of the Christian life will tend to be less constant and more prone to ups and downs. There are others, but these are the principle ones, in my judgment. The doctrines of grace are foundational to building a solid, consistent, spiritual life. They must not, however, be confused with life itself, which is given by God alone.

One may ask, "Are these doctrines optional then?" In reply, one must also ask, "In what sense?" I do not need them in order to be made alive, but I do need them to live well. I do not need them to know some truth, even basic converting truth (i.e. the Gospel), but I do need to know them to know the whole truth. They are essential in their place. All truth is essential, but how much truth we know, and when we come to know it, varies. When I was very little, I assumed that the streetlights went off and the whole world went to bed when I did. As I grew, I learned that older kids stayed up later; then I learned that my parents stayed up VERY late. When I learned about time zones--whammo--my whole worldview changed. I didn't need to know all that starting out in life. Knowing that we are depraved--sinful and in need of a Savior--is part and parcel to our conversion. Knowing the depths of our depravity is essential to learning the glory of that salvation, but it is not essential to being saved. Unconditional election is essential to forming a right view of evangelism and to laboring with power and without discouragement, but many truly evangelize without it when they point to Christ and Christ alone as the only sacrifice for sins, once for all offered. If this were not true, Paul could not say

Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice. (Phil. 1:15-18)
Limited atonement helps me understand that Christ did exactly what He came to do; He left no elect man without forgiveness, and He didn't fail. I can trust in that even when I see men seemingly fall back into sin. Such truth prevents anxiety over the souls of men we cannot reach with the gospel. But I do not need to know these truths in order to believe (that is a function of regeneration, remember) nor to preach Christ. Irresistible grace unfolds the Father's unfailing love for His own as nothing else can do, but few men know it is irresistible at the time it brings them to the cross. We come up against it like a rowboat against a supertanker, but we do so in a fog. It isn't until the light of His Word burns off the vapor that we see what really happened. Many a justified man needlessly fears that he might ultimately fail God. We all will fail Him, but what confidence and assurance attends our walk, when once we know the truth that the saints shall all endure! There is nothing like walking up to a bully in the school yard, fearing for life and limb, only to find out later that your big brother was just a few steps behind--waiting to rescue you should you need it. I don't need to know that to live, but how I live surely changes when it is driven home to my soul. We are always responsible to seek out and learn the truth of God's Word, but though we fail to know it fully or do not see some things by reason of the simple defect of our fallenness and the limits of our gifts and capacities, one day I know I will see Him as He is, and that I will know all He desires for me.

How do the doctrines of Grace relate to preaching of the Gospel? Men, in darkness here, are often tempted to use human inventions to convince, cajole, button hole, brow beat or drag men into the Kingdom. Sad. As Augustus Strong once said, "the proof that the Bible is divine is that it has withstood so many years of bad preaching." More often than not, God saves men in spite of our efforts, not because of them, even with the best of preachers. That is no excuse for not knowing or searching out the whole of Biblical truth more accurately or for poor usage of these doctrines in particular. At the same time, knowing these truths blissfully reminds us that Christ will lose none of His Father's elect, ordained to salvation. A proper understanding of the doctrines of Grace will impact the confidence with which we preach and witness. We know that God will gather in His elect, and we know that He most often uses the preaching of His Word to do so; thus, we sow the seed with the utmost joy and confidence. It especially relates to the witness of the work of the Gospel in our lives. When men are anxious about losing their souls, they are greatly distracted from the true, joyous worship of God and from the liberty to live in freedom and trust in their God. It should affect our humility greatly. Knowing there is nothing in our salvation of ourselves, but that all is owing to His grace, makes us able to worship in Spirit AND in truth. Knowing we shall endure by His grace keeps us from fearing the world and running to hide in cloisters and behind the walls of Christian communes. All these things greatly impact the way in which we minister to others, the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit we enjoy, the measure of freedom from the power of sin, and on and on.

To bring a child into the world is one thing. To not equip that child by failing to teach the skills and knowledge necessary to function in society is a horrible travesty, but it does not make him any less a true child. One would be horribly pained to see a six-year old child who was never taught to walk, or to speak, or to feed himself. But one would not, could not, say that he wasn't human because he could not do such things. Neither can we make such claims of professing Christians who do not yet fully understand and affirm the doctrines of Grace. May we roll up our sleeves then, and help all our brethren grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May we give one another the truth of God's Word that we might bring more and more glory to His name.

-Pastor Reid Ferguson

Friday, July 07, 2006

Christians do Fall into the Same Sins From Time to Time

Sheep or swine?

(Brooks "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices")

It is possible for Christians to fall into the same sins of
which they have formerly repented--by the secret, subtle,
and strong workings of sin in their hearts. And no wonder,
for though their repentance is ever so sincere and sound
--yet their graces are but weak, and their mortification
of sin is imperfect in this life. Though by grace they are
freed from the dominion of sin, and from the damnatory
power of every sin, and from the love of all sin; yet grace
does not free them from the indwelling of any one sin.
Therefore it is possible for a Christian to fall again and
again into the same sin.

God will graciously pardon those sins to His people,
which He will not in this life totally subdue in His people.

I have never seen a promise in Scripture, which says that
when our sorrow and grief has been so great, or so much,
for this or that sin--that God will then preserve us from
ever falling into the same sin. The sight of such a promise
would be as life from the dead to many a precious soul,
who desires nothing more than to keep close to Christ,
and fears nothing more than backsliding from Christ.

