En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘calvinist’

Posting on a new site!

Posted by Scott on December 9, 2009

Christmas Greetings-

I wanted to share with everyone who subscribes to this blog I will be posting on my new site effective today 12-9-2009. You can go to www.EnGhedi.com and subscribe for RSS feed and direct email notifications there. The new En Ghedi site is colorful and hopefully useful. I have added some of my favorite mentor’s site’s I have gleened so much from in my journey to know God in a much deeper way. I think you will enjoy the new look, the new content, and ease of use. In the future I will post book reviews on both sites, articles I think are important to be on both sites as well, but the main site will be www.EnGhedi.com .

Over the coming months I will be moving many of the post from this site over to the new site, so you may encounter a repeat message.

I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas and most blessed New Year.

Pressing on, Scott

www.EnGhedi.com

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Fit To Be Used by Ray C. Stedman

Posted by Scott on November 24, 2009

by Ray C. Stedman

2 Timothy 2:20-26

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).

Those with pure hearts are not sinless saints; they are not holier-than-thous who have never done anything wrong. They are not the kind of people who look down their noses at everyone else who gets into trouble. No, the word pure would be better translated “cleansed,” past tense–those with a cleansed heart, those who have already known what it is to be where you are. They do not put you down; they encourage you. They say, “I know how you feel. I’ve been there too, but God picked me up. I know what it means to lay hold of His great, forgiving love.” So one of the necessities of being used of God is that you keep company with those who are aiming in the same direction.

I had an occasion to spend a day at Vacaville Penitentiary. I had not been there before. It was a most remarkable experience to see Christian friends working in the prison as salt within a corrupt society. It was a rainy day, and no one was out in the yard. Everyone was in the halls, so it was like going into a high school that had just been let out for lunch. Among the inmates of that overcrowded prison, a Christian group is maintaining a testimony that is keeping that prison away from violence, acting as salt to preserve it in the midst of a very explosive situation.

In the chapel I sat next to a man who had been a murderer–a murderer several times. He had been one of the roughest, fiercest convicts in the prison system. He had stabbed several people while he was in prison, and he was a member of the gang that tried to rule the prison, a vicious loner who would not hesitate to take a human life. Yet God had reached him. Now he is the most gentle-spirited, gracious fellow, a teacher of the other prisoners, instructing them in the truth of God.

I met with others who had been rapists, murderers, and child abusers, men whose lives were changed, who were now listening to and rejoicing in the Scriptures. I asked the leader of the group what it was that most disappointed him in his work. Without hesitating he said, “it is those who are so dramatically changed here but who lose all they have gained when they get out”. I asked why that happened. “Because they go back to the same old crowd,” he said. We are not made to live alone. We are made to live with others; we need the support of others. Those who surround themselves with a non-Christian view of life and non-Christian friends are almost certain to go back at last into that way of thinking and living. So if we want to be used of God, the apostle urges us to seek the companionship of those of like mind.

Lord, grant me the strength to say no to the things I must and yes to the things that I should, that You may find me usable in Your hand, a vessel fit for the Master’s use.

For the complete message by the late Ray C. Stedman go to Ray Stedman.

Scott Bailey 2009

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Itching Ears and Liars Tongues!

Posted by Scott on November 4, 2009

The time will come (is here now) when people will not put up with sound doctrine & teaching. They will surround themselves with teachers & preachers who scratch their itching ears by telling them what they want to hear. They will not listen to the truth, but will embrace myths, philosophies of men, & other non-Christian religions.

“Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by His spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.” – Zech 7:11-12

God’s Word found in the Christian Bible are breathed out by God Himself & merely penned by writers of His choosing. This Word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training people in righteousness. Why do we need this? So we may be completely ready, fully equipped for every good work God calls us to do.
Our charge, especially if in the ministry:
-Preach the Word, preach it when people want to hear it & receive it & preach it when they stick their fingers in their ears & want nothing to do with it.
-With great patience & careful handling of the Scriptures, correct, rebuke, & encourage the fellow Believer’s.
-Keep a steady head & attitude at all times….
-Endure suffering & hardships, because they will come.
-Evangelize always…share the gospel wherever you can.
-Stay with the ministry you are in until your life is over…no retirement from the ministry.

Parents, you can take this charge into your households & apply it to your family. The husband is to be the Priest of his home & handle the Word of God carefully & graciously towards his family. You want to make a difference in your kids lives? Teach them the Word of God daily. Take the opportunity during each day to teach a lesson from everyday situations in life. God gives us parents so many opportunities yet we fail to see them. Look for them everyday.

Correct the kids ills from the Word of God. This is our main authority anyway. They need to understand how important God’s Word is in our lives & how important it is to their lives.

Encourage the kids from God’s Word. Find ways to encourage them. We have the tendacy to say “NO” & correct them so them many times each day they hardly ever hear a positive word from our mouths. So, when one of our kids is feeling depressed or out of it, encourage them from the Word of God…it is full of encouragement.

Train them to be holy & righteous. Teach them little white lies are not alright. Take a paperclip from school or work is not alright if not done with the “ok” of the teachers or bosses. Teach them it is not “ok” to cheat on anything. However, teach them to seek out God’s holiness, His purposes, His ways, His instructions, His wisdom, His knowledge…teach them to go to the Word of God, first! Train them to do what is good at all times, to do what is right in every situation even if it hurts them.

 

-scott bailey (c) 2009

 

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Holiness…new concept to many, but older than the Scriptures!

Posted by Scott on September 12, 2009

In todays selfish climate even in the evangelical movement of the day “holiness” is a new thought to many. Holiness seems not to enter into the thought process of masses of those calling themselves “evangelical”.

I started reading back through a book I read through a few years ago to touch base with someone who was passionate about the subject as I am. JC Ryle, born in 1816, died in 1900. He had a life long ministry to the young and old of the day in and around England. However, Ryle could see a movement, mostly coming from America, that greatly disturbed him. This movement was taking away the holiness found in our sanctification. The mantra was just believe and you are justified, which is the requirement to trust in Christ, however, they were taking this further to even say that sanctification was merely to believe and the sanctification was given to us. This is the rub between the two and holiness was then as it is today being pushed out of Believers lives and thus people could see no real change between those calling themselves Believers and those than admittedly denied Christ.

Quickly and briefly:

1) Justification is only to trust in Christ, believe

2) sanctification must be to guard, pray and fight against sin in our lives on a daily basis.

From Ryle:

“There is an amazing ignorance of Scripture among many and a consequent want of established, solid religion.”

Willowcreek church in Chicago experienced this recently as they admittedly have been wrong for twenty years in their “seeker” focus without establishing among the congregants solid biblical growth…in other words, those true Believers were starving to death for real biblical meat from the pulpit of the church.

Ryle says further after quoting Eph 4:14:

“There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular and in the beaten path of our forefathers.”

Again, I can show you contempt after contempt from so many young, Scripturally ignorant pastors today that viciously preach against the old, established religion of the day. This is not completely unfounded of course, but overall it causes their listeners to distaste all, when really the focus should be on the few unholy older established religions that are NOT true to the Word of God, but are pretenders to the faith.

Ryle continues:

“Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true. There is an incessant craving after any teaching with sensational, exciting, and rousing to the feelings. These are an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better than spiritual dram-drinking, and the “meek and quiet spirit” which Peter commends is clean forgotten (1 Peter 3:4). Crowds and crying and hot rooms and high-flown singing and an incessant rousing of the emotions, are the only things which many care for. Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and so long as the preacher is “clever” and “earnest”, hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully “narrow and uncharitable” if you hint that he is unsound!”

