En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘*AA Video’

Ten Indictments for the Modern Church-Paul Washer

Posted by Scott on December 1, 2008

Paul Washer delivers a timely message on the plight of the church today.  I have witnessed as Paul has said here younger men all over the world that are digging deep in the Word of God, studying and reading the old theologians like Spurgeon, Tozer, Ravenhill, Lloyd Jones, Whitefield, Edwards, Owens, Boston, Augustine, Campbell, Flavel, and more.  Young men are being drawn back by God to the core foundations of the faith.  Many young men all over the world proclaiming authentic Christianity are not pulled into the humanistic lie of the Emergent and Seeker friendly philosophies.  They are pulled into a God centered biblical theological doctrine sometimes called Reformed Theology or 5 Point Calvinism…either way, it is the truth of God’s Word.  Watch and listen carefully.  Come back to see it over and over.  Personally, I will watch and listen many times as well.  I need the constant reminder of the direction God is taking us and what His Scriptures are telling us.  Search, dig, and act accordingly.


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Parents Acting Like Teenagers!

Posted by Scott on November 21, 2007

Dr. Mohler’s Blog

“Freak Dancing” — When Parents Advocate Misbehavior

The Wall Street Journal is out with one of the those eye-opening stories that defies common moral sense. It seems that Jason Ceyanes, the 35-year-old superintendent of schools in Argyle, Texas, decided to crack down on sexually-suggestive dancing at the local high school. But, when the superintendent banned “freak dancing,” he got into trouble with some of Argyle’s parents.

Here is how The Wall Street Journal introduced its account of the controversy:

A new resolve by school officials in this booming Dallas suburb to crack down on sexually suggestive dancing — and skimpy clothing — has sparked a rancorous debate over what boundaries should be set for teenagers’ self-expression. Argyle joins a long list of other schools around the country that have banned the hip-hop inspired dancing known as “grinding” or “freak dancing.”

But in Argyle, a once-sleepy farming community strained by explosive growth from an influx of well-to-do suburbanites, the controversy has gotten vicious. Some parents blame the newly installed school superintendent, Jason Ceyanes, 35, for ruining their children’s October homecoming dance by enforcing a strict dress code and making provocative dancing off-limits. Disgusted, a lot of kids left, and the dance ended early.

Mr. Ceyanes says he fears current cleavage-baring dress styles combined with sexually charged dancing could lead to an unsafe environment for students.

“This is not just shaking your booty,” he said. “This is pelvis-to-pelvis physical contact in the private areas…and then moving around.”

“Freak dancing” is well known throughout the nation, and it involves what can only be described as “sexually charged” physical contact and movement. But many of the kids in Argyle were “disgusted” that freak dancing was banned at the homecoming dance, so they left. That might be fairly easy to understand. After all, adolescents are expected to exhibit adolescent patterns of misbehavior. What makes this story so interesting is that so many parents responded by joining their adolescents in immature response. In fact, their protest of the superintendent’s policy is shocking.

As the paper explained, “Many parents support Mr. Ceyanes’s actions. But another vocal faction has been harshly critical of the new superintendent, creating a deep rift in the community. These parents defend the children of Argyle as ‘good kids,’ and say they should be trusted to dance and dress the way they want.”

Here is one of the moral hallmarks of our confused age. Parents defy authority and propriety and justify the misbehavior of their own children while calling them “good kids.” In this case, they argue that these “good kids” should be allowed “to dance and dress the way they want” — even if that means sexually suggestive dress and sexually charged dancing.

Mr. Ceyanes held a public meeting for parents and played a video of freak dancing. “I cannot imagine that there is a father in this room who could watch this video and be all right with a young man dancing with his daughter in that fashion,” he told the parents.

This is further evidence of a trend long in coming. Fashion styles for adult women now mimic those of adolescent girls. Why? So many moms want to act like teenagers and dress as provocatively as their offspring. Far too many parents want to act like their teenagers’ friends and peers, not like parents. Parents, after all, are expected to act like adults, and this is a society that depreciates adulthood and valorizes adolescence.

When a story like this makes the front page of The Wall Street Journal, something significant has shifted on the moral landscape. When parents demand that their “good kids” be allowed to freak dance at school events, the real story shifts from the kids to the parents.


The Wall Street Journal also features this video coverage of the story [go here].  We discussed this issue on Tuesday’s edition of The Albert Mohler Program [listen here].

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones: Are You Preaching the Gospel?

Posted by Scott on November 4, 2007



It is true that where sin abounded grace has much more abounded; well then, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound yet further?” The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel than this, that some people might misunderstand it and mis-interpret it that it really amounts to this: that because you are saved by grace alone, it does not really matter at all WHAT you do, you can go on sinning all you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching of the gospel does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. Let me show you what I mean. If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise the question. If he says, “If you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, live a life filled with good works, and keep this up regularly and constantly until the end, then you will be a Christian and go to heaven when you die.” Obviously, no one will accuse a man who preached like this of saying, “Let us continue in sin that grace may abound.” But every preacher who preached the gospel has been accused of this! They have all been accused of “antinomianism.” I would say to all preachers: IF YOUR PREACHING OF SALVATION HAS NOT BEEN MISUNDERSTOOD IN THAT WAY, THEN YOU HAD BETTER EXAMINE YOUR SERMONS AGAIN, and you had better make sure that you really ARE preaching the salvation that is proclaimed in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are the enemies of God. There is a kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Knowledge: False and True-A Warning Against Dead Orthodoxy!

Posted by Scott on November 4, 2007

by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones

A Study of 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

The dangers confronting Christian people are not uniform and always the same. There are different types of personality and different emphases in the life of the Christian church and in the gospel. We who gather here are very well aware of the particular dangers that confront the actvist—that type of person who is so common amongst us in evangelical circles—the man who lives on his energy and on what he does, who is always busy, organizing meetings and attending them etc. and who says that you must always be doing something. We have realized very clearly the terrible danger that is inherent in that kind of activism, and we are never tired of protesting against it and of showing the danger of an almost exclusive emphasis on life, living and activity at the expense of doctrine, understanding and growth in knowledge. But while we see that so clearly, there is a real possibility of our being unaware of the entirely different type of danger that confronts us, and which is something that applies to a different kind of individual. The first thing we always have to do is to know ourselves, to note the particular group to which we belong, and to realize that there are dangers inherent in every type and in every group. To come immediately to the point, there can be no question at all, it seems to me, that the peculiar danger that threatens those of us who meet anually in this Conference, is the danger of pride of intellect and pride of knowledge…

I propose, therefore, to consider this whole subject with you, and I do so in terms of what we find in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3:

‘Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he kn wet anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God the same is known of him.’

I want to consider this with you, in order that we may apply it to ourselves. We need take no time in dealing with the particular context and the state of affairs in the church at Corinth. The Apostle is dealing here with the question of the meats offered to idols because it was a cause of division in the church. There were the more enlightened, the stronger brethren, and there were the weak brethren. They did not see alike on this matter. The strong brother said that there was no such thing as another God, that there was but one God. Everybody should know that, any man who knows anything at all knows that; therefore the idea that you should not eat meat offered to idol s was just nonsense, and was virtually going back to idolatry. A Christian was free to eat any meat he liked. Some them went so far as to say that, if asked, they could even go to the heathen festivals. ‘Why not,’ they asked, ‘as “these gods” are really non–existent?’ So they went. And thus they were becoming a stumbling–block to the weaker brethren, whom they despised, of their weakness of intellect and grasp and understanding. There was grievous trouble in the church of Corinth because of this conflict between the enlightened men of knowledge, and those who were weaker and lacking in knowledge.

The exact context is most interesting. But we are concerned with the way, the most interesting way, in which the apostle deals with it. As is his custom he does not deal with the thing just in and of itself and directly; he lifts it up; he finds a great principle. And the principle he finds is this whole question of knowledge. The real trouble in Corinth, in a sense, was not at all the question of meats offered to idols, but simply men’s view of their own knowledge. So he discusses the matter primarily in terms of their attitude towards knowledge. Our theme therefore, and the principle which we extract from our text, is the danger of a false view of knowledge.

To be accurate in our exegesis let me indicate that the ‘knowledge’ Paul speaks of here is not the same as that referred to in 1 Timothy 6:20, where he talks about some who have gone astray and made shipwreck of the faith because of—as it is translated there—‘science falsely so-called’. ‘Science’ there means knowledge, ‘Knowledge falsely so-called’. But that is not the same ‘knowledge’ as we have here in 1 Corinthians 8. There, the problem has reference to a kind of mystical knowledge, and to people claiming that they were receiving some direct knowledge by inspiration; it was the danger of a false mysticism. But here, it is ‘knowledge’ in the sense in which we normally use the term and in which, certainly, it applies to us who are members of this Conference.

There is no need, of course to emphasize the fact that knowledge is all important. We can never know too much. Knowledge is essential, doctrine is vital. The Bible is full of doctrine, and the New Testament particularly so. The epistles are mighty, glorious expositions of doctrine and of truth. The Apostles not only preached the truth but they emphasized the all–importance of a knowledge of the truth. Ultimately most of the troubles in the church, according to the teaching of the epistles, stem somewhere or another from a lack of knowledge and of understanding. Knowledge, therefore, is in and of itself absolutely essential; indeed we must give it priority and see to it that it always comes first. We were reminded of that in the paper which gave an exposition of Dr. John Owen’s teaching on the question of apostasy. Truth came first, you remember, then godliness, and then worship. We are all agreed about that. It is no problem to us. But and this is where our theme comes in—it is possible for us to develop a false notion of knowledge. It is possible for this gift of knowIedge and understanding, which is in many ways God’s most precious gift to us next to the gift of his Son and our salvation, to become a snare to us and a very real danger in our spiritual life. Such was the position in Corinth. It is good for us therefore at the end of this Conference, in which we have been spending so many hours in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding—it is good for us that we should face this possible danger which may be confronting us. I suggest the following treatment of the subject.

The Causes of a False View of Knowledge

First, we must consider the causes of this false view of knowledge. We cannot go into these in detail, but we may divide them into general and particular. Obviously at the back of everything is the adversary. The devil having failed to keep us out of the faith and in a state of ignorance and darkness of the mind, and having seen that we have discovered the danger of a busy activism that may be nothing but a man revolving round himself, suddenly completely changes his tactics. Transforming himself into an angel of light, he drives us to such an extreme in this matter of knowledge as eventually to ensnare us quite as successfully as he ensnares the activist. In other words we are back to a phenomenon with which we are all so familiar—the danger of going violently from one extreme to the other, the danger of over–correction. It seems to be the besetting sin of mankind and one of the most terrible results of the Fall, that there is no thing so difficult as to maintain a balance. In correcting one thing we go to such an extreme as to find ourselves in an equally dangerous position. We are always confronted by the devil, who is ever ready to take the best things and turn them into his own instruments of unrighteousness and to produce the shipwreck of our souls.