Yet, there is a great difference between a sheep which by
weakness falls into the mire--and a swine which delights
to wallow in the mire! There is a great difference between
a woman who is raped, though she fights and cries out--
and an alluring adulteress!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

By John Hendryx

"First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also,
I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." Acts 26:20

"I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn
to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus." Acts 20:21

There is a divergence of viewpoints on this topic that, recently, has led to quite a bit of contention among evangelicals. This has also been known as the Lordship, no-Lordship debate. After we strip away the bark what is left is the difference between the Reformed and a dispensational view of salvation. After doing some serious personal contemplation over this I have personally come to the conclusion that the difference lies in each camps’ understanding of the doctrine of regeneration.

The dispensationalists will argue that to require repentance, as part of salvation, is to actually add another requirement to ‘faith alone’. In other words, to require belief in Christ’s Lordship in addition to the belief in Christ as Savior is tantamount to adding a work and confusing the simple gospel of faith alone with some action on the believers’ part. Any addition to simple faith is seen as another gospel and dangerously close to salvation by works. Such critics would thus define repentance to only mean a change of mind towards one’s previous view of Christ.

On the other hand, the Reformed understanding salvation is that God commands all persons to repent and believe the gospel. Repentance here means to turn away from all known sin and from trusting in one’s good works. A Reformed understanding sees faith and repentance as two sides of the same coin that really cannot be separated. To believe in Jesus means to recognize that one is a sinner in rebellion against God. It is not simply adding Jesus to one’s life among other interests but to consciously forsake other loves and idols. Prior to salvation one’s love for sin was more than one’s love for God. The result of grace working in one’s soul caused the repentant sinner to have a new affection for God that now desires God more than he desires sin.

I will argue here that the difference between these two positions is no mere argument about semantics. Rather, this is an argument about hermeneutics, about how one understands God’s work of salvation in one’s soul. I commend the dispensational position for attempting to protect the simple doctrine of faith alone but it fails to take into account the doctrine of regeneration. Understandably, the dispensationalists see the additional requirement of repentance as unbiblical from their viewpoint since they have embraced a synergistic scheme of salvation. What do I mean by this? I mean that most dispensationalists teach that the atonement and grace are God’s part in salvation, while faith is our part. But the atonement and the grace they speak of is not effectual in and of itself and cannot effect the completion of salvation without the cooperation and consent of the sinner. Somehow the sinner, in his unregenerate, fallen state has the ability to turn to Christ in faith with some help from God’s grace. But in the final analysis, it is the sinner that contributes his faith as part of the requirement of salvation. Such a belief sees regeneration as the result of, rather than the cause of faith.

The Reformed understanding of repentance and faith is that both of these are not something that the sinner contributes to the price of his or her salvation. They are, rather, the supernatural result of God working new affections in their soul. Therefore, repentance is not something that the sinner is adding in addition to faith as a work, but both repentance and faith are seen as the infallible result of the new birth that is applied to sinners by the Holy Spirit. A biblical understanding sees faith and repentance not as something we create or perform or supply, apart from regenerative grace. The unregenerate are truly incapable of creating a right thought, generating a right affection, or originating a right volition, so God, in His mercy, gives to His people freely, that which He demands from us. God disarms the opposition of the human heart, subduing the hostility of the carnal mind, and with irresistible power (John 6:37) draws His chosen ones to repentance and faith in Christ. The gospel confesses, "We love Him because He first loved us."

When admonishing us to teach the gospel to unbelievers the Scripture says do so, "with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth." (emphasis mine). It couldn't be more clear that the apostles viewed repentance as something God enables us to do, since the unsaved are being held captive by the devil to do his will and unable and unwilling to loose their chains on their own.

What I would argue, therefore, is that it is the dispensational view that actually adds to the simplicity of the gospel of grace. That is because I believe the Scriptures teach that the very desire for faith itself is a gift of God’s mercy. The idea that it is something that we ourselves generate in our fallen nature is the cause of great confusion in our day. All evangelicals will agree that faith is our responsibility but a deficient view of man’s depravity has led to erroneous doctrines that make faith itself something we have to contribute to our salvation and therefore it is perilously close to trusting in something we do in order to win God’s approval for salvation. If you don’t see this, ask yourself how a fallen sinner who hates God suddenly was able to generate affections for God. If I share the gospel to two men sitting in the same room and one believes the gospel, why is it that he believed and not the other? Was one more spiritual, have more love, have a better knowledge, originate a better thought? From where in his soul did he get the power to believe? Any answer other than God’s pure grace is saying that God choose us because of something right or good within us. Even if you believe that God initiates with grace (as a synergist), we still have to respond by drawing from something within our unregenerate nature. The Scriptures testify that the:

“… natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Cor 2:14


“…the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” Rom 8:7

So in the end, I would argue, it is actually the synergistic dispensational view that is erroneously making additions to the pure gospel that says, “salvation is of the Lord.” They very beginning and desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to us through regeneration: does this belong to us by nature or is it a gift of grace itself, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness? If not then you have missed the point of the Scripture which declares, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, " For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (Eph. 2:8). Grace does not depend on the humility or obedience of man but it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, for the Scriptures testify "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

So the requirement for repentance and to believe that Christ is Lord is plainly taught in the Scripture. The dispensational view would have one reject Christ’s Lordship when coming to faith. No, the correct understanding is that God works new affections in us. When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God has the power to graciously open people's eyes, change the disposition of their hearts, and bring them to faith and repentance (James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23, 25). Anything less is to misapprehend what God does when he raises us from spiritual death. Faith and repentance are not something we get the glory for: God gets all the glory.