Sounds like much of what we see today going on the “Seeker-sensitive” & “Emergent” movements.

Ryle starts out the book:

“Sin is the transgression of the law.” -1 John 3:4

Ryle “…to attain right views about Christian holiness must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high.”

I compare this depth as we must build a faithfully true theology as we build a faithfully holy life. Unless we get our mind right on sin, we will do little good in building a Christian life. Think of a 100 story building. Do they just set it on top of the ground? Absolutely not if they intend the building to last and not sink into the ground. The first activity is to go down deep into the earth to set up the foundation and then they start building above the ground. The same is true of the Christian life…dig into the Word of God deeply, developing the truths of God’s Word in doctrine and theology. Then a holy life can be built. Remember, the holy life is not built over night or with a little prayer. The holy life is built over our lifetime by being on guard against the adversaries lies and distortions that cause sin, by spending great moments of time in prayer with our heavenly Father, and fighting against sin at every turn which is the mortification of sin…the murder of sin in our lives daily is required.

One final note from Ryle on what thoughts and actions about sin can cause:

“Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies.”

The danger the church faces today and the problems the identity of the church has today from centuries of not viewing sin as serious is our witness has diminished to the point people do not take Christians serious anymore. The dim view of sin in the Believer’s life has been tampered with to the point that many cannot even recognize their sin as being sin anymore. I can assure you that sin is still prevalent today as it was 200 years ago….even more so. The internet has brought far more filth and sinful opportunity into peoples homes and lives than one would have ever thought. So, the need to be on guard, pray and fight sin is all the more necessary.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

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PART TWO…Living in continual sin is not a characteristic of a true Believer!

Posted by Scott on August 1, 2009

This is the second part of this article. The first article can be a jolt to us to make us setup and say “What?” The main point of the first article is we need to take sin very serious…God does. If we find ourselves living in it we need to be extremely concerned, because God hates sin.

Sin has different effects and outcomes depending on whether we are a Believer or not a Believer:

For the Believer in sin:

-God’s wisdom will not come
-His favor will be lifted from your life
-You are spitting on the cross of Christ
-It is Disobedience to God’s call for us to be holy
-Hurts your testimony that God has given
-Severs your relationship with God
-Creates uneasiness in your prayer life
-Creates a stinch from us to the nostriles of a holy God

For the Non-Believer:

-Loves sin much of the time
-Condemns a non-Believer to death
-Puts the non-Believer’s life in peril
-Will be judged based on his or her sin to finality
-Cannot stop sinning…it is a non-Believer’s nature to sin
-Creates hurt in your life and those around you
-Creates confusion in life
-Leads to final destruction
-Cannot recognize sin at times
-Ends up in hell forever, separated from God in turmoil forever

Now, that I have provided such encouraging words (just kidding-I know these are hard words), let me tell there is still hope for both sides of this issue of sin.

For true Believers, we can repent, ask God to forgive us of our sinfulness and to restore to us the joy of our salvation. We can get on our knees in real brokenness before God confessing our sin(s) to Him. God will examine our heart, clean it out, fill it back up with His wonderful hope, joy, and peace. God can take our past sin and use it for His greater glory. We can be forgiven for our sins, but God does not necessarily allow us to forget them (He can take away the hurt and pain of that sin though)…having that memory helps us to not go down that road again, helps us to mentor someone else not to go down the road we have alaready been on, and more. God can and will provide relief from the guilt of that confessed sin. So, for the Believer our lives are not a total loss, but it is certainly stressful times and a life lived in constant sin is not a characteristic a Believer wants to be known for…if that is possible.

For the Non-Believer, if you feel a weightiness pulling your heart that is heavy, if you have a compulsion towards loving Jesus Christ, but your sin is pulling you apart inside, all the sudden your sinfulness has caused you to feel ashamed to the point you want to hide your face, because all of the sudden you realize there is a God and He hates sin and your sin is keeping you separated from Him yet you are torn as to what to do about it, I have a some good news…Jesus Christ wants you to put your complete trust in Him. Today, if what i have described or a variation of it is going on in your life, then God is coming after you…He is drawing you to Himself. You can fight for a while, but eventually God’s will is going to overcome your resistance. Get on your knees in total repentance of the sin filled life no matter how minor or bad it has been, ask Him to forgive you, tell Him you are ashamed, remorseful and cannot stand that you have sinned before Him. Tell Jesus that today, you are putting your complete trust in Him for salvation and eternal life. Ask Jesus to save you today. I believe that if you do this with all sincerity under conditions similiar to this, you will from this day forward be changed as a new Believer in Christ Jesus. Will this new life be easy…No! Will you ever sin again…Yes! Does God still forgive us when we ask for it…Yes! God’s love is still more powerful than our sin and He desires that none of His people end up in eternal punishment in hell, so He is patient with us and comes after us and will overcome us in order to save us. Nothing greater than when the Light comes on and you realize the mighty grace and infinite mercy of our awesome God.

Conclusion, sin is an abomination before our holy God. He hates sin to the core and does NOT overlook our sin…a holy God cannot overlook our unholiness, our disobedience to His calling for Believer’s to be holy…yet Jesus is there to make our case before God that we are one of His once we have come to Him in total repentance, when we have murdered that sin in our life and are looking for a clean start again…God will graciously give us that clean fresh start for His mercies are fresh and new each morning. For those not in the Believer catagory, sin continues to lead you to the pits of hell and unless a mighty work of God happens in your life, eternity is very bleak for you…your sins are your ultimate dstruction. However, for the non-Believer that today discovered that sin is not good, you cannot stand to live that way any longer, you have realized you have a true need to be saved, because sin has made you guilty before God, and you want desparately to fix that situation, but just do not know how…Jesus will save you! Begin calling out to Him for salvation. Trust that He is the Savior, the Messiah. Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He did rise from the grave 3 days after His horrible death on the cross, and that He is at the right hand of God the Father. Believing is a life changing moment that is eternal…whosoever will come, Believe, Trust in Jesus Christ to save you and He will.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

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Living in continual sin is not a characteristic of a true Believer!

Posted by Scott on August 1, 2009

Romans 8:5-8

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

Might I say that we live in a world that sometimes puts Sodom & Gomorah to shame. The constant justification of sin over and over. It is utterly unsettling at times.

For the Believer, sin should upset us to the point of tears and a broken heart while putting us on our knees asking God for forgiveness. I must ask, “Where is the brokenness over sin these days?” When David was confronted with his sexual sin which led to murder he was broken immediately. His sin tore into his heart like a 90 lb sword thrust through the cartiledge of his chest bones. He did not blame his sin on anyone else, nor did he state the sin was just against someone else either…David admitted that his sin was against God and God alone.

Today, we find many in the churches excusing homosexuality away. Trying to rewrite the Bible or reinterpret the Bible to fit their own agenda. Also, many guys and gals are basically “shacking up” (living together) yet to justify their life they call it marriage by “common law”. The justification goes on and on, but it boils down to this…it is sin!