A second general cause is, as a well–known proverb reminds us, ‘a little learning’. ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing’. That does not mean, of course, that there is no danger in much knowledge. There is. But I am not sure that in this respect there is not a greater danger in a little, because it always means that the element of the tyro or novice who imagines that his litt1e knowledge is all knowledge comes in. Is it not notorious that first–year students always know much more than final–year students? I leave it at that—the danger that arises from a little learning. But we must give more attention to the third cause which may be a little more controversial. To me, there is a very special danger at this point and in this matter which we are discussing, in reading as against preaching. Perhaps in the age in which we live this is one of the greatest dangers of all. I am asserting that reading is much more dangerous than listening to preaching, and I suggest that a very real danger arises in this connection if a man just spends his time reading and does not come under the power of preaching. What do I mean? I mean something like this. While a man is reading a book there is a sense in which he is in entire control. It depends partly on the book, I know, and if it is beginning to make him feel uncomfortable he can shut it up and go for a walk and—he can do many things. But you cannot do all that when listening to preaching. Of course, you may be rude enough to get up and go out, and some people do so, but on the whole that is not the custom.

Preaching in a sense, therefore, safeguards us from these peculiar dangers that arise from reading only, provided of course that it is true preaching. For when a man is listening to true preaching he comes under the ‘power’ of the truth in a way that he does not when he is only reading. You may or may not like Phillips Brooks’ definition of preaching as ‘truth mediated through personality’, but there is a great deal to be said for it; and the Scriptures give us many illustrations of that. God does use the human personality. Not only that, a preacher not only expounds but also applies the Scriptures, and thereby makes sure that application takes place. When a man reads a book, however, he may never come to application. He can decide to shut the book and stop whenever he likes; there is no insistence on the application. I fear that in this present age, when people are tending to listen less and less to preaching, and preaching becomes shorter and shorter, and our reliance upon reading becomes correspondingly greater, we are therefore more exposed to the danger than our forefathers were. I am not of course denouncing reading, and saying that there should be a ban on all publications! Of course not! I am simply trying to show the dangerous tendency that arises, and asserting the priority and primacy, and the superiority of preaching. We need to be brought under the power of the truth. We do not like that, but it is the business of the preacher to do that, and if he fails to do so, he is a very poor preacher. We always try to evade these conclusions and applications, but the preacher brings them home. He holds us, and makes us face them, and therefore he safeguards us against certain dangers. An age which attaches greater importance to reading than to the preaching of the Word is already in a dangerous position.

But let us pass to particular causes. One is, to take a purely theoretical and academic interest in truth and knowledge, to make knowledge an end in and of itself—the purely theoretical and accademic approach. This is an obvious and well–known danger. I therefore take the general principle for granted, and mention only certain particular illustrations of it here.

I have always felt that it is wrong to hold examinations on Scriptural knowledge, for the reason that it tends to develop this theoretical interest in it. It makes a subject of it, something which you have to learn in order to pass your examination or to get a certain number of marks. It may not happen, I grant, but I am suggesting that the moment you have an examination you have already started this tendency to regard biblical knowledge as a subject in and of itself, like any other subject. I remember lecturing at a certain conference in America in 1932. The conference had been started by a saintly bishop in 1874 for religious people, but it had degenerated, not so much in numbers but in its theology and approach to truth. I found there that the great claim for this conference (and this is how it was advertised) was that it taught any subject in which anybody could be conceivably interested. I also found that item number sixteen on the list of advertised subjects was ‘Religion’. There is an example of this purely academic and theoretical interest in truth you take it up as a subject: chemistry, history, art, religion, theology—knowledge about these matters. And if you have an examination in addition, the whole thing is greatly aggravated.

It is also, and I say this with very real regret, one of the dangers inherent in a study of religious history. I have known three men who have been expert historians on the history of Christianity, the history of the church, and the history of its great men and movements. They have given their whole lives to this, and all three were particularly interested in the 18th century. But what has always amazed me is that though they spent their lives in reading about those glorious revivals of religion and those mighty men of God, it had not touched them at all. To them it was just a subject, a matter of academic and historical interest. They knew all the details, but as for the spirit of the thing, it was as if they had never read about it at all. That, I suggest, is a danger that is always inherent in the historical approach, and is an illustration of this purely theoretical approach.

The same thing can apply also even in the process of studying theology. It can become just a subject set for an examination, or a subject essential to obtaining a certain degree or diploma. And the very fact that this is the system may result in a man viewing the knowledge of God entirely in this way. But even without examinations this is still a possibility. A man can take a purely academic and theoretical interest in theology. I have known many such men. They happen to have had that as their hobby, whereas others turned to crossword puzzles. It was essentially the same approach—there was no question about that at all. It was purely theoretical, and thus it had become this false type of ‘knowledge’. Are we entirely free from this danger?

The second particular cause is that we approach truth purely in terms of intellect—intellect only. There is nothing so dangerous as to isolate the intellect. We are all agreed about the priority of intellect. But there is all the difference in the world between our asserting its priority and talking only about intellect and regarding man as if he were nothing but an intellect. There is nothing that is so calculated to lead a man directly to this ‘false knowledge’, about which the Apostle is speaking, as a purely intellectual interest in truth, in which the heart is never engaged at all and the power of the truth is not felt, indeed in which feeling does not enter at all. The man is merely concerned to absorb knowledge with his mind. And it is precisely the same when the will is not engaged. If the interest does not lead to any action, or move the ill, it is equally bad. We need not stay with this. The text for all this is, of course, Romans 6:17: ‘But God be thanked’, says the Apostle, ‘that ye have obeyed’—will!—‘from the heart’—heart!—‘the form of (sound) doctrine delivered to you’— to the mind. There you have them together. If you isolate the intellect and leave out the heart and the will, it is certain that you will end in this position of having a false view of knowledge, and indeed as I want to show, with false ‘knowledge’ also. To vary the expression, this danger is one of knowing ‘about’ a subject rather than knowing it! What a vital distinction this is. What a difference there is between preaching about the gospel and preaching the gospel! It is possible to preach round the gospel and say things about it without ever presenting it. That is quite useless—indeed it can be very dangerous. It may be true of us that we know ‘about’ these things, but do not really know them. And this, of course, becomes all–important when we realize that the whole end and object of theology is to know God! A Person! Not a collection of abstract truths, nor a number of philosophical propositions, but God! A Person! To knowHim!—‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent!’ There we have what I would regard as the main causes of this trouble…

The Signs and Indications of the Condition of False Knowledge

We come now to the second general heading, the signs and indicaions of this condition. There are certain general signs of this possession of a false knowledge and a false view of knowledge. For instance in such cases, there is always a lack of balance. it is the bit of knowledge that the man happens to have that he is always interested in, and he knows nothing else. So there is lack of balance at once. He has been suddenly attracted by a type or aspect of knowledge, and goes after it. He acquaints himself with this; but he knows nothing else and is lop–sided and lacking in balance. That in turn expresses itself in the use of slogans, cliches, tabloid expressions and phrases which always characterizes this condition. These phrases keep tripping off the tongue; the same catch phrases and slogans always. That is unfailingly indicative of a little knowledge, a lack of true knowledge, and above all of this lack of balance of knowledge.

The Apostle uses the term ‘puffed up’—’Knowledge puffeth up’. What an expression! What does he mean? he is describing a proud man, is he not? Here is a man who thinks he really ‘knows it all’; he is not like those other people, he knows; he is a man of knowledge and understanding. He knows it all! He is not like those others who never read; he is a great reader. And, of course, as a result of this he has arrived, and he is proud of it. ‘Puffed up!’ How do we know that he is proud of his knowledge? Well, he is always parading it. The heavy, important, Puritan gate! The way of speaking and so on! That is a part of the parading that is inevitably one of the manifestations of being ‘puffed up’. How difficult it is to stand erect with all this great weight of knowledge!

It manifests itself also in an impatience of any restraint and any correction; and still more in an impatience with any opposing view. It is intolerant of anything else. It ‘knows’, and nothing else must even be suggested. No opposing view has a right to exist, and must not even be considered. In other words it is a part of this bein g ‘puffed up’. It means ‘arrogance’. The Apostle James knew certain people of th is type, and so he says says, ‘Be not many masters, my brethren’ (James 3: 1). What a terrible thing it must be to have a church with nothing but masters in it. All are authorities, all know everything and ‘all about it’. ‘Be not many masters, my brethren’. But there is always this tendency to feel that you do know, and understand, and, of course, to let it be known. So men arrogate unto themselves positions—and thereby betray themselves.

But still more serious is the way in which this-manifests itself in its attitude to others. That was the trouble in the church at Corinth where these men who were enlightened said, ‘We have knowledge, we know’. The Apostle’s reply was, ‘We know that we all have knowledge’. Now he was there, according to some of the commentators, repeating their own phrase, ‘We have knowledge’. The result was that their attitude to others was one of superiority. They tended to despise others, they were like the Pharisees. They did not boast so much of the good works they did as of their knowledge and their understanding. These others who did not understand, who were not clear about idols—why, they were almost beneath contempt. So they looked down upon them, were inconsiderate towards them and said they were hardly worthy to be considered at all. It may show itself like that. Or it may show itself by just ignoring these others altogether. You ignore them to such an extent that you do not even feel contemptuous toward them, because in a sense they are not there at all! You are so much up in the air and in the clouds yourself that you do not even see them. It is as if they were not there. Then another way in which it manifests itself is in feeling that these other people who are so slow to learn are a hindrance to us. Why should the preacher still be dealing with such simple matters? These men who know so much would like to go on to the great things, but the preacher is always staying there with some preliminaries. There he is, preaching evangelistic sermons every Sunday night, and on Sunday mornings he seems to be thinking that he has many people in his congregation to whom everything has to be explained in great detail. Because of that they are being held back and cannot go on to the great heights. They have long scaled the Alps, why does the preacher not take them to Mount Everest? These other people are just a nuisance and a hindrance with their slowness. Now that was the case in Corinth, and it is the case in many churches today. These men of knowledge want to go on, but they are being held back by these others whom they therefore despise. There it is, displayed in the attitude towards others.

The last sign that I am going to mention, in order that I may pass on to something else, is that in some cases this wrong view of knowledge, and this possession of what is not true knowledge, manifests itself by it’s victim just doing nothing at all; he simply enjoys his ‘knowledge’. He does not seem to be aware of the fact that there is a lost soul anywhere in the world. He spends the whole of his time in reading and if he meets people, in letting them know what he has been reading and in having discussions about Truth. There are sections of the church today, with the world as it is, which never have any contact with the world at all. You never hear of them having a single convert, they do not seem to be aware of the existence of the problems of mankind and the ravages of sin. Why not? Becausethey spend the whole of their time within that circle of theirs, dotting their i’s and crossing the t’s, arguing about their great knowledge, and displaying it to one another. They are thus completely useless and entirely cut off from any kind of activity. We may not know this in it’s extreme form; but I would ask everyone present to examine himself or herself. Have you not found that it is a very easy thing indeed to spend the whole of your time in just reading and adding to your knowledge and building up your understanding, and forgetting all about the sinful world in which you live? It is the peculiar temptation that comes to people of intellect and ability who have realized the importance of knowledge. You can spend the whole of your life in merely adding to your own knowledge or in comparing notes with others who are like yourself.