Does God have mercy upon us, apart from His regenerative grace, so that we believe, will, desire, strive and labor? Shouldn’t we all confess that it is by the efficacious working and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith, the will, or the desire to do all these things as we ought to? Repentance or yielding to the Lordship of Christ at the time of salvation is just a simple product of our new nature in Christ, not something we do to earn a new nature. I would argue that many dispensationalists who uphold no-Lordship are actually teaching that salvation is by grace plus faith rather than this historic Christian teaching of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. That even faith itself is not of ourselves but a divine gift to the soul, for what do we have that we did not receive?. (2 Tim 2:25, Phil 1:29, Hebrews 12:2, 1 John 5:1, Rom 3:24, Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Eph 2:8, John 1:13) Do you see the difference? One makes faith something we contribute to complete the work of salvation while the other views salvation as a work of God alone.

To conclude, this issue is so critical that the church in America must reclaim a right understanding this doctrine if it has any hope of continuing usefulness to God in the world. God deals with us personally, not as abstractions, as those who have transgressed His law, who are hostile and engaged in obstinate rebellion against His legitimate authority in our lives. The seriousness of man's fallen condition has often been put aside in modern churches due to, what I believe, are erroneous views of repentance. The casualness of our message to merely "accept Jesus" without helping people to understand our wretched condition, allows many to remain stubbornly unyielding in their pride and sin. This large-scale "user-friendly" message in today's evangelical churches have given rise to a Christianity that gives hollow worship to Christ but creates a heart that remains unrenewed and still delights in sin. Many are unwilling to give the Lord their allegiance because they have not been born again. They are told, however, that because they "accepted Jesus into their heart" at some moment in the past that it doesn't matter that they now live in rebellion against God. The continuing spirit of defiant, willful rebellion to Christ's authority as an unbroken pattern of our churches are a direct result of a lack of understanding among church leaders of the doctrine of regeneration.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Luke 24:47 - Spurgeon Sermon 1729

Beginning at Jerusalem


A Sermon
(No. 1729)
Delivered on Thursday Evening, June 14th, 1883, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington


"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."—Luke 24:47.
The servants of God were not left to originate a gospel for themselves, as certain modern teachers appear to do, nor were they even left to map out their mode of procedure in the spreading of the glad tidings. They were told by their great Master what to preach, and where to preach it, and how to preach it, and even where to begin to preach it. There is ample room for the exercise of our thought in obeying Christ's commands; but the worldly wise in these days call no one a thoughtful person who is content to be a docile follower of Jesus. They call themselves "thoughtful and cultured" simply because they set up their own thoughts in opposition to the thoughts of God. It were well if they would remember the old proverb—"Let another praise thee, and not thine own lips." As a rule those who call themselves "intellectual" are by no means persons of great intellect. Great minds seldom proclaim their own greatness. These boasters are not satisfied to be "followers of God, as dear children," but must strike out a path for themselves; this reveals their folly rather than their culture. We shall find use for every faculty which we possess, even if we are endowed with ten talents, in doing just as we are bidden by our Lord. Implicit obedience is not thoughtless: on the contrary, it is necessary to its completeness that heart and mind should be active in it.
I. Ye that would faithfully serve Christ note carefully how he taught his disciples WHAT THEY WERE TO PREACH. We find different descriptions of the subject of our preaching, but on this occasion it is comprised in two things—repentance and remission of sins. I am glad to find in this verse that old- fashioned virtue called repentance. It used to be preached, but it has gone out of fashion now. Indeed, we are told that we always misunderstood the meaning of the word "repentance"; and that it simply means a "change of mind," and nothing more. I wish that those who are so wise in their Greek knew a little more of that language, for they would not be so ready with their infallible statements. True, the word does signify a change of mind, but in its Scriptural connection it indicates a change of mind of an unusual character. It is not such a fitful thing as men mean when they speak of changing their minds, as some people do fifty times a day; but it is a change of mind of a deeper kind. Gospel repentance is a change of mind of the most radical sort—such a change as never was wrought in any man except by the Spirit of God. We mean to teach repentance, the old-fashioned repentance, too; and I do not know a better description of it that the child's verse:—

"Repentance is to leave
The things we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing so no more."