I want to use an old analogy about a pig. You can take the pig out of the barnyard and dress it up. You can feed it different food. You can call it something else like a dog or cat or even a pet anything but a pig. You can possibly even train the pig to do tricks just like a dog. However, underneath the clothing, the new life style, the new name, and all the tricks…it is still a pig. When you let that pig out of the house and that pig finds mud or dirt, that pig will go straight for it and roll in it with everything it has. Sin is the same way. You can call it whatever you want, you can feed it something new, you can dress it up so the world cannot recognize that it is sin, but to the One who sees all things and knows all things it is still a muddy, smelly, selfish, ruthless sin and God hates sin!

It states it clearly in the first verse above from Romans that a life lived in the sinful nature have their minds set on its own desires rather than the nature of God. This is a pattern to be watched. I would dare say that someone living constantly in sin is defying God’s law and is not acting in character with Scripture by sinning. In my opinion, most caught in this situation and openly defy what is right, openly speak of their sin, openly live happily in their sin, consistantly justifying their sin (dressing the sin up to be something it is not)…are not true Believers in Jesus Christ!

In Romans 8:8 Paul tells us how this effects our relationship with Christ if living an openly sinful life. “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Living in unrepentant sin will not please God. Do not ask God for His wisdom, because it will not come. God will not listen to anyone living in their sin willfully. Sin separates us from God either permently as an enemy of His or relationally as a wayward son or daughter…either way our sin grieves the holy living God.

Think again next time we try to justify any sin that is present in our life. If we have no remorse, or do not feel compelled to ask for forgiveness for any particular sin, then one should ask “am I really a Christian”. Ask God to examine our hearts daily to make sure we are found in true faith in Him.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

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What is Eternal Life?

Posted by Scott on April 22, 2009

I read a verse of Scripture this morning in context of course, but John 17:3 jumped out at me like I had never seen it before….isn’t that how it works much of the time? We can read a verse of Scripture all our lives, but one day it seems to be brighter than it was the previous 30 years.

The question was posed “What does a Christian mean when he testifies that he has eternal life? Now, that seems easy enough doesn’t it? I mean, could it be “living forever”, “nothing but existence, going on and on forever”, “life on cloud nine playing our golden harp”? “Is it our spirit just living eternally on earth through regeneration after regeneration, but not individually”? Lots of possibilities, lots of stuff we have been taught throughout the years. The answer to the question, however, is found in that very verse of John 17:3 as told by Jesus himself. Our tendacy is to think of eternal life as a quantity of time, but Jesus is telling us it is a quality of relationship in our heavenly Father, the One true God.

Eternal life starts here with the knowledge of an etermal Person, God, with intimacy of communion and fellowship with this Person of God. Think of marriage for a moment. What is marriage? Is it cooking, cleaning up after someone, having children, tv, three square meals a day? No, marriage is that intimacy in knowing that other person called our spouse. Eternal life is much the same way except much greater than our imagination can fathom.

The larger picture, however, is the results of knowing God. This result of really knowing God for all eternity is an intimate fellowship or communion with God which gives us a life meaningful, rich and enjoyable that does not start in heaven, but right here on earth…it will be perfect when we finally with our Father in heaven someday. To know God means the end of lonliness forever. Think about that for a moment….before you knew God, what was the prevailing thought…for many it is lonliness. But this new found eternal life found in Christ abolishes this eternal lonliness. By knowing God intimately, we can share our joys and sorrows with Him, He sympathizes with our hearts desires….there is no other quality of life that can compare to this. The benefits of knowing our God in this way goes far beyond all the limits and boundaries our feable minds can imagine. “Knowing God is fullness of enjoyment, the richest of experiences, the enlargement of life beyond our ability to imagine.” This knowledge of God broadens the entire perspective of life and we can begin to really life for the first time in our earthly lives.

“God is our ultemate reality and we are inteded to know Him and experience Him on a daily basis. When we do so, life becomes vibrant, exciting, and awesome.” Stedman

A story Billy Graham always told was about a Scotland woman in this pastor’s parish who was behind on her rent and going through very difficult times. The pastor got together with other members of the church and took up a love offering for her. The pastor went to the ladies door to give her the money but never answered. One day the pastor ran across the lady in the market and told her he had come by to give her the money to help pay her rent up. She stated, “Was that you at the door, I thought it was the landlord.” You know that story teaches a profound lesson to us as Believers. Jesus stands at the door and knocks wanting this intimate relationship with us. He wants us to experience what real eternal life is. But many of us are afraid to open the door for Him to step into our lives beyond our mere salvation and have fulfilling communion with Him.

Eternal life, is to know God intimately and completely forever.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

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Asahel Nettleton: The Great Evangelist Forgotten!

Posted by Scott on March 14, 2009

By Jim Ehrhard

The year was 1812.  America had just declared war on Great Britain in June and lost its first battle in October.  In the midst of that climate, a young, unimpressive minister on his way to an assignment in New York stopped at a church in the community of South Britain, Connecticut.[1]  When he was invited to preach, no one could have anticipated the impact his ministry would have, not only on this small church, but also on all the East Coast over the next three decades.

 

As this visiting preacher spoke, the congregation became aware that something unusual was happening.  His probing questions seemed to penetrate each heart, peeling back layer after layer, showing the reality of their sin.  Many in the congregation wondered how he knew them so well.  As he continued, he warned the audience of their desperate need for repentance and the danger of any delay.  Many in the congregation were brought to a deep conviction of sin.

 

After the message, the congregation dismissed without any formal invitation.  They returned home to deal with God regarding their sin.  During the week, conversion came mightily to many.[2]  The revival that began that week spread throughout New England, spilled over into New York, and resulted in a deep work of regeneration that lasted until the mid-1800s.  During that span of time, God graciously used this man to bring more people to Christ than any man since George Whitefield came to America a half century earlier.  Who was this man?

 

Mention the names of Finney, Moody, Sunday, or Graham and visions of great evangelistic ministries are brought to mind.  But mention Asahel Nettleton and few will have any idea who are talking about.  Except for being remembered as the one who opposed Finney at the New Lebanon Conferences, even most histories fail to tell of the work of revival under Nettleton.

 

Asahel Nettleton is a significant figure in the history of revivals who has been sadly forgotten.  Yet his ministry might have been one of the most effective ever.  Though he never pastored a church, never wrote a book, or led an evangelistic organization, Nettleton’s preaching led directly to the conversion of well over 30,000 people[3] at a time when the entire nation’s population  was only nine million.  Those figures, though large by comparison to most evangelists, are even more startling when one considers that his ministry encompassed little more than Connecticut and its bordering states.  According to John Thornbury, the number of conversions in modern times “proportionate to the success of Asahel Nettleton” would be well over 600,000![4]

 

Thornbury is not alone in his assessment of Nettleton’s significance in history.  His own contemporaries, who had heard such giants as Edwards, Whitefield, Finney, and Moody, counted Nettleton’s ministry as unusually successful.  In 1844, The New York Observer said that Nettleton was “one of the most extraordinary preachers of the gospel with whom God has ever blessed this country.”  The New York Evangelist agreed saying, “Few men, since the apostolic days, have been honoured with such a signal success in preaching the word, and in the conversion of sinners as he. . . .”[5]  Bennett Tyler said of him, “We do not claim for Dr. Nettleton the rank of Whitefield; but he stands very high among those who have ‘converted sinners from the very error of their ways, saved souls from death, and hidden a multitude of sins.’”[6]  Even Lyman Beecher, who had both Nettleton and Finney in his pulpits, said of Nettleton, “Considering the extent of his influence, I regard him as beyond comparison, the greatest benefactor which God has given to this nation.”[7]

 