The Uselessness of False Knowledge

But let us come to the third section which is the uselessness of such supposed knowledge. Look at the way in which the Apostle puts it in the second verse: ‘if any man think that he knoweth anything.’ Well, he says, there is only one thing to say about him—’he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know’; which means pattly, that this man, who is proud of the knowledge that he thinks is his, has not really got any knowledge at all. Is this not obvious? The argument is that if this man has a true knowledge of God he simply could not be like that. So the apostle says, this man who thinks he knows, in fact ‘knows nothing yet as he ought to know’, because if he did know as he ought to know he could not possibly be behaving as he is. This does not need any demonstration; it is a sheer impossibility; he has no true knowledge. He thinks that he has a knowledge of God, but all he has is some kind of knowledge ‘about’ God; it is not a knowledge of God, otherwise he could not possibly be what he is.

Let me put it in the words of the great George Whitefield. He is talking about the Bible:

‘This is my rock, this is my foundation. It is now about thirty–five years since I have begun to read the Bible upon my pillow. I love to read this Book, but the Book is nothing but an account of the promises which it contains, and almost every word from the beginning to the end of it speaks of a spiritual dispensation, and the Holy Ghost that unites our souls to God and helps a believer to say, “My Lord and my God.” If you content you content yourselves with that—[now he means by that, the Bible itself, remember]—if you content yourselves with that, the devil will let you talk of doctrines enough. You shall turn from Arminianism to Calvinism; you shall be orthodox enough, if you will be content to live without Christ living in you (Sermon on Isaiah 60:19, ‘God a Believer’s Glory’).

Note what Whitefield says. If you just go in for that sort of theoretical intellectual knowledge, the devil will let you talk of doctrine enough; you will turn from Arminianism to Calvinism, you shall be orthodox enough, if you will be content to live without Christ living in you. Th e devil does not care at all whether you change from being an Arminian to being a Calvinist if you do not know Christ and if you do not know God. One is as bad as the other. A theoretical Calvinism is of no more value than a theoretical Arminianism—not the slightest. That is what Whitefield is saying. He therefore warns against this because he is concerned about our having the Spirit. And he goes on to say, ‘Now when yo u have got the Spirit, then you may say “God is mine”.’ His point is that any knowledge which falls short of that does not interest the devil at all, because it is not really true knowledge which is going to make a difference to y ou. That is how Whitefield puts it, who was himself a Calvinist and one of the greatest evangelists the world has ever known.

But let me adduce another reason. Why is this such a ridiculous position to be in—this feeling that we really do know and that we have knowledge, this pride in ourselves and this despising of those activities, those busy people who do not know any theology or doctrine, those people of whom we speak in a derogatory manner and whom we more or less dismiss? Why is this so utterly ridiculous? And why is it not areal knowledge at all? The answer is—because of the vastness of the knowledge! What do I mean? The knowledge about which we are speaking is a knowledge of God! All these doctrines are about God! The moment you realize that, you see how impossible it is that a man should be proud of his knowledge. The moment he realizes the endlessness, the vastness of the knowledge, he is bound to realize that he is but a pigmy, a mere beginner, a little child paddling at the edge of the ocean. He thought he was out in the great depths. Great depths! He knows nothing about them, he has been thinking in purely theoretical terms. But when you realize that all this knowledge, everything in the Bible, is meant to bring us to know God, the Everlasting and the Eternal in the Glory and the Majesty of His Being—how can a man be proud of his knowledge when he realizes that that is knowledge about which we are speaking? 0r take the way the Apostle puts it in writing to the Ephesians. He is praying for these Ephesians and he ‘bows his knees unto God the Father.’ What for? Well this, he says: ‘That they, together with all other saints, may come to know the breadth, and the length, and the depth, and the height; and to know the love of God, which passeth knowledge’ (Eph, 3: 18, 19). Think of a little man strutting about because he khows so much, because he has read the Puritans and has read theology and is not like these other people who are ignorant. ‘Puffed up!’ Poor fool, who is not aware of his ignorance—‘heknoweth nothing yet as he ought to know’. If he really had a true knowledge of God he could not be like that. The thing is a sheer impossibility. The endlessness, the vastness of it all!…

In order to emphasize this great truth I felt I could do nothing better than remind you of the experiences of certain men who knew just a little about this knowledge of which I am speaking…Charles Haddon Spurgeon…puts it like this:

All ye that think that you know and have a knowledge of the truth, may the Holy Spirit grant that we may not say a word which is not strictly verified by our experience. But I hope we can say we have had converse with the Divine Father. We have not seen Him at any time, nor have we beheld His shape. It has not been given to us, like Moses, to be put in the cleft of the rock, and to see the back parts, or the train of the invisible Jehovah. But yet we have spoken to Him, we have said to Him, “Abba, Father”. We have saluted Him in that title which came from our very heart, “Our Father, which art in Heaven”. We have had access to Him in such a way that we cannot have been deceived. We have found Him, and through the precious blood of Christ we have come even to His feet. We have ordered our cause before Him, and we have filled our mouth with arguments. Nor has the speaking been all on our side, for He has been pleased to shed abroad by His Spirit His love in our hearts. While we have felt the Spirit of adoption He, on the other hand, has showed us the lovingkindness of a tender Father. We have felt though no sound was ever heard; we have known, though no angelic messenger gave us witness, that His Spirit did bear witness with our spirit that we were born of God. We were embraced of Him—no more at a distance. We were brought nigh by the blood of Christ.” That is real true knowledge of God!….That is what we should understand by knowledge (Sermon on 1 John 1:13, September 15, 1861).

The Tests of True Knowledge

My argument is this, that when we realize that that is the knowledge to which the Bible is meant to bring us and that that is the whole end of theology and the whole purpose of all teaching concerning these matters—when we realize that that is ‘knowledge’, can we possibly feel that we have knowledge and be ‘puffed up’ and boast of ‘our knowledge’ and ‘our learning’ in these matters? The thing is a sheer impossibility.

But let us consider the tests which show whether we have this true knowledge. First and foremost, obviously, is love of God. As the Apostle puts it in verse 3 (1 Cor. 8:3): ‘If any man love God’. That, he says in effect, ‘is knowledge’. In other words, here is the argument. To know God, of necessity, is to love Him. You cannot know God wiithout loving Him’. It is impossible. Why? Because God is love, because of the glory of His Being, because God is who and what He is. If any man really knows God he will be ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’; he will love God. True knowledge always leads to a love of God. If therefore we cannot say that we love God, have we any right to claim any knowledge of God? We can have a great deal of knowledge about Him and concerning Him, we can even apprehend with our minds the full scheme of salvation, but we still may be ignorant of ‘knowledge of God’. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.’…

Secondly, another way to test knowledge is by the character it produces. ‘Knowledge puffeth up’ says the Apostle,’but charity edifieth’,—builds up? What kind of character does it build up? It is described perfectly in 1 Corinthians 13: ‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.’ That is the character! What are its characteristics? First and foremost, humility. Look at those men in the Bible who have had a glimpse of God. They fall down as ‘dead’. They say with Isaiah, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone!’ Proud of their knowledge and their learning and their superiority? No!—they feel they are unclean and not fit to be there at all, that they are not in a position to criticize anybody because they are so aware of their utter unworthiness. True knowledge invariably leads to humility, and also to holiness and godliness.

What about the attitude to the neighbour? It has been stated perfectly there in 1 Corinthians 13—we will love our neighbour. Our Lord Himself said that it is the second great commandment: ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’ And, of course, especially so if he is weak and ignorant. What if he is an Arminian? What if he does not understand doctrines of grace? How are we to treat him? Are we to despise him, are we to dismiss him as a fool, or as a nonentity or as a man who knows nothing—is that to be the attitude? Let me again quote Whfitefield to you: ‘Believers consider Christ’s property in them. He says “My sheep”. Oh, blessed be God for that little, dear, great word ”My!” We are His by eternal election, “the sheep which Thou hast given Me” says Christ. They were given by God theFather, to Christ Jesus in the covenant made between the Father and the Son from all eternity.’ What a noble, wonderful statement of the great doctrine of election, one of the doctrines of grace! But Whitefield goes on: ‘They that are not led to see this, I wish them better heads, though. I believe numbers that are against it have got better hearts. The Lord help us to bear with one another where there is an honest heart!’ There is nothing to be added to that. It is the righ t way to look at it…Oh yes, when a man has this true knowledge he must love his neighbour as himself.’

In other words, to sum it up, what is the result of true knowledge? First: it is that we rejoice in the Lord. My friends, we do not only believe in the Lord “when we know Him, we rejoice in Him. ‘Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice.’ The happiest people in the church ought to be those who know the doctrines of grace. They should not be ‘puffed up’ with their little knowledge, they should be men filled with joy because they know God and something about His love.

Likewise they should have a holy zeal for God’s Name, and resulting from that they should be filled with compassion for the lost. The greatest evangelists the world has ever known have been men who have held the doctrines of grace. Why? Because they have had the greatest knowledge of God. Did you know that this was a fact, that every single person who was involved in the beginning of the great missionary enterprise in the 1790s was what is called a Calvinist? I dislike the use of these labels and extra–biblical terms, but that is a simple fact of history. There is a notion abroad today that a man who holds these doctrines of grace is a man who does nothing, and that he does not believe in evangelism. Why is that notion abroad? Why have people got that notion? Is there something in it? If there is, it means this, that the knowledge we think we have is no knowledge at all. We have got this theoretical, useless knowledge, and it is not a knowledge of God. If a man knows God he will above all others have a zeal for the glory of God and the Name of God. He will want the whole world to come to God, he will be the most active preacher and evangelist of all. He must because his knowledge of God is greater and his compassion for the lost is greater. And, as we know, there was no man in the eighteenth century who was so active, none who laboured so indefatigably as that great George Whitefield from whom I have been quoting.

The man who has true knowledge will be full of compassion for the lost and of zeal for the glory of God. There is no need to prove this, the thing demonstrates itself. lf only we knew Him! That is why the Son came from heaven, to let the world know something about the glory of the Father. He even came into the world and died to do this. And we should know Them—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And as we do so we shall in our little measure produce our Lord’s life and shall be patient as He was patient: ‘A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench.’ God have mercy upon us for the intolerance that often results from our false knowledge, and for the arrogance which is so often displayed. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.’ The 1owly Jesus! Let us show that we know God by not only loving God but by loving our neighbour, and especially the lost and those who are weak and feeble and who have fallen by the way, the children in the faith, the beginners, and those who are slow to learn. Let us be patient with them, even as He has been patient with us.