Let every man understand that he will never have remission of sin while he is in love with sin; and that if he abides in sin he cannot obtain the pardon of sin. There must be a hatred of sin, a loathing of it, and a turning from it, or it is not blotted out. We are to preach repentance as a duty. "The times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." He that has sinned is bound to repent of having sinned: it is the least that he can do. How can any man ask God for mercy while he abides in his sin?
We are to preach the acceptableness of repentance. In itself considered there is nothing in repentance deserving of the favour of God; but, the Lord Jesus Christ having come, we read, "He that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall find mercy." God accepts repentance for the sake of his dear Son. He smiles upon the penitent sinner, and puts away his iniquities. this we are to make known on all sides.
We are also to preach the motives of repentance—that men may not repent from mere fear of hell, but they must repent of sin itself. Every thief is sorry when he has to go to prison: every murderer is sorry when the noose is about his neck: the sinner must repent, not because of the punishment of sin, but because his sin is sin against a pardoning God, sin against a bleeding Saviour, sin against a holy law, sin against a tender gospel. The true penitent repents of sin against God, and he would do so even if there were no punishment. When he is forgiven, he repents of sin more than ever; for he sees more clearly than ever the wickedness of offending so gracious a God.
We are to preach repentance in its perpetuity. Repentance is not a grace which is only to be exercised by us for a week or so at the beginning of our Christian career: it is to attend us all the way to heaven. Faith and repentance are to be inseparable companions throughout our pilgrimage to glory. Repenting of our sin, and trusting in the great Sinbearer, is to be the tenor of our lives; and we are to preach to men that it must be so.
We are to tell them of the source of repentance, namely, that the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins. Repentance is a plant that never grows on nature's dunghill: the nature must be changed, and repentance must be implanted by the Holy Spirit, or it will never flourish in our hearts. We preach repentance as a fruit of the Spirit, or else we greatly err.
Our second theme is to be remission of sins. What a blessed subject is this! To preach the full pardon of sin—that it is blotted out once for all; the free pardon of sin—that God forgives voluntarily of his own grace; free forgiveness for the very chief of sinners for all their sins, however black they may be; is not this a grand subject? We are to preach a final and irreversible remission; not a pardon which is given and taken back again, so that a man may have his sins forgiven and yet be punished for them. I loathe such a gospel as that, and could not preach it. It would come with an ill grace from these lips. But the pardon of God once given stands for ever. If he has cast our sin into the depths of the sea it will never be washed up again.If he has removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west, how can they return to condemn us? Once washed in the blood of the Lamb we are clean. The deed is done: the one offering has put away for ever all the guilt of believers.
Now this is what we are to preach—free, full, irreversible pardon for all that repent of sin, and lay hold on Christ by faith. O servants of the Lord, be not ashamed to declare it, for this is your message!
II. Next to this, we are told WHERE IT IS TO BE PREACHED. The text says that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations. Here, then, we have the divine warrant for missions. They are no speculations, or enthusiastic dreams; they are matters of divine command. I daresay you have heard of what the Duke of Wellington said to a missionary in India who was questioning whether it was of any use to preach the gospel to the Hindus. "What are your marching orders?" said this man of discipline and obedience. "What are your marching orders?" that is the deciding question. Now the marching orders are, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." What a wonder it is that the church did not see this long before. After her first days she seems to have fallen asleep, and it is scarcely a hundred years ago since in the providence and grace of God the church began to wake to her high enterprise. We are to preach the gospel everywhere: missions are to be universal. All nations need the preaching of the word. The gospel is a remedy for every human ill among all the races that live upon the face of the earth. Some out of all nations shall receive it; for there shall be gathered before the eternal throne men out of every kindred, and nation, and tongue. No nation will utterly refuse it: there will be found a remnant according to the election of grace even among the most perverse of the tribes of men.
We ought to preach it to every creature, for it is written that it behoved to be so. Read the forty-sixth verse: "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: . . . and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations." Brethren, there was a divine necessity that Christ should die, and an equally imperative must that he should arise again from the dead; but there is an equally absolute necessity that Jesus should be preached to every creature under heaven. It behooves to be so. Who, then, will linger? Let us each one, according to his ability and opportunity, tell to all around us the story of the forgiveness of sin through the Mediator's sacrifice to as many as confess their sin and forsake it. We are bidden to preach repentance of sin and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, let us not be slow to do so.
III. But this is not all . We are actually told HOW TO PREACH IT. Repentance and remission are to be preached in Christ's name. What does this mean? Ought we not to learn from this that we are to tell the gospel to others, because Christ orders us to do so? In Christ's name we must do it. Silence is sin when salvation is the theme. If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out against them. My brethren, you must proclaim the gospel according to your ability: it is not a thing which you may do or may not do at your own discretion; but you must do it if you have any respect for your Saviour's name. If you dare pray in that name, if you dare hope in that name, if you hear the music of joy in that name, then in the name of Jesus Christ preach the gospel in every land.
But it means more than that. Not only preach it under his orders, but preach it on his authority. The true servant of Christ has his Master to back him up. The Lord Jesus will seal by threatening or by grace the word of his faithful messengers. If we threaten the ungodly, the threatening shall be fulfilled. If we announce God's promise to the penitent, that promise shall be surely kept. The Lord Jesus will not let the words of his own ambassadors fall to the ground. "Lo, I am with you alway," says he, "even to the end of the world. Go ye therefore and teach all nations." You have Christ with you: teach the nations by his authority.