Perhaps what is most significant about Nettleton’s ministry is not the shear number of conversions but the number who remained faithful to Christ many years later.  Most evangelists today would be delighted to “find” even a small percentage of their converts,  much less to see them living for the Lord.[8]  Nettleton’s converts were surprisingly solid.  For example, of the eighty-four converts in an 1818 revival at Rocky Hill, Connecticut, all eighty-four had remained faithful according to their pastor’s report twenty-six years later.  Similarly, only three spurious conversions out of eighty-two professors were noted in another pastor’s report on a revival in Ashford, Connecticut.[9]

 

In contrast, toward the end of his life, “after reflecting on the many who had claimed conversion [under his ministry] but had since fallen away,” the great evangelist Charles Finney “had mixed thoughts on the genuine results of his work.”[10]  He was not alone.  In a letter to Finney, one of his co-workers raised some interesting questions about their work:

 

Let us look over the fields where you and I have laboured as ministers and what is now their normal state?  What was their state within three months after we left them?  I have visited and revisited many of these fields and groaned in spirit to see the sad, frigid, carnal, contentious state into which the churches have fallen and fallen very soon after we first departed from among them.[11]

 

B. B. Warfield also tells of the testimony of Asa Mahan, Finney’s closest friend and long-time co-worker:

 

No more powerful testimony is borne … than that of Asa Mahan, who tells us — to put it briefly — that everyone who was concerned in these revivals suffered a sad subsequent lapse: the people were left like a dead coal which could not be reignited ….[12]

 

Nettleton’s ministry was decidedly different from that of Finney, not only with regard to conversions, but also with regard to the lasting impact upon the communities which he visited.  One contemporary pastor, Bennett Tyler, noted the differences between the revivals of Finney and Nettleton:

 

These revivals were not temporary excitements, which like a tornado, sweep through a community, and leave desolations behind them; but they were like showers of rain, which refresh the dry and thirsty earth, and cause it to bring forth “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed.”  These fruits were permanent.  By them the churches were  not only enlarged, but beautified and strengthened; and a benign influence was exerted upon the community around.[13]

 

Although Nettleton and Finney were contemporaries, Finney has eclipsed Nettleton completely.  Today, these questions must be asked: Who was this man so specially used by God in the conversion of many souls?  Why has one of such significance been sadly forgotten in our generation?  And what makes his ministry so different from the evangelistic ministries seen today?  Such questions form the focus of this paper.

 

His Early Years and Conversion

 

Born on April 21,1783, on a farm in North Killingworth, Connecticut, Asahel was the second of six children.  Baptized as an infant, his parents taught him morality , the Westminster catechism, and farming skills.  He attended the village school and participated in community parties, outings, and dances.  As a youth, he had an unusual experience during a sunset where the falling darkness brought him his first serious thoughts about the reality of death.  But these thoughts were fleeting, and no permanent fruits came from this momentary reflection.[14]

 

In the fall of 1800, at age eighteen, Asahel began to come under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.  After an evening of merrymaking at the annual Thanksgiving celebration, thoughts of death returned to haunt his conscience.  These thoughts led him to religious pursuits.  Instead of relieving his troubled heart, his zeal to pray, read the Scriptures, and do good works only produced greater doubts and dissatisfaction.[15]

 

These failures led Nettleton to all sorts of doubts.  He began to question whether the Bible was true.  When he came to the conclusion that the Bible could not be trusted, he concluded that there was no God.  However, such conclusions refused to comfort his heart for he thought, “What if the Bible should prove to be true!  Then I am lost forever.”[16]  The writings of Edwards and the Memoir of David Brainerd deepened his conviction of lostness.  After ten months of anguishing conviction, Nettleton came to the end of himself:

 

All self-righteousness failed me; and, having no confidence in God, I was left in deep despondency. . . . After awhile, a surprising tremor seized all my limbs, and death appeared to have taken hold upon me.  Eternity–the word Eternity–sounded louder than any voice I ever heard; and every moment of time seemed more valuable than all the wealth of the world.  Not long after this, an unusual calmness pervaded my soul, which I thought little of at first, except that I was freed from my awful convictions. . . .[17]

Nettleton had been converted.  The character of God became more lovely, the work of Jesus more precious, and the doctrines of grace more delightful:

 

The character of God, and the doctrines of the Bible, which I could not meditate upon before without hatred, especially those of election and free grace, now appear delightful, and the only means by which, through grace, dead sinners can be made the living sons of God.[18]

 

His conversion came during a period of revival in Killingworth under the ministry of Josiah Andrews.  By March 1802, ninty-one new converts were received into the church.  The effects of the revival gave Asahel new aspirations.  While working in the fields, he often thought, “If I might be the means of saving one soul, I should prefer it to all the riches and honours of this world.”[19]  An epidemic swept through Killingworth during the spring and summer of 1802 killing his father and youngest brother.  For the next three years, he cared for the farm and the family, taught in the village school, and studied under the tutelage of Josiah Andrews.

 

By 1805, Nettleton had committed himself to pursue missionary service.  He enrolled at Yale and completed his academic training in an undistinguished fashion.[20] Still the potential of Nettleton did not escape the notice of President Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, who remarked: “He will make one of the most useful men this country has ever seen.”[21]  Upon his graduation in 1809, he remained at the college to work and repay some debts.  Nettleton was ordained in 1811; and, while waiting for a call from one of the missionary societies, he ministered as pastor for a brief period in the “waste places” of southeastern Connecticut.[22]  In the autumn of 1812, Nettleton received an invitation to preach in South Salem, New York.  On his way to New York, he stopped over to spend a week in South Britain, Connecticut where his fame as an evangelist began.[23]

 

Years of Revival

 

The years from 1812 until 1822 can be accurately characterized as the years of revival for the ministry of Nettleton.  Although God continued to use this preacher in revival until his death in 1844, these years provided the most remarkable movements of the Spirit of God under his ministry.

 

Following the revival at South Britain, Nettleton continued on to his appointment in South Salem, New York.  This community was considered another of the “waste places,” not open to spiritual revival.[24]  In a short time, the preaching of Nettleton began to take hold of the hearts and minds of the people.  “The seriousness soon spread through the place, and the subject of religion became the engrossing topic of conversation.”[25]  In a few weeks, a great number had been surprisingly converted.  Asahel was so well-liked that the church tried to call him as their pastor.  However, he still considered himself bound for missionary service, and, after two months at South Salem, moved on to other preaching opportunities back in Connecticut.   The results of his ministry were remarkably similar.  In Danbury, Monroe, North Lyme, Hadlyme, and Bloomfield, “his labours were greatly blessed to the quickening of God’s people, and to the awakening and conversion of sinners.”[26]

 

In the autumn of 1813, Nettleton went to preach in a church in Litchfield known as Milton.  The church had dismissed its pastor under “strained circumstances,” and the congregation was full of internal divisions.  Again, the preaching of Nettleton brought many under great conviction.  At one meeting, several experienced such horror of mind that they began to cry out in the services.  Nettleton had them removed to a neighboring house to be counseled personally, while he continued with the meeting.  In a few months, a large number had been converted.  In just over one month, more than eighty people were converted from every age group, ranging from a twelve year old to a widow of seventy.[27]  Best of all, the breach in this once divided church had been healed.  It was during his time at Milton that Nettleton became acquainted with Lyman Beecher who served as pastor in Litchfield.[28]

 