My last word—how are we to get this knowledge? I give you but the bare headings. Bible study! Obviously you start there. But in addition, self–examination. How vital that is! Reading the Bible is not enough. Self examination! How do you examine yourself? If you read your Bible correctly, you will soon discover. Ask yourself questions, apply what you are reading to yourself. Say: ‘This was spoken to a Pharisee, is it true of me?’ and so on. But if you want further help as regards self–examination, read the diaries of men who have truly known God. Jonathan Edwards drew up a list of questions for people to ask themselves. John Fletcher of Madeley did exactly the same thing. You can use them if you like. But however you do it, be sure that you do it. Examine yourself!

Then another thing—and I want to emphasize this—balanced reading! I am concerned about this. I know of nothing that has such a tenndency to produce false knowledge and to make men victims of this false knowledge, as reading which lacks balance. If a man reads nothing but theology, he is exposing himself to this danger. I would therefore advise that we should always balance our reading as we balance our material diet. You should not eat only one kind of food. if you eat nothing but proteins you will soon be ill. You should always have a balanced diet. That principle is equally essential here. ‘What do you mean?’ asks someone. Well, if I may say so with humility, the thing that has been of the greatest help to me has been to balance theological reading with the reading of biographies. That is the best advice I can give. I have always done this: I have always done it on holiday and I have tried to do it day by day. But on holiday in particular I used always to give my mornings to reading some theological work, but I was also careful to read some biography at night. It worked like this. Having read for three or four hours in the morning I felt before lunch that I was quite a considerable man, and that I had a great deal of knowledge which I would be able to display to others. There I was! But I remember very well when I first ‘stumbled’—and I am speaking the truth literally—when I first stumbled across Jonathan Edwards in 1918. 1 had never heard of him before but I began to read him and I soon discovered that you cannot read a page of Jonathan Edwards without feeling very small indeed. It completely corrected what had been happening in the morning. The best antidote to the poison of false knowledge is to read a biography like that of Jonathan Edwards or Whitefield or Fletcher of Madeley…How monstrous, how ridiculous how foolish it is to think that we know these things, that we have a knowledge of God simply because we have garnered a certain amount of intellectual and theoretical and academic information! ‘Grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.’ Can we say with Spurgeon that we know what it is to be ‘embraced’ by Him? Have we ever really been there in His presence in a ‘sensible’ way—using the term ‘sensible’ as the Puritans used it? To ‘know and feel’ that God is near!

What is the value of all the knowledge we may have if we are ignorant of that! ‘Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.’ (I Cor. 13: 2). May God preserve us from this ‘false knowledge’ which is not knowledge but a counterfeit, and which is finally useless!

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones

This article is an excerpt from an article appearing in the book The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors published by Banner of Truth. This volume brings together the addresses given by Dr. Lloyd–Jones at the Puritan Studies and Westminster Conferences held in London, England between 1959 and 1978.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Shaken!

Posted by Scott on November 4, 2007


A Kingdom which cannot be shaken

Are you surprised that we have had two world wars already in this century? Are you surprised at the piling of these horrible armaments? Are you surprised at the confusion, the collapse, of so many institutions at this present time?

[This sermon was preached by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on 24th May 1978 in Rhymney, Wales, at the induction services of David Norman Jones who now is a minister in Tasmania]

In order that we may remind one another of the ultimate object and purpose of these two gatherings today and the coming together of these two churches under the ministry of our dear friend and brother, I would call your attention to the last three verses in the portion of Scripture that has been read to us.

“And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:27-29].

A time of grave and terrible crisis

I need not tell you that we are meeting together tonight in a time of great confusion, a time of grave and terrible crisis. Everybody is aware of this; you cannot read a paper, you cannot listen to a news bulletin without hearing of some added crisis, some new problem, some fresh tragedy. The world is in an alarming state and condition. We are truly in an age of exceptional crisis. But I want to put to you that we are not only in a time and age of crisis, we are living in a time when all of us are being tested, all of us have been sifted and examined and proved. What I mean by that is this, that the state of the world tonight is testing the outlook, the point of view, of every one of us who is in this congregation. indeed of everybody that is in the world. Everybody has got some view of life, even the most thoughtless people, people who scarcely ever think at all, they have got a kind of philosophy and their philosophy is not to think. What is the use of thinking?’ they say. So they have got their point of view, their point of view is ‘Let us eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’. So I am saying that everybody’s point of view, everybody’s attitude towards life, is on trial at the moment

Questions requiring an answer

Let me show you what I mean. Take this first question: Are you surprised that the world is as it is at this moment?

Are you surprised that we have had two world wars already in this century? Are you surprised at the piling of these horrible armaments? Are you surprised at the confusion, the collapse, of so many institutions at this present time? Does it surprise you? Does it surprise you that in this sophisticated age of ours, in 1978, that the world is in such terrible trouble? I ask my question because there are many people who are very surprised at this; they are amazed at it-and for this reason, that their view of life was that the world is getting better and better. And therefore finding things getting worse and worse, they are confounded, they are surprised, they are amazed and they do not understand it.

So I put that as my first question: Are you surprised at the fact that the world is as it is at this very moment? Or, let me phrase that in a slightly different way: Are you disappointed that the world is as it is? Not only surprised but disappointed, because again there are many people in the world who are grievously disappointed at the present state of affairs. And they are disappointed for this reason, that having adopted the kind of idealistic philosophy, or view of life, which was very popular in the last century – you know that idea that believed in evolution, or progress and development, the view which said that as the result of popular education which came in 1870 and all the marvellous scientific advances and discoveries, more travel, ability to mix with other nations – they were very confident that the twentieth century was going to be the golden century, the crowning century of all the centuries! Did not Tennyson write about the coming of the parliament of men and the federation of the world, of the days when men would beat their swords into ploughshares and war would be no more? War, we were told – and they taught this, not only the poets but the philosophers and the politicians – war, they said, was due to the fact that people did not know one another. But the moment when they got to know one another as the result of the invention of the steam engine and travel and still more by the coming of the aeroplane, the moment when people got to know one another, they would never fight again, they would realise that we were all brothers. They had forgotten, you see, that Cain and Abel were brothers. They had forgotten all about that, but they were quite sure that as the result of travel and the increase of knowledge and so on and so forth, that the world was going to be paradise-and with William Blake they talked about building the new Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land. It was all going to be done by the advance of knowledge and culture, by passing Acts of Parliament and by all the ameliorations that were taking place and were going to take place in social conditions.

Christians who were shaken

Well these men were confident about this. So you see when the First World War came, they were shaken, they were surprised. It was not according to the theory-but they still held on to it. Then when the Second World War came, well they were not only surprised and disappointed, they were aghast. They could not understand it and they were utterly confounded. I can illustrate what I am saying by one man. No man believed so firmly in this idea of development and of progress than the late Mr H G Wells, the popular novelist. He was a great scientific humanist and he really believed that as the result of the advance of knowledge and of culture and of science in particular, that the world really was going to be paradise. So when the Second World War came, he wrote his last book and he gave it a very significant title, Mind At the End of Its Tether. He could not understand it. How was it possible with all our advances and developments that there should be a Second World War in this one century, before the half of the century had passed? So I ask my question to you my friend tonight, Are you disappointed that the world is as it is? Are you astonished and are you amazed at it? Or does it fit in with your philosophy and your outlook and your point of view?

Why Is The World As It is Today?

But let me ask a third question, Do you understand why the world is as it is tonight? Can you explain it? The Christian, the true Christian, is not surprised that the world is as it is and he can understand why it is as it is. Can you? This is a very vital question. You see the trouble is that people refuse to think. They just wring their hands, they say, ‘Is it not terrible!’ But they must explain it, why is it that things are as they are in spite of all our amazing advances and developments in so many realms and spheres. Can you understand it? Can you explain it? If not, there is something wrong with your point of view.

And let me put my last question, Have you any hope at all with regard to the future? Do you see any light anywhere? Is there any message of deliverance? Now I put it to you that if we claim to be thinkers at all, we are bound to face these crucial questions. Here we are in this world with these things happening. Does it tally with what we have always believed, that on which we have pinned our faith?

Now those are the questions I want to consider with you and I want to do so in the light of these verses that I have just read to you. This man was writing to a number of people who were known as Hebrew Christians; that means that they had been brought up as Jews but having heard the Christian Gospel they had left their old religion and the Temple and the ceremonial and the priesthood and they had espoused this new teaching, this new doctrine; they had become Christians. And for a while they were very happy. But then difficulties arose; they were persecuted; they were molested; they were tried grievously in many ways; and the result was that the faith of some of them was being shaken and they were beginning to look back with longing eyes to the old religion of their fathers. And this man writes to them because of that. He says, you are not going back to that! That was only the type, that was only the preliminary, that has been shaken, that has been removed, that was only temporary. Do not go back to the temporary which can be shaken-hold on to the final, the ultimate, that which can never be moved and never be shaken.

A world which will be shaken

But he goes beyond that and he reminds them, and through them he reminds us, that a day is coming when everything in this world that can be shaken is going to be shaken and that we all of us belong either to some kind of kingdom that can be shaken and removed, or we are citizens of a kingdom which cannot be shaken and which can never be moved. And in putting it like that, of course, this man is really giving us a summary of the message of the whole of the Bible from beginning to end. The Bible is a book which calls upon us all to make a decision. It tells us that there are two ways before us in this life and in this world. We can either build upon foundations which can be shaken and removed or else we can build on a foundation which can never be moved. Or its alternative is we can belong to kingdoms that can be shaken and moved or else we can be citizens of this kingdom which can never be moved. Now this is the great message of the Bible and it puts it like this, that all the trouble in the long story of the human race is due to the fact that mankind in its blindness and its folly is misled by the powers of evil, is always making the wrong choice, is holding on to things that can be shaken and rejecting the one thing that can never be shaken and never be moved. And it goes on putting this before us. It says it either has to be God or mammon. You either enter by a strait gate onto a narrow way or you go with the crowd through the wide gate and the broad way that leadeth to destruction. And right the way through it puts the two possibilities before us, shows us the folly of the wrong choice and pleads with us to accept the true, the only way that leads to peace here in this world and a hope of glory for all eternity.

Well now let me put this to you. This is the business of my friend who is going to minister here in Rhymney as well as in Crickhowell. This is the business of all of us worthy of the name of Christian ministers at all – we are here to address people in this age of collapse, this age of confusion, this age in which so many things have been shaken before our eyes, this climactic period through which we are passing. And I want to put it in terms of this biblical message. Man’s ultimate fallacy, as I have said, is that he always chooses to belong to kingdoms that can be shaken and removed. Man is very fond of building kingdoms. The history of mankind, if you like, is a history of men building kingdoms for themselves-refusing the kingdom of God and setting up their own kingdoms, which they think are going to be durable and everlasting and they have done this in many different ways.