But does it not mean, also, that the repentance and the remission which are so bound together come to men by virtue of his name? Oh, sinner, there would be no acceptance of your repentance if it were not for that dear name! Oh, guilty conscience, there would be no ease for you through the remission of sin if it were not that the blessed name of Jesus is sweet to the Lord God of hosts! We dare preach pardon to you in his name. The blood has been shed and sprinkled on the burning throne: the Christ has gone in within the veil, and stands there "able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Salvation in his name there is assuredly, and this is our glory; but "there is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved." That name has a fullness of saving efficacy, and if you will but rest in it, you shall find salvation, and find it now. Thus you see we are not bidden to go forth and say—We preach you the gospel in the name of our own reason; or we preach you the gospel in the name of the church to which we belong, or by the authority of a synod, or a bishop, or a creed, or a whole church. No, we declare the truth in the name of Christ. Christ has set his honour to pawn for the truth of the gospel. He will lose his glory if sinners that believe and repent are not saved. Dishonour will come to the Son of God if any man repenting of sin is not accepted before God. For his name's sake he will not cast away one that comes to him. O chief of sinners! he will receive you if you will come. He cannot reject you; that were to be false to his own promise, untrue to his own nature.
Be sure then that you preach in Christ's name. If you preach in your own name it is poor work. A man says to me, "I cannot tell a dead sinner to live. I cannot tell a blind sinner to see. I cannot invite an insensible sinner; it is absurd; for the sinner is altogether without strength." No, dear sir, I do not suppose you can do so while you speak according to carnal reason. Does the good man say that God has not sent him to bid the dead arise? Then let him not do it. Pray let him not try to do what God never sent him to do. Let him go home and go to bed; he will probably do as much good asleep as awake. But as for me, I am sent to preach in Jesus' name, "Believe and live," and therefore I am not slow to do so. I am sent on purpose to say, Ye dry bones, live, and I dare do no otherwise. No faithful minister who knows what faith means looks to the sinner for power to believe, or looks to himself for power; but he looks to the Master that sent him for power; and in the name of Christ he says to the withered hand, "Be stretched out," and he says to the dead, "Come forth!" and he does not speak in vain. Oh, yes, it is in Christ's name that we fulfill our office! We are miracle-workers: he endows us with his power if in faith we tell out his gospel. All of you who try to speak the gospel may do it without fear of failure; for the power lies in the gospel and in the Spirit who goes with it, not in the preacher or in the sinner. Blessed be the name of God, we have this treasure in earthen vessels but the excellency of the power is of God, and not of us. So he tells us, then, what to preach, and where to preach it, and how to preach it.
IV. Now, I shall ask your attention to the principal topic of the present discourse, and that is, that he told his disciples WHERE TO BEGIN.
I have heard of a Puritan who had in his sermon forty-five main divisions, and about ten subdivisions under every head. He might be said largely to divide the word of truth, even if he did not rightly divide it. Now,I have nine subheads to-night, and yet I hope I shall not detain you beyond the usual time. I cannot make fewer of them and give the full meaning of this sentence—"Beginning at Jerusalem." The apostles were not to pick and choose where they should start, but they were to begin at Jerusalem. Why?
First, because it was written in the Scriptures that they were to begin at Jerusalem: "Thus it is written,and thus it behooves, that repentance and remission of sin should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." It was so written: I will give you two or three proofs. Read in the second chapter of Isaiah, at the third verse: "Out of Zion shall come forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Isaiah's word would have fallen to the ground if the preaching had not begun at Jerusalem; but now, to the very letter, this prediction of the evangelical prophet is kept. In Joel, that famous Joel who prophesied the descent of the Spirit and the speaking of the servants and the handmaidens, we read in the second chapter, at the thirty-second verse, "In mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance;" and again in the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of the same prophet—"The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem." As if the Lord were as a strong lion in the midst of Jerusalem, and as if the sounding forth of the gospel was like the roaring of his voice, that the nations might hear and tremble. How could those promises have been kept if the gospel had begun to be preached in the deserts of Arabia, or if the first church of Christ had been set up at Damascus? Note another passage. Obadiah in his twenty-first verse says, "Saviours shall come up on mount Zion." Who were these saviours but those who instrumentally became so by proclaiming the Saviour Jesus Christ. And Zechariah, who is full of visions, but not visionary, says in his fourteenth chapter at the eighth verse, "Living waters shall flow out of Jerusalem," and then he describes the course of those waters till they flowed even unto the Dead Sea, and made its waters sweet. Because the Bible said so, therefore they must begin at Jerusalem, and I call your attention to this, for our Lord Jesus was particular that every jot and tittle of the Old Testament should be fulfilled. Do you not think that this reads us a lesson that we should be very reverent towards every sentence of both the Old and the New Testaments; and if there be anything taught by our Lord ought not his people to consider well, and act according to the divine ordinance? I am afraid that many take their religion from their parents, or from the church that is nearest to them, without weighing it. "I counsel thee to keep the King's commandment." Oh, that we may be more faithful servants of the Lord; for if we are faithful we shall be careful upon what men call small points, such as the doctrine of baptism, the manner of the Lord's Supper, or this small point of where the gospel should be first preached. It must begin at Jerusalem and nowhere else; for the Scripture cannot be broken. See ye to it, then, that ye walk according to the word of God, and that ye test everything by it. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." So much on that first head.