Revival seemed to follow Nettleton in each of the towns he visited.  By 1815, it seemed that everyone desired his labors among them.  In the spring of 1815, the ministers of New Haven invited him to come to their community.  His work of revival there began when he visited a local school for girls.  In a personal letter to his friend, Philander Parmele, Nettleton recounted the progress of revival in this school:A number have been alarmed.  How many it is impossible to tell.  It was just a week from the time I came to this place to the day on which the great inquiry openly and solemnly began.  What must I do to be saved?  For three days the distress of some was overwhelming.  On the fourth day four were rejoicing.  On the fifth day eleven more were rejoicing.  From that time the work has been gradually spreading through the town.  The prospect is still brightening.  This morning I have found 2 more rejoicing in hope.  Within about four weeks upwards of 50 have entertained hope in this place.[29]

 

Similar experiences were recorded during Nettleton’s time ministering in Middleton, Connecticut in 1817:


 

There has been an increasing solemnity for some time past.  Meeting were crowded and solemn. . . .  One young man seized my hand exclaiming “I am a sinner.  I am a sinner.  What shall I do?”  They [the people at the meeting] left the house and went home sighing, & sobbing in every direction.  I came home & found a number around the door of Mr. Williams’ house, in the most awful distress, Some were standing, some sitting on the ground, & some on the door steps exclaiming “What shall I do”  I shall die.  I shall die.  “I Can’t live.”  This alarmed the neighbors who called to witness the awful scene.  With much ado I got them into the house, about eight or ten in number.  The fact was, the young man aforementioned, who left the meeting house in such distress, was walking in company with them, when all at once he found relief and exclaimed, “I have found the Saviour.”  He was now very joyful.  He sat clothed and in his right mind: and they were afraid.  My first business was to warn them against a false hope.  Prayed with them and enjoined it particularly on them not to go home together, but to go alone, & be alone, for the business must be settled between God and their souls.  Maria (a young woman living in this family) was one of the number.  She retired to her chamber, sighing and sobbing, and crying for mercy, and exclaiming “I shall die, I shall die.”  She came down and went out doors and returned in the same awful distress to her chamber.  And suddenly all was still and hushed to silence.  I sat still below and said nothing.  I soon heard the sound of her footsteps descending the chamber stairs.  She opened the door and with a joyful countenance exclaimed O, Sir, I have found the Saviour.  I continued to warn her of the danger of a false hope.  She exclaimed “I love Christ.  I do love him.  O how sweet.”  In the morning, early, she called to see one of her anxious mates, who was so distressed the night before; and Lo: Barsheba exclaimed “I have found the Saviour.”  That was a happy meeting.  The young man aforementioned resided in the same family (this was John Towner’s house).  On Saturday evening about mid-night another, equally distressed, found relief.  Within a few days 8 or 10 are rejoicing in hope. 


 

What will be the end, I know not.  Do pray for us, and your friend,

A. Nettleton.[30]


In the summer of 1819, Nettleton’s ministry shifted from Connecticut to the area near Saratoga Springs, New York.  Although he went there for a period of rest, local ministers pressed him into service once they learned of his presence.  In Saratoga Springs, forty professed salvation, including some of the most respectable people of the community.  In nearby Malta, crowds as large as fourteen hundred came to hear him.  He remained in the area until February 1820, reporting over six hundred converts during that period.[31]

 

From there, his work touched the students of Union College in Schenectady, New York.  Nettleton gives one account of the awakening that took place among the students there:

 

The room was so crowed that we were obliged to request all who had recently found relief to retire below, and spend time in prayer for those above.  This evening will never be forgotten.  The scene is beyond description.  Did you ever witness two hundred sinners, with one accord in one place, weeping for their sins?  Until you have seen this, you have no adequate conceptions of the solemn scene.[32]

 

One student particularly impacted by Nettleton’s ministry was Francis Wayland, the future president of Brown University.  Wayland’s interests before the revival were almost entirely academic and religion was “a matter of small and distant reality.”[33]  Nettleton’s preaching changed the direction of Wayland’s life.  Wayland stated, “I became intimately acquainted with Mr. Nettleton, and my conversations with him were of great use to me.”  His children also noted Nettleton’s impact on the ministry of their father: “He gained lessons never to be forgotten in the mode of addressing men on religious subjects.”[34]  Wayland, though familiar with many of the great preachers of his era, said of Nettleton, “I suppose no minister of his time was the means of so many conversions.”[35]

 

Nettleton stayed in the area until the fall of 1820.  During that time, he was the instrument of revival in many congregations.  In Nassau, New York, alone, over one hundred people were converted in the period from the end of April to the end of June.[36]  In one area, Nettleton himself estimated the impact of the revival: “Within a circle whose diameter would be less than twenty-four miles, not less than eight hundred souls have been hopefully born into the kingdom of Christ, since last September.”[37]

 

Shortly after Nettleton returned to Connecticut, he began to preach in the church of Noah Porter in Framingham.  Within three months, two hundred and fifty were converted.  Not only this, the revival transformed the entire town.[38]  But the grueling schedule that Nettleton kept was beginning to affect his health.  He retired to the community of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for a period of rest.  Once again, the local pastor requested that he preach.  Within weeks, revival broke out and within a few months more than eighty persons (half of them “heads of families”) had been converted.[39]  In 1821 and 1822, Nettleton also labored in Connecticut and saw similar works of revival in such places as Litchfield (in Lyman Beecher’s church), Somers, Mansfield, Goshen, and other communities.

 

In early October, 1822, Nettleton visited a family in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where there was a case of typhus fever.  By the middle of the month, he began to have the tell-tale symptoms and retired to the home of his friend Philander Parmele in Bolton, Connecticut.   By mid-November, he was so sick that he dictated his will.  Shortly thereafter, he began to recover only to discover that his gracious hosts, the Parmeles had contracted the disease themselves.  Mrs. Parmele recovered but Nettleton’s closest friend, Philander, succumbed to the disease on December 27.  This news broke his heart, and he described that time as the “most trying” of his life.  While he continued to recover from the disease and the loss of his friend, Nettleton was encouraged by reports of the continuing effects of revivals that had been initiated under his preaching.[40]

Years of Conflict

For nearly two years after the attack of typhus, Nettleton preached only occasionally.  His weakness prevented any regular ministry, and he sometimes had relapses that would force him to be bedridden for weeks.  During that time, Nettleton put together a contemporary hymnal that met the need of churches in revival.   Since Watts was so revered in the churches of his day, he wisely considered his publication as supplement to be used alongside of Watts rather than replacing it.  In 1824, Nettleton’s Village Hymns for Social Worship, Selected and Original, Designed as a Supplement to the Psalms and Hymns of Dr. Watts was published and was extremely popular among the churches that had experienced revival.[41]

 

In the final years of Nettleton’s life, the focus of his ministry changed from that of the prominent promoter of revival to the theological defender of true revival.  While his preaching continued to be used by God as a instrument for revival in Virginia (1827-28)[42], North Carolina (1829)[43], New York (1830-31)[44] and England (1831-32)[45], his latter years are remembered most for two major controversies.