The kingdoms of men – in all their variety – come and go

The old way, and it is still true, you find it in the Bible, you find it in secular history, the commonest of all the ways has been that man has tried is to set up military kingdoms, great military kingdoms. You have a number of them described here in the Bible. Think of a great kingdom like the kingdom of Babylon. That was an amazing kingdom, great wealth, great power, great armies and they conquered practically every country and at the head of this great kingdom of Babylon there was a man called Nebuchadnezzar. And he was such a conqueror, such a military genius, that he began to think that he was almost a god. And the people agreed with him. And he set up a great image to himself and commanded his people to bow down and worship. He really believed he was a semi-god if not a god. He had built this great kingdom, you see. But according to the Bible – and this is sheer history – it was not a kingdom that was going to last for ever, as he thought. It began to shake and we are given an account of this mighty dictator in a field one day and his nails had grown into talons and his hair was as long as the hairs of an animal and he was eating grass in a field-humbled by God. This man who had inflated himself to heaven-humbled, his kingdom shaken.

And quite soon it was conquered by another mighty kingdom that came along, called the Medo-Persian kingdom. Now this is biblical and secular history. The Medo-Persian kingdom came along and this again was a mighty kingdom, conquered Babylon, conquered others and it seemed to be invincible and everlasting and people were beginning to worship it.

It did not last very long. Another kingdom came along, the kingdom of Greece and this was an amazing kingdom. The head of this kingdom was a man whom we still know as Alexander the Great and he was of course one of the greatest military geniuses that the world has ever known. He conquered everywhere, conquered Egypt, built Alexandria, named after him; he conquered all the then known and civilised world and he set up this kingdom that really did seem to be indestructible and invincible, great in every respect. But do you know what happened? While he was yet in the thirties, he died and his kingdom was destroyed and divided up. I will never forget reading a book during the last war by a Swiss theologian, on the book of the prophet Daniel. All I remember of the book was this phrase, I have never forgotten it; it was so true, so striking. He said the man whom the world knows as Alexander the Great is known in the Bible as a he-goat. That is the biblical view of him. ‘Great’, says the world: ‘he-goat’ says God, says the Bible. And you and I now read books on the Glory that was Greece and we go and visit the ruins, the kingdom has vanished and has disappeared.

Why? Well another kingdom came up, the kingdom of Rome, the Roman Empire. And again this was one of the most astonishing phenomena that the world has ever seen. You remember how Rome again conquered all the then civilised world; but it was not only great in a military sense but in a legal sense and in every other sense. They came and conquered this country, as they conquered most other countries. Here at last there did seem to be a kingdom that could never be shaken and never removed. And the capital of course was the city of Rome. What did they call Rome? Is it not interesting, they called Rome ‘the Eternal City’? The Eternal City – not for a time – Eternal City. But you remember the story; in a few centuries barbarians, Goths and Vandals from northern Europe came down in hordes; they sacked the Eternal City and they conquered and brought to an end the great Roman Empire.

And so you see it has continued throughout ancient history. Kingdom after kingdom has come up and men have claimed for it that it is everlasting and eternal – suddenly it vanishes and disappears. But, you say, that is ancient history. All right, let us come up to modern times. I am not going to keep you in describing to you great kingdoms in Egypt, the mighty empire that was once governed by Spain and many other mighty kingdoms, mighty empires. Come nearer to our own time. Most of you can still remember a man whose name was Adolf Hitler. He came into power in 1933; what was he going to do? Well, he told us so often – heard him saying it many a time on the wireless – he said he was going to set up the Third Reich which was going to last a thousand years. The Third Reich – and Hitler dominated the world like some Colossus, striding the world like a Colossus. And when we heard he was going to speak on the wireless, we began to tremble – the word of a Hitler, this mighty man with a mighty empire to last a thousand years. How long did it last? Twelve years and Hitler and his empire vanished and disappeared.

But let us be honest, my friends, I suppose most people would say that the greatest empire the world has ever known was the British Empire and this was the empire of which our fathers boasted-that it was the empire on which the sun never set, owning a quarter of the globe. What an empire, the British Empire, on which the sun never sets! Durable, lasting, eternal! Where is it tonight, my friends? There is no such thing as the British Empire. We try to talk feebly about some British Commonwealth of nations but the empire is gone and the man who believed in it most of all, who said that he had not been appointed by destiny to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire, had to do so. The great British Empire has collapsed and vanished before our very eyes. You see the biblical message is being verified. All these kingdoms that men have erected and built up, they have all been shaken and they will all be removed. But that is only one example. This is so important I am going to give you many examples, my friend that we may see the truth of this message.

Take another empire that man has been very fond of building. What is that? Well the empire of the mind, what is called philosophy. What is philosophy? Well it is the love of wisdom – yes, but its idea is this – that what matters most of all is reason. Now you know a hundred years ago the chapels in this town and other towns were full. But then people began to say, Oh, well religion it is sob stuff. It is emotionalism! They meet together, they pull down the blinds, they do not read, they do not think, they are not aware of what is happening in the world. This is all emotionalism, folklore, fairy tale, fantasy. What we need, they said, was reason. They reject revelation, they do not believe in God-reason! We are going to govern the world by reason. And that became very popular towards the middle of the last century. It came over from Germany and it came into this country. Reason, the kingdom of reason.
What has happened to this?

Now let us face the facts – one of the greatest dangers in this world at this moment is irrationality, which means men and women refusing to think. Do you know where this irrationality has come from? It is most interesting. It started in one of the greatest universities in the United States of America – Harvard University. There was a professor there of the name of Timothy Leary. And Timothy Leary and others began to say the mistake that we have been making is that we have lived too much in the realm of reason and understanding and of mind. We have neglected sensation, we have neglected feel mg and that is where we have been fools and we have brought our world into trouble. He said, we must reason less and less, what we need is experience. How are we to get experience? Well, he said, the quickest way to get experience is take certain drugs and this present wave of drug addiction was started by Professor Timothy Leary in Harvard University in America. There is a revolt against reason. There are students in large numbers saying we must go back to the land, back to a primitive kind of life. Novelists like D H Lawrence thought exactly the same thing. There is a revolt against reason and people are out for sensation. That is why they drink and drug themselves with alcohol and other drugs. That is why they shout and dance in a rhythmical manner with their music. They stop thinking and they have a pleasant feeling. It is one of the major problems in the world at this moment. The kingdom of reason has been shaken.

Let me give you another, it comes under the same category as reason-the kingdom of science. Now I suppose that most people today who are not Christians would give as their reasons for not being Christians that they adopt the scientific attitude and the scientific point of view. They say science says so-and-so, science proves so-and-so-science, the kingdom of science. Men have been very busy erecting this now for two centuries and they were absolutely confident concerning it. You are not going to believe these stories – you must have scientific facts, something that you can really depend upon and live upon. And they were so sure about this that they used the term laws. Now when I was a student, some sixty years ago, we were taught about Newton’s laws, not Newton’s theories but Newton’s laws. Cause and effect, laws of motion, they were absolutes, they were certainties. You cannot name a single great scientist in the world tonight who believes in Newton’s laws. A man called Einstein came along and what did he introduce? Not laws, but a theory of relativity – possibility, probability. Everything is in a state of uncertainty. You see, Newton believed that matter was solid; we know by today that is not; it is energy. It is all energy, it is in constant movement. So you believe now not in certainty and in laws but in possibility and probability. And so these great kingdoms have crashed one after another.

Let me tell you another law that I used to be taught when I was a boy and a young student. We were taught what was called Dalton’s law. What was Dalton’s law? Well, Dalton’s law taught this, that the smallest particle of matter is an atom and that an atom is indivisible. Dalton’s law not his theory – it was a fact, not like this stuff that is in the Bible! No, no, Dalton’s law – smallest particle of matter, the atom and an atom is indivisible. Would to God that Dalton had been right and that the atom was indivisible! You and I have been in the world when they divided the atom, hence the atomic and the hydrogen bombs, hence the possibility of a third World War that will put an end to civilisation and perhaps to the world itself. But they were taught as laws, absolutes, certainties, kingdoms which cannot be moved. They have all been shaken in our own age and generation.

And there are many other kingdoms that I could mention. Another was of course democracy. We were told that the ultimate form of government was democracy. We had got rid of oligarchies, we must get rid of monarchies and so on-and one is in great sympathy with most of these teachings and most of these ideas. Those terrible days of tyranny, of monarchs, of Lords in this country, people with power, money – power, landowners and others. Now, they said, we must get rid of all that. What we need is democracy, government of the people and by the people. This is the ultimate in government, democracy. But somebody said, well what if people do not agree? If you give power to the people what if people do not agree, what happens then? Ah, they said, everybody will respect the rule of law; that is an absolute. Of course if they do not respect the rule of law well then there is going to be a collapse. But everybody, they said, will respect the rule of law – so democracy is going to be the ultimate in society and it is coming in the twentieth century. What of this kingdom? Do you not read constantly of these dictatorships in various parts of the world, some of them on the right, some of them on the left? Democracy is in jeopardy at this very moment, we are in danger of dictatorships in most countries of the world. Democracy as such seems to be breaking down before our eyes.

I must mention one other because it was so popular in this country, the kingdom of industry. The proud boast was not only that the British Empire was a great military empire and kingdom, its greatness really depended upon its industry and its industrial power. The first industrial nation, the great trading nation of the world, the empire of the industry and this was something on which you could bank and on which you could build. This was not the precarious life of the farmer, the agricultural man – industry, it is solid, and we built up our great industry. And we were so sure of it that if we wanted in ordinary conversation to say that something was absolutely safe and sure and certain, what we said was ‘It is as safe as the Bank of England!’ Nothing can be safer. Safe as the Bank of England, safe as the pound sterling. An empire built on the pound sterling and the Bank of England. The pound sterling, what is happening to it? Well, I gather that it is floating at the present time and that the Bank of England has had to borrow money from some sheikhs in the Middle East. Your kingdom which could never be moved, pound sterling, Bank of England, they are shaking they are collapsing-and so it is with every other kingdom.

Even the earth

Wait a minute, says some one, what about the earth round and about us? What about the Beacons, the great mountains and the valleys and the rivers, surely these are durable and certain? Are they? Let off your hydrogen bombs and they will soon have vanished. As the Bible has prophesied centuries ago, ‘the elements shall melt with a fervent heat’ (2 Peter 3:10). Even creation is not durable; everything is being shaken. Man himself who has been worshipping himself, what is he? According to scientists he is nothing but chemistry and physics, he is nothing but a bundle of sensations. All our kingdoms are collapsing before our eyes. They can all be hurt, they can all be moved and yet men bank on them. They laugh at religion, they ignore the Bible, they do not believe in God. These are the kingdoms they believe in and yet they are collapsing before our very eyes. That is the message of the Bible.

But why do they collapse? Sinfulness, finitude and judgment

But why do they collapse? Why is all that I have been saying been so true? And this man tells us. The certainty you see with all these kingdoms is that they are made. ‘And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made,’ These are man-made kingdoms and the tragedy of man is that he is too small to be a kingdom builder. Man is finite, he is limited, he is small. This is the final folly of man, that he thinks he knows everything. He thinks he can encompass the whole cosmos with his little mind. How small he is, he is finite, he is limited, he lacks the capacity to see things as a whole. He only sees little sectors of reality. Things that are made-man!