Secondly, I suppose that our Lord bade his disciples begin to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, because it was at Jerusalem that the facts which make up the gospel had occurred. It was there that Jesus Christ died, that he was buried, that he rose again, and that he ascended into heaven. All these things happened at Jerusalem, or not far from it. Therefore the witness-bearing of the apostles must be upon the spot where if they lie they can be confuted, and where persons can come forward and say, "It was not so; you are deceivers." If our Lord had said, "Do not say anything in Jerusalem. Go away to Rome and begin preaching there," it would not have looked quite so straightforward as it now does when he says, "Preach this before the scribes and the priests. They know that it is so. They have bribed the soldiers to say otherwise, but they know that I have risen." The disciples were to preach the gospel in the streets of Jerusalem. There were people in that city who were once lame, and who leaped like a hart when Jesus healed them. There were men and women there who ate of the fish and that bread that Jesus multiplied. There were people in Jerusalem who had seen their children and their friends healed of dreadful diseases. Jesus bids his disciples beard the lion in his den, and declare the gospel on the spot where, if it had been untrue, it would have been contradicted with violence. Our Lord seemed to say, "Point to the very place where my death took place. Tell them that they crucified me; and see if they dare deny it. Bring it home to their consciences that they rejected the Christ of God." Hence it was that, coming to the very people who had seen these things, the preaching of Peter had unusual force about it: in addition to the power of the Holy Spirit there was also this—that he was telling them of a crime which they had newly committed, and could not deny: and when they saw their error they turned to God with penitent hearts. I like this thought—that they were to begin at Jerusalem, because there the events of the gospel occurred. This is a direction for you, dear friend: if you have been newly converted, do not be ashamed to tell those who know you. A religion which will not stand the test of the fireside is not worth much! "Oh," says one. "I have never told my husband. I get out on a Thursday night, but he does not know where I am going, and I steal in here. I have never even told my children that I am a believer. I do not like to let it be known. I am afraid that all my family would oppose me." Oh, yes; you are going to heaven, round by the back lanes. Going to sneak into glory as a rat crawls into a room through a hole in the floor! Do not attempt it. Never be ashamed of Christ. Come straight out and say to your friends, "You know what I was; but now I have become a disciple of Jesus Christ." Begin at Jerusalem: it was your Lord's command. He had nothing to be ashamed of. There was no falsehood in what he bade his disciples preach, and therefore he did as good as say, "Hang up my gospel to the light. It is nothing but truth, therefore display it before mine enemies' eyes." If yours is a true, genuine, thorough conversion, I do not say that you are to go up and down the street crying out that you are converted; but on due occasions you must not hide your convictions. Conceal not what the Lord has done for you, but hold up your candle in your own house.
The third reason why the Lord Jesus told them to begin at Jerusalem may have been that he knew that there would come a time when some of his disciples would despise the Jews, and therefore he said—When you preach my gospel, begin with them. This is a standing commandment, and everywhere we ought to preach the gospel to the Jew as well as to the Gentile; Paul even says, "to the Jew first." Some seem to think that there ought to be no mission to the Jews—that there is no hope of converting them, that they are of no use when they are converted, and so on. I have even heard some who call themselves Christians speak slightingly of the Jewish people. What! and your Lord and Master a Jew! There is no race on earth so exalted as they are. They are the seed of Abraham, God's friend. We have nobles and dukes in England, but how far could they trace their pedigree? Why, up to a nobody. But the poorest Jew on earth is descended linearly from Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham. Instead of treating them with anything like disrespect, the Saviour says, "Begin at Jerusalem." Just as we say, "Ladies first," so it is "the Jew first." They take precedence among races, and are to be first waited on at the gospel feast. Jesus would have us entertain a deep regard to that nation which God chose of old, and out of which Christ also came, for he is of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. He puts those first who knew him first. Let us never sneer at a Jew again; for our Lord teaches us the rule of his house when he says, "Begin at Jerusalem." Let the seed of Israel first have the gospel presented to them, and if they reject it we shall be clear of their blood. But we shall not be faithful to our orders unless we have taken note of Jews as well as Gentiles.
The fourth reason for beginning at Jerusalem is a practical lesson for you. Begin where you are tempted not to begin. Naturally these disciples would have said one to another when they met, "We cannot do much here in Jerusalem. The first night that we met together the doors were shut for fear of the Jews. It is of no use for us to go out into the street; these people are all in such an excited frame of mind that they will not receive us; we had better go up to Damascus, or take a long journey and then commence preaching; and when this excitement is cooled down, and they have forgotten about the crucifixion, we will come and introduce Christ gradually, and say as little as we can about putting him to death." That would have been the rule of policy—that rule which often governs men who ought to be led by faith. But our Lord had said, "Beginning at Jerusalem," and so Peter must stand up in the midst of that motley throng, and he must tell them, "This Jesus whom ye have with wicked hands crucified and slain is now risen from the dead." Instead of tearing Peter to pieces they come crowding up, crying, "We believe in Jesus: let us be baptized into his sacred name." The same day there were added to the church three thousand souls, and a day or two afterwards five thousand were converted by the same kind of preaching. We ought always to try to do good where we think that it will not succeed. If we have a very strong aversion as a token that we are not called to it, we may regard it as a sign that we ought at least to try it. The devil knows you, dear friend, better than you know yourself. You see, he has been longer in the world than you have, and he knows a great deal more about human nature than you do; and so he comes to you, and he reckons you up pretty accurately, and says, "This brother would be very useful in a certain sphere of labour, and I must keep him from it." So he tells the brother that he is not called to it, and that it is not the sort of thing for him, and so on; and then he says to himself, "I have turned aside one foe from harming my cause." Yonder is a good sister. Oh, how much she might do for Christ, but Satan guides her into a work in which she will