 

By the autumn of 1824, Asahel’s health had sufficiently improved to allow him to return to some preaching.  He first went to Bethelehem, Connecticut, to preach in the former pulpit of Joseph Bellamy.  Forty came to faith during his short stay there.[46]  From there, he preached in Brooklyn, New York, and Taunton, Massachusetts, with  similar results.[47] 

 

In February 1826, he attended a congregation in Jamacia, New York, that was pastorless and full of strife.  When the people learned of his identity, they asked him to preach; and an awakening ensued that lasted into the autumn.  It was during his stay in Jamacia that Nettleton first received reports of problems arising from revivals in Oneida County, New York.  It seemed the use of some “new measures” in revival was causing great division and confusion in the churches of that area.  An increasing flow of people came to him to complain about what was going on in these revivals and to plead with him to help set matter right.[48]  Still, Nettleton hesitated:

Heretofore his battles had been with infidels and out and out enemines of the gospel.  Although he had been engaged in minor theological debates with other preachers about the various points of theology, these discussions had taken little of his time and energy.  Nothing had interfered with his concentration on the winning of souls.[49]

 

In November, he went to Albany, New York, to talk with some pastors in that area.  Charles G. Finney, the leading proponent of these “new measures,” was preaching across the river in Troy.  He even met with Finney on at least two occasions during his time there, though little information about those meetings remains.[50]  In a letter to John Frost, one of Finney’s supporters in the area, Nettleton recounted that he was “already worn out with conversation”[51] and that the first meeting  contained little discussion of the new measures.  In another letter to Frost, Nettleton is more specific about his concerns.  There he cites a number of examples where the new measures and those using them were disrupting the churches of the area and “breaking down” the “settled ministers” of the churches.[52]  Finney initiated the second meeting by visiting the home where Nettleton was staying in Albany.  According to Finney’s account of the meeting, he offered to accompany Nettleton to the service Asahel would be preaching.  According to Finney, Nettleton “manifested uneasiness, and
remarked that I must be seen with him.”[53]  According to Thornbury, “The uneasiness which Nettleton may have felt at this time would have been based upon the fact that a public appearance of the two men together would have been used to advantage by the new measures advocates.”[54] 

 

Following his second visit with Finney, Nettleton wrote a letter to “the Rev. Mr. Aikin of Utica” in which he outlined his objections to the new measures.  In beginning, however, Nettleton is careful to acknowledge the hand of God in the revivals of Finney: “There is, doubtless, a work of grace in Troy.”[55]  He further noted:

We do not call into question the genuineness of those revivals, or the purity of the motives of those who have been most active in them. . . . But the evils to which I allude are felt by the churches abroad; members which have gone out to catch the spirit, and have returned, some grieved, others soured, and denouncing ministers, colleges, theological seminaries, and have set whole churches by the ears, and kept them in turmoil for months together.  Some students of divinity have done more mischief in this way than they can ever repair. . . .

 

The evil is running in all directions.  A number of churches have experienced a revival of anger, wrath, malice, envy, and evil-speaking, (without the knowledge of a single conversion,) merely in consequence of a desperate attempt to introduce these new measures.  Those ministers and Christians who have heretofore been most and longest acquainted with revivals, are most alarmed at the spirit which has grown out of the revivals of the west. . . . The friends of brother Finney are certainly doing him and the cause of Christ great mischief.  They seem more anxious to convert ministers and Christians to the peculiarities, than to convert souls to Christ.[56]

 

Some of the peculiarities he mentioned included the use of the anxious
bench, praying openly for sinners in the meeting by name, appointing new converts to lead revivals, and denouncing ministers who did not use their methods.  Nettleton was especially concerned about the unwillingness of Finney and his co-laborers to have any of their methods examined.  Futhermore, anyone who questioned the new measures was denounced as being “enemies of revival.”[57]

 

Although Nettleton did not wish to be cast into a role of confrontation, his observations of the work in Oneida County convinced him that he could do no less:

 

Irregularities are prevailing so fast, and assuming such a character, in our churches, as infinitely to overbalance the good that is left.  These evils, sooner or later, must be corrected.  Somebody must speak, or silence will prove our ruin.  Fire is an excellent thing in its place, and I am not afraid to see it blaze among the briers and thorns; but when I see it kindling where it will ruin fences, and gardens, and houses, and burn up my friends, I cannot be silent.[58]

 

Thus the stage was set for what came to be known as the New Lebanon Conference on July 18, 1826, in New Lebanon, New York.  Before the meeting, Finney printed a sermon he had preached on Amos 3:3: “How can two walk together except they be agreed?”  In his sermon, Finney contended that all who opposed his new measures were opposed only because of  “their frosty hearts.”  Since they were not right with God, Finney reasoned, these could not appreciate “white-hot revivalism.”[59]

 

Nettleton responded with a letter to Gardner Spring which was printed in the New York Observer .  In it, he noted that Finney never really dealt with the
distinction between true and false zeal, calling all zeal a mark of religious affection.

 

The sermon in question entirely overlooks the nature of true religion.  It says not one word by which we can distinguish between true and false zeal, true and false religion.  If the tone of feeling can only be raised to a certain pitch, then all is well.  The self-righteous, the hypocrite, and all who are inflated with pride, will certainly be flattered and pleased with such an exhibition, especially if they are very self-righteous and very proud.  False affections often rise higher than those that are genuine; and this every preacher, in seasons of revival, has had ocassion to observe and correct …. If the preacher is not extremely careful to distinguish between true and false affections, the devil will certainly come in and overset the work, and bring it into disgrace.[60]

 

Nettleton’s letter attacked both the logical and scriptural foundations to which  Finney had appealed.   He pointed out that one cannot dismiss all evaluation as “unchristian”:  “Without great care and close discrimination, the preacher will unwittingly justify all the quarrels and divisions in our churches.”[61]   He reminded readers that Paul would not even allow men to be teachers unless they were of “full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” and that Paul would not allow young converts to preach: “Not being a novice, lest he fall into condemnation, reproach, and the snare of the devil.”[62]  Finally, Nettleton listed Edwards’ observations about the marks of spiritual pride, concluding:

 

It is a mark of spiritual pride to refuse to enter into discourse or reasoning with such as are considered carnal men, when they make objections and inquiries.  Humility would lead ministers to condescend to carnal men, as Christ has condescended to us, to bear with our unteachableness and stupidity, and follow us with instructions, line upon line, precept upon precept, saying:  “Come, let us reason together;” it would lead to a compliance with the precept: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh of you a reason of the hope that is in
you with meekness and fear.”[63]

 

With these two great salvos fired, the conference was already in deep water when it convened.  Little was accomplished, and both parties departed with no agreement about any issues.  Finney felt vindicated as churches in the large cities of the East coast began to invite him to their pulpits.  In fact, this conference was the last time the two leading preachers of New England, Asahel Nettleton and Lyman Beecher, stood together.[64]  The second crisis in Nettleton’s life, the debate over the theology of Nathaniel Taylor, would divide them forever and thrust Beecher into Finney’s camp.