Yes, but even worse than that, according to the Bible, man is not only finite, man is also sinful-and this is what bedevils all his great efforts. Every one of us is sinful. What does that mean? It means that we are selfish. it means that we are self-centred. It means that we are subjects of jealousy and envy and malice and spite and hatred. We want things for ourselves – let the other man get on with it. This is in the heart of man, everything he touches, everything he makes therefore has got the seed of decay in it. That is why our Lord said: ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal’ [Matthew 6:19-20]. But man keeps on doing this and everything collapses. Why? Moth and rust, this element of evil. You cannot trust anybody. You may think that you have got a man who will fight with you to the end-he will desert you at the very moment that you need him most of all. He is a false friend, he lets you down. You see it in the political parties and everywhere else, they all seem to be carrying a dagger in their hip pockets and they are attacking one another. No man trusts anybody, why? We are all sinners, we are all selfish, we are in no condition to build empires.

But the Bible gives a third and a crowning reason for all this failure and it is this: that God blows upon it. We are living in a universe that we have not made; it is made by God. And God will not give His glory to another. He said so throughout the centuries. And when men rise up and establish their great kingdoms God allows them to go so far and then He suddenly strikes them as He did Nebuchadnezzar and down they go. ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness’ [Romans 1:18]. It is the law and history proves it. Whatever man may do, whatever he may strive to do – it all is shaken and it collapses and disappears. And of course not only is it the Bible that says this, the really great thinkers of every century have seen this and seen it quite clearly.

Take a man like Shakespeare; I do not think Shakespeare was a Christian but he was a great man and he was a deep thinker and he saw this truth that I am putting to you about the fact that all these kingdoms can be shaken. And he put it in those immortal words that he put into the mouth of Prospero, in The Tempest. Here they are-they had been having some kind of revels, some kind of pageantry:

‘Our revels now are ended.
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself
Yea, all which it shall inherit, shall dissolve;
And like this insubstantial pageant faded
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made of and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.’

That is Shakespeare; he had seen it, ‘the cloud capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it shall inherit, shall dissolve’ – and we are witnessing it. And he is absolutely right there. He is right until the last statement: ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made of and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’ He thought that death was the end and that is where he is wrong. It is not the end, it is appointed as this man says in chapter nine: ‘it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ [Hebrews 9:27] – God!

Another kingdom based on another word

Very well, there is the great negative message of the Bible, that man will never succeed in building a durable and a lasting and a solid kingdom. These things can all be shaken as we are witnessing it and worse is going to happen. There is one kingdom that cannot be moved, that cannot be shaken. ‘Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace’. What is this? Here we are now in our proper world. We know not what tomorrow may bring forth. What are we to do? Is there any message? Is there anything that comes anywhere to give me some understanding and a word of hope? There is. What is it, what can I bank on tonight? What should I listen to and hold on to when everything is collapsing round and about me?

This man says, it is a word, ‘this word. Yet once more, He has already
said: ‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh’ [Hebrews 12:25]. This man’s message is this, that amidst the babel of voices in our world, there is another word-and the essence of wisdom is to listen to this word. It is the word that was spoken by Jesus Christ and which made him say: ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away’ [Matthew 24:35]. Or which the Apostle Peter quoted in these words, it is the same thing but in the graphic manner of the Apostle Peter. He tells these Christians that they have become Christians ‘by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever’ [I Peter 1:23]. Then listen: ‘For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man’ – British Empire and every other glory
– ‘all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you’ [I Peter 1:24,25]. It is the word I am preaching to you now, it is the word my friend is going to preach, the word, this word.

What is it? Why is this word durable? Why is this word better than the word of the philosophers, the scientists, the politicians, the sociologists, the educationalist? Why is this the only word I should listen to? The answer is, it is the word of the Lord; it is the word of God. My dear friends, are you not tired of the words of men? We have been bombarded with them throughout this century. The promises they have dangled before us, what has happened to them? Are we happy? Are we all at ease? Are we looking forward to a glorious future? The words of men – are you not tired of them? Our business is to invite men and women to listen to the word of God. Why? Well, because God is not a man. We are finite, we are limited, we can put up theories and suppositions and hypotheses and they are falsified and we have nothing-but God, God is from everlasting to everlasting, the great I AM. I am that I am; I am that I shall be; without beginning, without end. The God who at the beginning said, ‘Let there be light and there was light.’ The God who brought these great old mountains and everything into existence and who sustains it by the word of His power. GOD.

Frail as summer ‘s flowers we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone,
But while mortals rise and perish,
God endures unchanging on.
We blossom and flourish
Like leaves on the tree;
And wither and perish
But nought changeth Thee.

I have heard some great orators in this present century and we half worshipped them in our folly. And one of them promised us that the First World War was the war to end wars and he was going to give us a land fit for heroes to live in. And the second one said very much the same thing, about some broad uplands on which humanity was going to look for some promised land. The words of men-we have forgotten them, have we not; we have forgotten their words and we are forgetting the men. Like leaves on the tree, they come, they cut a great feather, but they vanish and they go
– but God endures. Unchanging God, the God who spoke to your grandfathers and great-great-grandfathers here in Rhymney, the last century and the one before it. The God of the ages, the God whose history runs through this book and who has been guiding it ever since and who erupts into it, at every moment of crisis saving the possibilities for mankind. It is the Word of God. I am not preaching my own theories, I am submitting myself to this Word. I am expounding this Word, I have not put a single theory of my own before you; it is my business and that of every preacher, not to give you some of my ideas – but to preach this Word until men want what God says about our life – and what does He say?

God the Creator

Well, this Book tells you, this is the word of God. He tells us about God, Himself. As I told you He is the creator, He is the sustainer of everything. Yes, and He made man. Man is not an accident, you know, it is an insult to say that man is a creature that has evolved from the animal. It is not true. The Bible tells me that man has a dignity that makes him the lord of creation. Why? He has been created in the image and the likeness of God. We have an animal part but God has put something of Himself into us. When He came to make man He said, ‘Let us make man in our own image and likeness.’ He gave us reason, understanding, certain faculties and propensities that none of the animals have. And man is able to look on at himself and evaluate himself. Man! Yes and he is a responsible being to God. The popular theory is, as I say, that when a man dies that is the end. He is finished with. No! No! says the Bible. Man is bigger than the universe, he has these qualities and potentialities in him. God has put them there and God holds man responsible and He is going to ask man at the end, ‘What have you done with the soul that I gave you? You may have made a lot of money, you may have garnered a lot of knowledge-what have you done with the soul that part of you that was meant to commune with Me and to be my companion? What have you done with it?’ God is going to ask us-that is the judgment.

God the rule giver

But not only that and we can be certain of this-God not only tells us that He has made us in His own image and likeness and that we are responsible beings, He has told us how to live. Here is the great problem, ‘Why is the world as it is? Why the drunkenness and the immorality and the vice and the dishonesty and the chicanery and the battling? What is the matter, what is the cause of it all? There is a simple answer according to the Bible – that man instead of living according to God’s laws, is living according to His own ideas. But God has told us how to live. Where does He tell us? In what are called the Ten Commandments – if only everybody in the world lived according to the Ten Commandments tonight, our world would be paradise! What are they? Well, we are told that we must start by all submitting to God. We are not gods, that is the trouble in the world, there are too many gods in it. Everyman is a god, everyman sets himself up; he is the authority, he is the god. ‘This is what I say’, he says and he is insubordinate. That is the folly, there is only one God and He has told us that we must live to His glory. ‘And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength …. And Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ [Mark 12:30-31]. And you will never love your neighbour as yourself until you have submitted yourself to God. Then you will see yourself as you are and you will see your neighbour as he is and you will see that you are both failures and you are both helpless and you are both hopeless – and you will love him for the first time, as you love yourself.

But then God goes on and these are the particulars-thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s ox, or his ass, or his manservant or his maidservant or his wife (Exodus 20:13-17); Those are the ten commandments – if only everybody lived according to God’s commandments! There would be no infidelity, there would be no promiscuity, there would be no separations, no divorces, no little children breaking their hearts because father and mother have gone their own selfish ways, leaving their little hearts to suffer. There would be an end to that. There would be no theft and dishonesty, there would be no drunkenness, there would be no drug addiction, there would be no atomic bombs, there would be no need of all these conferences to try and produce some precarious peace. There would be peace if only everybody in the world lived as God has told us to live. This Word is still true tonight, that is the way to live.

The Penalties which come with a Broken Law

Then He goes on to say this, that if we do not live according to His commandments – and this is an absolute certainty-if we do not live according to His commandments we shall suffer. ‘The way of transgressors is hard’ [Proverbs 13:15]. ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked’ [Isaiah 57:21]. And it does not matter how wealthy this wicked man is, how learned he may be – as long as he is wicked he will never know peace. Some of the most miserable restless people in the world tonight are multi-millionaires; these wretched people you read about them in the popular newspapers who get married five, six, seven times – do they know peace, is that the life of the film-star, the pop-star, or your multimillionaire? Oh, the tragedy of these miserable people who think you can buy peace and tranquillity and happiness with money. No, No, God has said that it cannot be done. There is not peace, saith my God, to the wicked. And while the people of this world are wicked there will be wars and rumours of wars. Nations are but individuals writ large and if a man cannot live with his neighbour why do you expect a country to live with its neighbour? God has told us this. These are absolutes, my friends, you cannot get away from them. The world is proving the truth of them tonight. This is God’s Word and there is not peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

God the Judge

Then he goes on, as I have told you already, to say that everyone of us will have to stand before Him in judgment and give an account of the deeds done in the body. ‘That is terrible!’ you say. I say it is a great compliment that God thinks I am such a being that He holds me responsible and accountable and I have to stand before Him – and every one of you will have to stand before Him. And believe me your television will not help you on your deathbed, and your drugs will not help you then, and your drink will not help you then, and your money will not help you then. Your soul will be naked. ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb and naked shall I return thither’ [Job 1:21]. We stand stripped before God and He will ask us, ‘What have you done with that precious thing I gave you – the soul?’ There is to be a final judgment upon the whole world of men.

God’s Unshakeable Kingdom

What else does this word tell us? Well thank God it does not leave us at that. If it had left us at that every one of us would be doomed and damned to all eternity. There would be no hope for any one of us – ‘For we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God’. ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’ [Romans 3:23,10]. Thank God I have a light here, I have a hope here. What is it? Well, it is this that while men in their folly have been vainly trying to build their durable kingdoms and empires, God has been bringing in His kingdom: ‘Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved’, God’s kingdom. This is the way to understand history-forget all about kings and princes and queens and births and marriages and deaths and pomp and ceremony and all the ritual – forget it all! Concentrate on this
what God has been doing – God has been bringing in His kingdom. Even when man failed at the beginning in the Garden of Eden, Cod came down and He gave him a promise of a kingdom. He said that there is going to be strife between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent – but the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. God is going to bring order into the disorder, He is going to undo the misery and the folly of man. He is setting up a kingdom.