never shine; while the holy work which she could do right well is dreaded by her. I heard a beautiful story last Wednesday, when I was sitting to see inquirers, and I cannot help mentioning it here, for it may be a suggestion to some Christian who is present. A brother, who will be received into the church, was converted in the following way. He came up to London, and worked in a certain parish in the West- end. He was at work on a sewer, and a lady from one of the best houses in the West-end came to the men that were making the sewer and said, "You men, come into my servants' hall and eat your dinners. I will give you either tea or coffee with your meal, and then you will not have to go into the public-house." Some of them went in, but others did not. So the next day the lady came out, and said, "Now, I know that you think my place too fine for you. You do not like to come; so I have come out to fetch you in. While this sewer is being done I should like you to eat your dinners in my house." She got them all in; and when they had done their dinners and drank their tea or coffee she began to talk to them about Jesus Christ. The work was a month or so about, and it was every day the same. Our friend does not know the lady's name, but he knows the name of Jesus through her teaching. Friends, we lose hosts of opportunities; I am sure we do. Many ways of doing good have never occurred to our minds, but they ought to occur to us; and when they do occur we should use them. Let us crucify the flesh about this. Let us overcome natural timidity. Let us in some way or other begin at Jerusalem, which is just where we thought that we never could begin.
Now fifthly. We are getting on, you see. "Beginning at Jerusalem," must surely mean begin at home. Jerusalem was the capital city of their own country. You know the old proverb, "The cobbler's wife goes barefoot." I am afraid that this proverb is verified by some Christians. They do a deal of good five miles off home, but none at home. I knew a man who used to go out with preachers every night in the week, and try to preach himself, poor soul that he was; but his children were so neglected that they were the most wicked children in the street, and they grew up in all manner of vice. The father was prancing about and looking after other people, and did not care for his own family. Now, if you are going to serve Christ to the very ends of the earth, take care that you begin at home. Dear parents, need I urge you to look to your own children? It is a great joy to me to know that the members of the church for the most part do this. When a dear sister came to me on Wednesday night with three of her children, making four that had come within the last six weeks, I felt grateful to God that parents were looking after their offspring. But if any of you are in the Sabbath-school, and never have a Sabbath-school at home; if any of you talk to strangers in the aisles, but are neglecting your own sons and daughters—oh, let it not be so! The power of a father's prayers with his arms about his boy's neck I know full well. The power of a mother's prayers with her children all kneeling round her is far greater with the young than any public ministry will be. Look well to your children: begin at Jerusalem.
Begin with your servants. Do not let a servant live in your house in ignorance of the gospel. Do not have family prayer merely as a matter of form, but let it be a reality. Do not have one person working for you to whom you have never spoken about his or her soul.
Begin with your brothers. Oh, the influence of sisters over brothers! I have a friend—a dear friend, too—who has long been a man of God, but in his young days he was a very loose fellow, and often he was all the night away from home. His sister used to write letters to him, and frequently while half tipsy he has read them under the street lamp. One letter which he read cut him to the quick. His sister's grief about him was too much for him, and he was compelled to seek and find the Saviour. Well has the sister been rewarded for all her love to him. Oh, dear friends, begin at Jerusalem! Begin with your brothers and sisters.
Begin with your neighbours. Oh, this London of ours! It is a horrible place for Christian people to live in! Round about this neighbourhood scarcely can a decent person remain by reason of the vice that abounds, and the language that is heard on every side. Many of you are as much vexed to-day as Lot was when he was in Sodom. Well, bear your witness. Do not be dumb dogs, but speak up for your Lord and Master whenever you are. Look at our dear brother Lazenby, who entered a workshop where none feared the Lord, and has been the means of bringing all in the shop to God. Another shop has felt his influence, and the first recruit has come to join the church: I should not wonder if the whole of the workmen in the second shop should come, too. The Lord grant it. It is marvelous how the gospel spreads when men are in earnest, and their lives are right. God make you so to live that you show piety at home.
Then, sixthly, begin where much has been already done. Begin at Jerusalem. It is hard work, dear friends, to preach to certain people: they have been preached to so long, like the people at Jerusalem. They know all about the gospel, it is hard to tell them anything fresh, and yet they have felt nothing, but remain wedded to their sins. The Jerusalem people had been taught for centuries in vain; and yet Christ's disciples were to speak to them first. We must not pass the gospel-hardened; we must labour for the conversion of those who have enjoyed privileges but have neglected them, those who have had impressions and have crushed them out, those who seem now as if they had sealed their own death-warrants and would never be saved. Do not hesitate to go to them. The Lord has done much already: it may be that he has laid the fire, and you are to strike the match and set it all alight. Many people have a love to the gospel, a love to the house of God, a love to God's people, and yet they have no saving faith. What a pity! Do not hesitate to address them. I think I hear you say, "I would rather go and preach to the outcasts." So would I; but you and I are not allowed to pick our work. Virgin soil yields the best harvest; and if a man might choose a congregation that is likely to be fruitful, he might well select those that have never heard the word before. But we have not our choice. The Saviour's disciples were to begin where the prophets had prophesied, and had been put to death; where sinners had rejected God's voice times out of mind. Therefore do not pass by your fellow-seatholders. Perhaps you say, "Sir, I have spoken to them a great many times, but I cannot make anything of them." No, you cannot; but God can. Try again. Suppose that for twenty years you were to sit in this Tabernacle side by side with an unconverted person, and you were to speak to that person twice every Sunday and twice in the week, and all the twenty years it should be in vain; yet if the individual was brought to Christ at last would not his conversion repay you? Is your time so very precious? Is your ability so very great? Oh, my dear friend, if you were an archangel it would be worth while for you to work a thousand years to bring one soul to Christ! A soul is such a precious jewel that you would be abundantly rewarded if a century of service only brought you one conversion. Wherefore, in working for Christ, do not hesitate to go to those who have refused the gospel hitherto, for you may yet prevail.