 

During 1827, Asahel Nettleton experienced spells of fainting which prompted his doctors to encourage him to try a warmer climate as a remedy.  Nettleton decided to spend the winter in the mountains of Virginia near Hampton-Sydney College. He preached in the surrounding towns with his usual effectiveness. While there, several students from Yale visited the college and created a stir by advocating the teachings of their president, Nathaniel W. Taylor.[65]

 

Most alarming was Taylor’s denial of the complete depravity of man, the imputation of original sin, and the inability of man.[66]  Apart from any special work of the Holy Spirit, man could refrain from sinning simply by choosing to do so.  Likewise, no special work of God was needed to bring the sinner to Himself.   Not only was this theology doctrinally unsound, Nettleton knew that it would serve to undermine true conversion by placing the focus on what man can do rather than on what God does in salvation.   All that an evangelist needed was to present the truths in such a way as to persuade men toward a decision:

 

Dr. T. speaks as if the only difficulty in the way of a sinner loving God lay is their want of  clear & distinct views of divine things. . . .  Dr. T. takes it for granted that if the sinner only had clear views of God, he would love him.  But the facts prove the contrary.[67]

 

Nettleton also recognized that such a theology would support the very methods he sought to oppose in Finney’s ministry.  The publication of Finney’s Autobiography confirmed any suspisions that Nettleton might have had.  In it, Finney openly opposed any doctrine of original sin, referring to it as “anti-scriptural and nonsensical dogma.”[68]  Finney contended against the belief that the new birth was in any way a divine gift.  He insisted that

 

regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference. . . . when mankind becomes truly religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth.  They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God.[69]

 

When such a theology is applied to revival, the revivalist may use any
means necessary to bring the church to a state of revival.   Finney himself said of revival:  “A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense.  It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means — as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.”[70]

 

Nettleton’s stance against the New Haven Theology eventually led to the break in his relationship with Lyman Beecher.  Beecher felt that the issue of theology was indeed the primary one that caused Nettleton to oppose both Finney and Taylor:  “He wanted the battle to go on.  He was one of those that never can give up their own will.  He had the notion that the New Haven brethern were currying favor with Finney. . . . That was the origin of all his bitterness against Taylor.”[71]  The letters of Nettleton indicate no such bitterness on his part toward Taylor.  Indeed, he remained Taylor’s friend until his death.  In a letter to Taylor in the last year of his life, Nettleton mentioned the doctrinal debate and assurred Taylor that, although they had disagreed for many years, their personal friendship had not been affected:

 

I need not tell you that I love you.  You know that I have ever loved you. . . .  I impeach not your motives.  I judge not your heart.  I would cherish the hope that your own religious experience is at variance with some of the things which you have published — I say this with the kindest of feelings, and with eternity in view.  Receive it as my dying testimony, and as an expression of my sincere love.  Farewell, my brother.  We shall soon meet at the judgement seat of Christ.  God grant that we may meet in heaven.[72]

 

In his final years, Nettleton gave his time and energy to the students of the Theological Seminary of Connecticut in Hartford founded in response to the continued teaching of the New Haven Theology at Yale.  Bennett Tyler became president, but Nettleton was the “father confessor to the campus” according to George Briney.[73]  Evangelism was his field, and the preaching of doctrines “emminently useful in winning souls” formed the theme of most of his lectures.[74]

 

Nettleton became seriously ill in 1841 with what was diagnosed as gall-stones.  Two surgeries proved unsuccessful, and Nettleton continued to weaken.  He died the morning of May 16, 1844.  He left behind a considerable estate mostly from income from the sale of his hymnal.  Even his will indicated a man sold out to the cause of Christ:  He willed small portions to his brother and sister and some friends; the balance he willed to the Seminary and to the American Board for Foreign Missions, the institutions “which represented the causes closest to his heart.”[75]

Conclusions

One cannot overestimate the importance of the ministry of Asahel Nettleton.  Francis Wayland, founder of Brown University, said of Nettleton, “I suppose no minister of his time was the means of so many conversions.”[76]  Most surprising to modern readers is the discovery that Nettleton’s tremendous effectiveness occurred without any of the methods that modern evangelicals think are so essential in evangelism.  For example, in all his ministry, thousands came to a solid, lasting faith in Christ though Nettleton never once gave an “altar call.”  In fact, one of the greatest struggles in Nettleton’s life occurred as he led the stand against such “new measures” employed by Charles Finney.

 

Without a doubt, Finney’s methods were effective in attracting large crowds and in securing large numbers of “professions.”  But they involved many questionable aspects that Nettleton and other ministers could not accept.   In one of his letters, Nettleton wrote of his great concern for future generations. Asahel recognized that the greatest danger might not be to his generation but to succeeding ones who would assume that all revivals were dependent upon such measures:

 

If the evil be not soon prevented, a generation will arise, inheriting all the obliquities of their leaders, not knowing that a revival ever did or can exist without all those evils.  And these evils are destined to be propagated from generation to generation, waxing worse and worse.[77]

 

Indeed, the fears of Nettleton have come to pass.  Not only is Nettleton forgotten,[78]the idea of revival apart from certain methods has also passed from memory.  Nettleton has been forgotten because this present generation, like the followers of Finney, has become obsessed with results and statistics to the neglect of theology.  Finney himself said,

 

The success of any measure designed to promote a revival of religion, demonstrates its wisdom. . . . When the blessing evidently follows the introduction of the measure itself, the proof is unanswerable, that the measure is wise.  It is profane to say that such a measure will do more harm than good.[79]

Every new church growth idea that works is deemed to be of God.  “After all the results speak for themselves,” most argue.  Nettleton refused to accept any new measure simply on the basis of effectiveness.  Likewise, he knew that allowing any method to go untested by the truth of Scripture would ultimately lead to the ruin and discredit of any revival:

 

And all of those ministers who do not discriminate between true and false zeal, true and false affection, in their preaching and conversation, and make that difference, and hold it up to the view of the world, if possible as clear as the sun, heartily approving of one, and as heartily and publicly condemning the other, will turn out to be the greatest traitors to the cause of revivals.[80]

 

Nettleton’s ministry also teaches about the importance of preaching in revival.  Few men have ever preached with the power and effectiveness of Nettleton.  Francis Wayland said he “would sway an audience as the trees of the forest are moved.”[81]  Thornbury summarized Nettleton’s preaching:

 

In the accounts and descriptions of the great revivals in which Nettleton laboured, one thing comes across very powerfully, and that is that he was able to bring home the awesome realities of the eternal world home to the souls of men.  When he talked about the heinousness of sin, they felt its sting.  When he portrayed the sufferings of Christ, they felt the trauma of Calvary.  When he proclaimed the holy character of God, they trembled at the vision.  When he thundered forth the judgements of hell, men were moved to escape that place.[82]

 

While most modern preaching seeks to avoid doctrinal topics, Nettleton, like Whitefield and Edwards before him, preached the great doctrines of the faith.  One pastor in East Granby, Connecticut described his preaching during the revival in his congregation:

 

Doctrinal sermons were frequent; but these had a practical turn.  They were eminently scriptural and plain, and made men feel that they were the men addressed, and not their neighbors.  He sometimes preached on the severer doctrines with great power, and apparent good effect.[83]

 

Nettleton’s ministry reminds that all the great doctrines of the faith can be preached with great effect in awakening people to God.

 

The need for revival today is as great as it has ever been.  But it is not just any kind of revival that is needed.  The need is for a revival clearly based upon the work of the Holy Spirit rather than on the methods of man.  Nettleton’s ministry, when compared with that of Finney, shows that real revival was not always dependent upon certain “laws of revival” popularized by Finney.  It came simply  upon the faithful and fearless preaching of God’s Word.  Nettleton’s ministry testifies to the power of God’s Word in bringing sinners to faith.  Most of all, it reminds all that revival, like conversion is truly a work of a sovereign God among His people.

 

Copyright © 1999 Christian Communicators Worldwide

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The Divine Foundation of Authority!