The Old Testament account is just of God, as this man says in his first chapter, in diverse parts and portions. bits and pieces, bringing in His kingdom to pass. He took hold of a man whose name was Abraham, he was a pagan living in Ur of the Chaldees, and he said, Come out, lam going to turn you into a nation. And from you and your seed all the nations of the world are going to be blessed. That was the origin of the Jews; they are God’s people; while the rest of the world were living in darkness and paganism, these people were given this revelation of the only true and living God. And God said, I am going to make a people of you and I am going to add to it. And He said I am going to send the King of the kingdom into the world amongst men. ‘But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law’ [Galatians 4:4-5]. A babe was born in a stable, not in a king’s palace, in a stable in a place called Bethlehem.

Why was He born in a stable? Because there was no room for them in the inn. Everybody booked their rooms in the hostelries, in the inns and though a poor pregnant woman comes along on the verge of giving birth to a baby, nobody would vacate the room. They would not do it then, they would not do it now! They said, ‘She should have booked her room earlier! Why should I go out!’ The selfishness of mankind. So the babe was born amidst the straw in a stable and the little child was put into a manger because there was no crib. Who is this? This is God’s eternal Son. They called Him Jesus, but He is very God of very God. God has visited and redeemed His people! ‘God so loved the world’ that had rebelled against Him and spat in His face as it were. ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ [John 3:16]. He is the King of the kingdom and He says so. He heals in the name of the kingdom, He invites people to come into His kingdom. ‘Come unto me’, He says, ‘all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ [Matthew 11:28]. And He has and He does and He alone can do so and the whole story of true Christianity is of this kingdom being extended. Men and women in every age and generation being added unto it. The kingdom of God is going on.

There are times like the present when it almost seems to be invisible-but it is still there and when men begin to deliver their obituary orations over the death of the Christian church, God revives her again and on she goes and thousands are added and the kingdom is going on and on and on-and it will go on until it is finally completed and the kingdoms of this world shall have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ. (Revelation 11:15). Thank God in spite of all that is happening in this world tonight, and it is black and it is dark, but as certainly as we are here God’s purposes are ever sure and Christ is going to reign over the whole world from shore to shore and pole to pole-and nothing will be able to resist Him. It is an absolute.

I must give you another absolute – there is only one way into this kingdom of God. It is the whole message of this epistle. Only one way. What is it? It is through believing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. It is by believing that He has taken our sins upon Himself and borne our punishment and thereby reconciled us to God and opened to us the gate of the kingdom, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. There is no other way. This man says, you foolish people, are you going back to your burnt offerings and sacrifices? Are you still going to believe that the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer can cleanse the conscience from dead works? It is impossible! There is only one, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son. There is only one way, he says in chapter 10, into the holiest of all, it is by the blood of Jesus (v.19). No church can save you. No priest can save you, the virgin Mary cannot save you, no ceremonial can save you. No, No! There is only one way of salvation, only one way to know God and to spend your eternity with Him – it is this – to believe the message concerning His Son, that the babe of Bethlehem is the eternal Son of God and that He died on the cross, not the death of a pacifist, He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. God hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He has punished Him instead of us and gives us His righteousness and we are clothed in it and we are children of God and heirs of eternal bliss.

The Only Way

My friends, there is no other way; this is an incomparable gospel. Hinduism will not get you into the kingdom, Confucianism will not, Buddhism will not. These things are coming into this country; none of them will bring you into the kingdom of God. There is only one way. Christ said, I am the light of the world. I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me. There is none other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved. It is exclusive, it is God’s own Son. So the world religions are of no value. This and this alone does what it promises to do.

But I must not keep you. This man tells us that if we believe this message and become citizens of the kingdom of God, we will be surrounded by the promises of God. He tells us that God, in order to comfort Abraham, swore an oath. He swore twice over, so that by two immutable things, he might have this certain hope. And we have it, God promises to bless us because we are His children. He won’t until we are; while we rebel against Him He will not bless us. And I describe the state of the world today as being entirely due to the fact that God’s wrath is upon us. In its folly mankind began to say one hundred years ago that we could make a perfect world without God. I believe that what God is saying in this century is this, ‘You say that you can make a perfect world without me! Get on with it! Get on with it!’ and He is withdrawing His restraining influences and He has allowed us to get on with it. And what have we done? Two world wars, atomic bombs, collapse of society at the present time. Oh, my dear friends, until we believe in simplicity this message, we have no right to expect God to bless us. But you become a citizen of His kingdom and you will be surrounded with exceeding great and precious promises. He says in the next chapter, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee-and in the light of that I can say, the Lord is my helper and I will not fear what men shall do unto me. He will be with me in life, He will be with me in death, He will be with me to all eternity.

Very well, what do I do about it all? This man tells us: ‘Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace’, which means this, let us thank Him. Let us thank God that He has not abandoned the world. Why He has not I do not know – I do, it is because His Name is love! I would have abandoned this world long ago, so would you but God is love and it is His world and He has not abandoned it. He sent His only Son into it to teach us, to die for us, to rise for our justification and to lead us on by His Spirit within us. Let us thank Him; let us have grace, which means let us thank Him-and let us serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, remembering that our God is a consuming fire.

One or the other – which?

My dear friend you are in some kingdom or other at this moment. Are you in the kingdom of God? If not, you are in one or other of the kingdoms of men. They are already collapsing before your eyes and when you come to die-and we have all got to, every one of us – the National Health Service cannot cure death, we have all got to die. My dear friends, I have got to die. I am older than most of you and I will have to die probably before you but I have got to die and give an account. Those kingdoms of men will have nothing to give you then. H G Wells, as I have quoted, admitted it. Many others have admitted it still more recently. They are getting old and they are failing and their faculties are failing. They no longer have got their good looks, their friends are dying and they are bereft and solitary and hopeless – and they have nothing.

What must I do?

Do you belong to one of those kingdoms? See the unutterable folly of doing so. The whole of history condemns it. Look at this other kingdom, all you have to do is to acknowledge your failure, to acknowledge your desperate need and just as you are without understanding it at first, just to say, ‘I believe, help Thou my unbelief’. Ask God to have mercy upon you and to give you enlightenment and understanding. Ask Him to have pity upon you and He will do so. It is a gospel for anybody-whosoever believeth, it does not postulate any great brain or great wealth or great learning or anything else. The common people heard Him gladly, I read about Jesus Christ. Why? Because He understood them, He sympathised with them, He loved them. He had come into the world, laying aside the insignia of His eternal glory, in order that He might redeem them. This is all He asks of us-and the moment you enter into this kingdom, you will be amazed at the change. Are you ready to say with me

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His cov’nant, and His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He only is my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Do you know how I look out at life tonight, it is this: ‘Change and decay in all around I see’. I have preached in chapels in Rhymney that are no longer here, the people I knew here when I first came nearly fifty years ago, they have gone. ‘Change and decay in all around I see: Oh Thou who changest not, abide with me.’ And He will, He will be with me in life, in death and He will present me before the presence of God’s glory, with exceeding joy and I look forward to a day that is coming when out of this world and beyond it I shall see Him as He is and be made like unto Him. And I shall dwell with Him in that new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Make certain my dear friend that you belong to the kingdom of God, which cannot be shaken, which cannot be moved.



visit www.banneroftruth.org

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Chief of Sinners!

Posted by Scott on November 4, 2007

Chief Of Sinners

from the writings of Ray C. Stedman

READ: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15 KJV).

That sounds simple to us, yet it is very profound. All of us were mixed up, confused, bewildered, darkened in our understanding, and alienated from the life of God. Read Paul’s descriptions in Ephesians about what we were like before we came to Christ. Everybody–those with brilliant minds, highly educated people–everybody is in the same boat. Christ Jesus came to take away the darkness, unveil the mysteries, remove the illusions, reveal reality, and awaken love, compassion, mercy, and ministry to others. This is the purpose of Christianity.

Then Paul says what is the most astonishing thing of all in this passage: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” If he had said, “I was the chief,” we would all understand that, because certainly he was in the forefront of the ranks. But now, looking back as he comes near to the end of his life, he says, “I am the chief of sinners.”

That causes many people a lot of trouble. They read those words and say, “Has he forgotten the words he wrote in Galatians 2:20, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God’? Has he forgotten what he said in 2 Corinthians 5:17: ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’? Surely he can’t forget that he has been redeemed; he has been made righteous. He cannot call himself the chief of sinners.” But he does.

Some say that this is a kind of humble exaggeration, like we sometimes say, “I’m not all that good, really.” I do not think it is false humility. Paul means every word of this. He has not forgotten what he has written. What he is thinking of is not what he is in Christ (because in Him he was made righteous and delivered, the power of sin was broken), but he is thinking about himself as a total man living in a world of evil; he is thinking of himself as we have to think of ourselves, made whole in Christ and yet with the flesh still active in our lives. We still struggle against it. It is no longer us but an alien invader still able to exercise its deceiving power over us.

There is hidden here a very important principle that all of us will have to learn sometime or other. Whatever the flesh once manifested itself to be in our lives–some extreme form of evil, whatever we have done that is now, in our own sight, bad, ugly, and something we are ashamed of–we have to remember that that is an area of weakness that needs to be guarded very carefully, because we can return to that in an instant, no matter how long we have been Christians. That is what Paul is talking about.

Father, once I was blind; I could not see myself for what I was. Yet I thank you that you came and invaded my life and began to take away the veil and to help me to see what I was like.

 -Scott Bailey 2007

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-From A Dad: Keep Watch over Your Spiritual Life!

Posted by Scott on November 4, 2007

   “But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”  -II Timothy 4:5 NLT

-Watch your Will.  I hear so many people and even young people say, “God gave us a Free Will you know.”  The Free Will so often talked about by evangelical Christians does not exist.  Their definition of Free Will amounts to free sin so that grace will cover them.  The Will that God gives us is the Free Will while in the Spirit to do His Will, not ours.  A Free Will is one that is free from the bondage of sin in order to accomplish the Will of the Father.  If it was left up to us to make certain decisions it would be wrong every-time, because our sin would always get in the way.

Hebrews 10:7 “Then said I, I come…to do your will, O God.”

-Watch your ways. We need to make sure that our ways match up with God’s ways.  If we are living in the Spirit then our decisions will match up to God’s.  Our ways will be pleasing to Him and life will run in greater harmony according to His will. 

What are ways that are pleasing to the Lord?  Obedience is the first way you will match up to His ways.  Loving your neighbor is another way that matches up with our Lord.  Praying fervently for others is another good way.  Fighting sin in our lives in great way that is pleasing to God.  They are many ways in which will line up with the ways of God, but we must be on guard not to allow man’s ways to get our focus away from God’s ways.

Proverbs 16:7  “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

-Watch your words.  Anytime a word spews forth from our mouth into the open air it cannot be retrieved.  That word which we eagerly sprayed our subjects with can pierce deeply into another persons heart in a split second or it can uplift the Spirit of that person to the point of exuberance.