Seventhly, begin where the gospel day is short. If you ask me where I get that thought, it is from the fact that within a very short time Jerusalem was to be destroyed. The Romans were to come there to slay men, women, and children, and break down the walls and leave not one stone upon another. And Christ's disciples knew this; wherefore their Lord said, "Begin at Jerusalem." Now, then, if you have any choice as to the person you shall speak to, select an old man. He is near his journey's end, and if he is unsaved there is but a little bit of candle left by the light of which he may come to Christ. Choose the old man, and do not let him remain ignorant of the gospel. Fish him up at once, for with him it is now or never, since he is on the borders of the grave. Or when any of you notice a girl upon whose cheek you see that hectic flush which marks consumption—if you notice during service the deep "churchyard" cough—say to yourself, "I will not let you go without speaking to you, for you may soon be dead." How many a time have I seen a consumptive at Mentone apparently getting better; but I have noticed him rise from dinner with his handkerchief to his mouth and soon they have whispered, "He died of hemorrhage"—suddenly taken off. When you meet with a pining case, do not wait to be introduced, but introduce yourself; and tenderly, gently, quietly, lovingly say a word about coming to Christ at once. We ought speedily to look up those whose day of grace is short. Perhaps, also, there is a stranger near you who is going far away to a distant land, and may never hear the gospel again; therefore, if you have an opportunity, take care that you avail yourself of it, and reason with him for Jesus at once. Begin at Jerusalem: begin where the day of grace is short.
Eighthly, begin, dear friend, where you may expect opposition. That is a singular thing to advise, but I recommend it because the Saviour advised it. It was as certain as that twice two are four that if they preached Christ in Jerusalem, there would be a noise, for there were persons living there who hated the very name of Jesus, for they had conspired to put him to death. If they began at Jerusalem they would arouse a ferocious opposition. But nothing is much better for the gospel than opposition. A man comes into the Tabernacle to-night, and as he goes away he says, "Yes, I was pleased and satisfied." In that man's case I have failed. But another man keeps biting his tongue, for he cannot endure the preaching. He is very angry; something in the doctrine dos not suit him, and he cries, "As long as I live I will never come here again." That man is hopeful. He begins to think. The hook has taken hold of him. Give us time, and we will have that fish. It is no ill omen when a man gets angry with the gospel. It is bad enough, but it is infinitely better than that horrible lethargy into which men fall when they do not think. Some are not good enough even to oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ. Be hopeful of the man who will not let you speak to him, he is one that you must approach again; and if, when he does let you speak to him, he seems as if he would spit on you, be grateful for it. He feels your words. You are touching him on a sore place. You will have him yet. When he swears that he does not believe a word of what you say, do not believe a word of what he says; for often the man who openly objects secretly believes. Just as boys whistle when they go through a churchyard in order to keep their courage up, so many a blasphemer is profane in order to silence his conscience. When he feels the hook, like the fish, the man will drag away from it. Give him line. Let him go. The hook will hold, and in due time you will have him. Do not despair. Do not think it a horrible thing that he should oppose you; you should rather be grateful for it, and go to God and cry that he will give you that soul for your hire. Begin courageously where you may expect opposition.
And, lastly, to come to the meaning which Mr John Bunyan has put upon the text in his famous book called "The Jerusalem Sinner Saved," I have no doubt that the Saviour bade them begin at Jerusalem, because the biggest sinners lived there. There they lived who had crucified him. The loving Jesus bids them preach repentance and remission to them. There he lived who had pierced the Saviour's side, and they that had plaited the crown of thorns, and put it on his head. There dwell those who had mocked him and spat upon him; therefore the loving Jesus, who so freely forgives, says, "Go and preach the gospel first to them." The greatest sinners are the objects of the greatest mercy. Preach first to them. Are there any such here? My dear friend, we must preach the gospel first to you because you want it most. You are dying; your wounds are bleeding; the heavenly surgeon bids us staunch your wounds first. Others who are not so badly hurt may wait awhile, but you must be first served lest you die of your injuries. Should not this encourage you great sinners to come to Jesus, when he bids us preach to you first?
We are to preach to you first because, when you have received him, you will praise him most. If you are saved you will encourage others to come, and you will cheer up those who have come already. We shall be glad to get fresh blood poured into the veins of the church by the conversion of big sinners who love much because they have had much forgiven. Therefore, we are to come to you first. Will you not come to Christ at once? Oh, that you would believe in him! Oh that you would believe in him to-night! To you is the word of this salvation sent. You old sinners—you that have added sin to sin, and done all you can do with both hands wickedly—you that have cursed his name—you that have robbed others—you that have told lies—you that have blackened yourselves with every crime, come and welcome to Jesus. Come to Christ and live at once. Mercy's door is set wide open on purpose that the vilest of the vile may come; and they are called to come first. Just as you are, come along with you. Tarry not to cleanse or mend, but now "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." This night if you believe in Jesus you shall go out of these doors rejoicing that the Lord has put away your sin. To believe is to trust—simply to trust in Christ. It seems a very simple thing, but that is why it is so hard. If it were a hard thing you would more readily attend to it; but being so easy you cannot believe that it is effectual. But it is so; faith does save. Christ wants nothing of you but that you accept what he freely presents to you. Put out an empty hand, a black hand, a trembling hand; accept what Jesus gives, and salvation is yours.
Thus have I tried to expound "Beginning at Jerusalem," O that my Lord would begin with you. Amen.