Posted by Scott on March 13, 2009

 
“You’re out!” “I’m safe!” “Out!” “Safe!” “Out!” “It’s my ball, and it’s my bat, and I say that I’m safe.” This is how we settled disputes over plays in our pickup baseball games played without the benefit of a referee or umpire. When a disputed play could not be resolved through reason or through yelling, the one who possessed the equipment usually determined the outcome. It was a child’s game in which might made right. It was the nascent expression of the cynical statement: “He who owns the gold, rules.”

These illustrations indicate that at some level ownership is involved in authority. The very word authority has within it the word author. An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls.

We use the term foundation with respect to the imagery of a building. Houses and commercial buildings are erected upon a foundation. As Jesus indicated in His parables, if the foundation is not solid, the structure will not stand. The house that is built upon the sand will crumble at the first sign of a windstorm.Instead, Jesus commended the building of the house upon a rock. The foundation has to be firm in order for the house to stand.

In the sixteenth century, the critical dispute that arose in the Protestant Reformation focused on two central issues. Historians speak of one as being the material cause, that is, the matter around which the dispute centered. That material cause was the doctrine of justification. The battle was fought over the issue of what is required for a person to be justified in the sight of God. The other issue, the formal one, lurked only slightly under the surface of the external debate about justification: the question of authority. When Luther defended his doctrine in his disputes with Cardinal Cajetan and with the theologian Johann Eck, the Roman Catholic experts called attention to the decrees of earlier church councils and of papal encyclicals to refute Luther’s arguments. Luther in response argued that the edicts of church councils and even the encyclicals of popes can err and often do err. The only final authority Luther would recognize, upon which the controversy could be resolved, was the authority of Scripture, because that authority carried the weight of God’s authority itself.

As a result, the Diet of Worms culminated with Luther’s expression: “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant because my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.” In that statement, Luther was affirming publicly his commitment to the principle of sola Scriptura, that the Bible alone is the only authority that can bind the conscience of a person absolutely because it is the only authority that carries with it the intrinsic authority of God Himself.

In the Scriptures we see that God creates the universe and owns the universe. It is His possession, and He governs it by His own authority. The authority by which God governs all things is His autonomous authority. To say that God’s authority is autonomous is to say that God is a law unto Himself. He is not bound by some abstract system of law that exists outside of Himself or independent from Him (ex lex). Nor is God under some external law (sub lego); rather, He is a law unto Himself. This does not mean that He acts or behaves in an arbitrary manner. Rather, God’s activity is directed by God’s own character. And His character is completely righteous. All that He does flows out of His own internal righteousness. His external authority comes from His internal righteousness. In this sense God’s authority is intrinsic. It is found within Himself. It is not borrowed, delegated, or assigned from any other source.

In the same manner, all lesser authorities on heaven and on earth are only as valid as they are delegated by God’s authority. Whatever authority we possess is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. It exists only by delegation. This was the issue in the garden of Eden. The primal sin of Adam and Eve could be described as the grasping for autonomy. They sought to take for themselves the authority that belonged only to God. To act on one’s own authority against the authority of God is the essence of disobedience and of sin. When we grasp authority ourselves and do what is right in our own minds, we are attacking the very foundation of life and of the welfare of human beings.

“You’re out!” “I’m safe!” This question has to be determined by some foundation other than the possession of bats and balls. Justice must reign if we are to escape a life and a world without foundations. Any authority that rules without divine foundation is tyranny.

by R.C. Sproul

www.ligonier.org/tabletalk

Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, and he is author of the books What’s in the Bible? and Getting the Gospel Right.
For more than thirty years, Dr. R.C. Sproul has thoroughly and concisely analyzed weighty theological, philosophical, and biblical topics in Right Now Counts Forever, drawing out practical applications for the Christian in his own engaging style.
© Tabletalk magazine

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What is behind that ugly scaffolding?

Posted by Scott on March 13, 2009

“Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will.”

-Cowper

Back in the mid 1980’s the United States underwent the straining task of rehabilitating the Statue of Liberty.  It had been around 100 years since much had been done to the statue.  Private donations were sought after years before and finally they had the money to get it started.  In 1984 the largest free-standing scaffold ever assembled at over 300 feet in the air over Liberty Island was assembled.  This metal scaffolding boxed the nearly 100 hundred year old statue in.  The scaffolding was ugly of course to anyone looking at the statue from the outside, but what a tremendous work was being done on the other side of it.  The crew that worked on the statue cleaned her copper skin, repaired holes and tears in her body.  On July 4, 1984 the original torch had to be removed and replaced with a new one, because the old one was beyond repair.  A major overhaul was underway.

In our lives, we can find ourselves in despair and tragedy.  We may find ourselves out of work, in a divorce situation, child very sick, a parent with an illness, or whatever trauma event you can fathom.  The point is, any of us Believers will find ourselves behind the scaffolding of God’s mighty and sovereign work at some point in our lives and possibly more than once. 

In our prayer life, in keeping with another portion of Christ model prayer to us, “Your kingdom come” is the cry to heaven.  We all dream and yearn for the day when God will rule in righteousness over this entire earth again…free from sin and torment.  Also, this cry out to God that His will be done now, in the middle of our torment, trials, sweat, blood, and tears in this life.  Our hope is not just our future home in heaven, but our kingdom hope concerns our trials right now being used as a greater part of God’s sovereign plan.

This kingdom, much of the time, is built by God in total secret.  Understand this, that God is much of the time accomplishing most of His plan when it is the least evident to us that He is even doing anything.  He puts up the scaffolding of what we can call trials, tragedies, turmoil, suffering, or despair.  Then in the midst of that, He starts cleaning us up, “building His empire of love and glory”.  We will catch ourselves thinking God is silent in our lives, He has removed Himself from us, He no longer likes us, we cannot sense the warmth of His presence anymore and so on.  It is at this juncture of our lives that we can rest assured God is at His greatest work accomplishing the greatest good for us, for others, all the while accomplishing His perfect eternal sovereign plan.

Sir Winston Churchill of England found himself behind a very ugly scaffolding system in the 1930’s.  He had served the British military most of his young adult life, served in the parliament for years, and finally found himself at 56 years of age banished from parliament altogether with no influence on his party and no favor left with much of the British people.  He went back to his home at Chartwell, built walls, painted, played with his children and grandchildren and occupied his time as best he could keeping up with what was going on around the globe especially in Germany.  This was to be his greatest wilderness time and being behind the ugliness of the scaffolding around him was hard to bear.  However, it would turn out once the scaffolding was removed to be he and Britain’s finest hour.  Churchill emerged in 1940 as the wisest man Britain had ever known with his foresight on Hitler.  In late 1940, Churchill was again back in Parliament and ready to take Britain on to victory in WWII.

For most of us, we may never see a time as great as Sir Winston Churchill’s.  We may never be known by the millions of people in our country or around the world.  But whatever scaffolding God has placed around you, rest assure, God is at work in your life and whatever emerges once the scaffolding has been taken down, will be of His sovereign perfect will…it will be of His perfect plan.  You will be made ready to take on whatever God calls you to do. 

Remember, the scaffolding is only temporary…it is the secret work in our lives by the Master Builder.  Much like on July 4, 1986, when the scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty had been removed, a tremendous piece of work emerged and a great celebration was given…our lives will be much the same way.  Our God never leaves His sheep, He never leaves His people or His Church to the wolves…He is always at work in our lives for our greater good and His ultimate glory.  Through this we pray, “Your Kingdom come”!

 

 

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”  -Psalm 127:1

Scott Bailey © 2009

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