Our words are priceless for the most part when spoken in truth and love.  The only things that are left behind after we are gone from this world are pictures and words.  The only one that cannot be destroyed by man or fire are the words. So, be careful with the choice of words we use around others…someday they could be used again either for you or against you.

God’s word is spoken precisely as it should be.  The Holy Spirit uses the word of God in order to instruct and guide us daily.  We can take this example of watching our words throughout our lives.

James 3:2  “If any man offen not in word, the same is a perfect man…”

-Watch your work.  Do we live each day in order work or do we work each day in order to live?  Our work should be unto the Lord.  Although we may not like our job or our employer we need do everything for the glory of God.  We are here to be pleasing to God and none other.  Our labor will not go in vain if we are striving to bring glory, honor, and praise to our Lord.  The work may become less of a hassle with the right attitude towards it.

I Cor 3:9  “For we are laborors together with God.”

-Watch your walk.  Are we walking upright before God?  Are we spending enough time daily in order to keep our walk with Him?  Walking in Christ is to embody the power and Spirit of Christ.  Look at the scriptures to see how Christ reacted to situations.  Look to see how Jesus responded to the sick, the poor, the thief, the beggar, the lame, and the Pharisees.  When we were about 10 months old we started to walk very slowly.  Much of what we learned was subconsciously by how we saw others walk.  Each step taken at first unsteady, but later we begin to walk with more confidence.  This same happens in our walk with Christ.  At first we are a bit unsteady or unsure of what we are saying or doing.  As we grow in the Spirit our walk becomes more like Christ.  Our walk will resemble that of Christ without daily injections of God’s word to speed the process along.

How do we walk in the Lord?  This is accomplished by being in the Spirit or Spirit filled.  Without the Holy Spirit drawing us along it is impossible to walk with the Lord.

Col 2:6  “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so you walk in Him.”

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Stephen Charnock: Salvation Must Be Supernatural!

Posted by Scott on November 4, 2007

Why Salvation Must Be Supernatural

by Stephen Charnock

The insufficiency of nature to such a work as conversion is, shows that men may not fall down and idolize their own wit and power. A change from acts of sin to moral duties may be done by a natural strength and the power of natural conscience: for the very same motives which led to sin, as education, interest, profit, may, upon a change of circumstances, guide men to an outward morality; but a change to the contrary grace is supernatural.

Two things are certain in nature. (1.) Natural inclinations never change, but by some superior virtue. A loadstone will not cease to draw iron, while that attractive quality remains in it. The wolf can never love the lamb, nor the lamb the wolf; nothing but must act suitably to its nature. Water cannot but moisten, fire cannot but burn. So likewise the corrupt nature of man being possessed with an invincible contrariety and enmity to God, will never suffer him to comply with God. And the inclinations of a sinner to sin being more strengthened by the frequency of sinful acts, have as great a power over him, and as natural to him, as any qualities are to natural agents: and being stronger than any sympathies in the world, cannot by a man’s own power, or the power of any other nature equal to it, be turned into a contrary channel.

(2.) Nothing can act beyond its own principle and nature. Nothing in the world can raise itself to a higher rank of being than that which nature has placed it in; a spark cannot make itself a star, though it mount a little up to heaven; nor a plant endue itself with sense, nor a beast adorn itself with reason; nor a man make himself an angel. Thorns cannot bring forth grapes, nor thistles produce figs because such fruits are above the nature of those plants. So neither can our corrupt nature bring forth grace, which is a fruit above it. Effectus non excedit virtutem suae causae [the effect cannot exceed the power of its cause]: grace is more excellent than nature, therefore cannot be the fruit of nature. It is Christ’s conclusion, “How can you, being evil, speak good things?” Matt. 12:33, 34. Not so much as the buds and blossoms of words, much less the fruit of actions. They can no more change their natures, than a viper can do away with his poison. Now though this I have said be true, yet there is nothing man does more affect in the world than a self-sufficiency, and an independence from any other power but his own. This attitude is as much riveted in his nature, as any other false principle whatsoever. For man does derive it from his first parents, as the prime legacy bequeathed to his nature: for it was the first thing uncovered in man at his fall; he would be as God, independent from him. Now God, to cross this principle, allows his elect, like Lazarus, to lie in the grave till they stink, that there may be no excuse to ascribe their resurrection to their own power. If a putrefied rotten carcass should be brought to life, it could never be thought that it inspired itself with that active principle. God lets men run on so far in sin, that they do unman themselves, that he may proclaim to all the world, that we are unable to do anything of ourselves towards our recovery, without a superior principle. The evidence of which will appear if we consider,

1. Man’s subjection under sin. He is “sold under sin,” Rom. 7:14, and brought “into captivity to the law of sin,” ver. 23. “Law of sin:” that sin seems to have a legal authority over him; and man is not only a slave to one sin, but many, Tit. 3:3, “serving divers lusts.” Now when a man is sold under the power of a thousand lusts, every one of which has an absolute tyranny over him, and rules him as a sovereign by a law; when a man is thus bound by a thousand laws, a thousand cords and fetters, and carried whither his lords please, against the dictates of his own conscience and force of natural light; can any man imagine that his own power can rescue him from the strength of these masters that claim such a right to him, and keep such a force upon him, and have so often baffled his own strength, when he attempted to turn against them?

2. Man’s affection to them. He does not only serve them, but he serves them, and every one of them, with delight and pleasure; Tit. 3:3. They were all pleasures, as well as lusts; friends as well as lords. Will any man leave his sensual delights and such sins that please and flatter his flesh? Will a man ever endeavour to run away from those lords which he serves with affection? having as much delight in being bound a slave to these lusts, as the devil has in binding him. Therefore when you see a man cast away his pleasures, deprive himself of those comfortable things to which his soul was once knit, and walk in paths contrary to corrupt nature, you may search for the cause anywhere, rather than in nature itself. No piece of dirty, muddy clay can form itself into a neat and handsome vessel; no plain piece of timber can fit itself for the building, much less a crooked one. Nor a man that is born blind, give himself sight.

God deals with men in this case as he did with Abraham. He would not give Isaac while Sarah’s womb, in a natural probability, might have borne him; but when her womb was dead, and age had taken away all natural strength of conception, then God gives him; that it might appear that he was not a child of nature, but a child of promise.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Richard Baxter: Advice on Reading!

Posted by Scott on November 3, 2007

Advice On Reading

by Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

“Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church . . . but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.”

1. As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy scripture, than in any other book whatever, so it has more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer Him, and make the reader more reverent, serious and divine. Let scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavours of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth shew that it is most necessary and desirable to you.

2. The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching of the gospel to the eye, as the voice preaches it to the ear. Vocal preaching has the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregation which attend it: this way the milk comes warmest from the breast. But books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher when you have but a average one to hear. Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers: but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious; preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that, very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day. and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it: and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world: the Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve His doctrine and laws to the ‘Church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal traditions.

3. You have need of a judicious teacher at hand, to direct you what books to use or to refuse: for among good books there are some very good that are sound and lively; and some good, but mediocre, and weak and somewhat dull; and some are very good in part, but have mixtures of error, or else of incautious, injudicious expressions, fitter to puzzle than edify the weak.


Baxter’s Guide To The Value Of A Book

While reading ask oneself:

1. Could I spend this time no better?

2. Are there better books that would edify me more?

3. Are the lovers of such a book as this the greatest lovers of the Book of God and of a holy life?

4. Does this book increase my love to the Word of God, kill my sin, and prepare me for the life to come?

[Reprinted with permission from the Banner of Truth, Issue 11, June, 1958, p.1]

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Hugh Binning: Predestination (II)

Posted by Scott on November 3, 2007

Of Predestination (II)

by Hugh Binning

What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” — Rom. 9:22.

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” –– Eph. 1:11.

We are now upon a high subject; high indeed for an eminent apostle, much more above our reach. The very consideration of God’s infinite wisdom might alone suffice to restrain our limited thoughts, and serve to sober our minds with the challenge of our own ignorance and darkness; yet the vain and wicked mind of man will needs quarrel with God, and enter the lists of disputation with him, about his righteousness and wisdom in the counsel of election and reprobation: ‘But, O man, who art thou that repliest against God,’ or disputest? ver. 20. This is a thing not to be disputed, but believed; and if ye will believe no more than ye can comprehend by sense or reason, then ye give his majesty no more credit than to weak mortal man. Whatever secret thoughts do rise up in thy heart when thou hearest of God’s foreordaining men to eternal life, without previous foresight or consideration of their doings, and preparing men to eternal wrath, for the praise of his justice, without previous consideration of their deservings, and passing a definitive sentence upon the end of all men, before they do either good or evil; whenever any secret surmises rise in thy heart against this, learn to answer thus; enter not the lists of disputation with corrupt reason, but put in this bridle of the fear of God’s greatness, and the consciousness of thy own baseness, and labour to restrain thy undaunted and wild mind by it. Ponder that well, who thou art who disputest; who God is, against whom thou disputest — and if thou have spoken once, thou wilt speak no more — what thou art, who is as clay formed out of nothing; what he is, who is the former; and hath not the potter power over the clay? Consider but how great wickedness it is so much as to question him, or ask an account of his matters. After you have found his will to be the cause of all things, then to inquire farther into a cause of his will, which is alone the self-rule of righteousness, is to seek something above his will, and to reduce his majesty into the order of creatures. It is most abominable usurpation and sacrilege, for it both robs him of his royal prerogative, and instates the base footstool into his throne; but know, that certainly God will overcome when he is judged, Psal. 50:6. If thou judge him, he will condemn thee; if thou assail his absolute and holy decrees, he will hold thee fast bound by them to thy condemnation; he needs no other defence but to call out thy own conscience against thee, and bind thee over to destruction. Therefore, as one saith well, “Let the rashness of men be restrained from seeking that which is not, lest peradventure they find that which is.” Seek not a reason of his purposes, lest peradventure thou find thy own death and damnation infolded in them.

Paul mentions two objections of carnal and fleshly wisdom against this doctrine of election and reprobation, which indeed contain the sum of all that is vented and invented even to this day, to defile the spotless truth of God. All the whisperings of men tend to one of these two, — either to justify themselves, or to accuse God of unrighteousness; and shall any do it and be guiltless? I confess, some oppose this doctrine, not so much out of an intention of accusing God, as out of a preposterous and ignorant zeal for God; even as Job’s friends did speak much for God. Nay, but it was not well spoken, they did but speak wickedly for him. Some speak much to the defence of his righteousness and holiness, and, under pretence of that plea, make it inconsistent with these to fore-ordain to life or death without the foresight of their carriage; but shall they speak wickedly for God, or will he accept their person? He who looks into the secrets of the heart, knows the source and foundation of such defences and apologies for his holiness to be partly self-love, partly narrow and limited thoughts of him, drawing him down to the determinations of his own greatest enemy, carnal reason. Since men will ascribe to him no righteousness, but such an one of their own shaping, and conformed to their own model, do they not indeed rob him of his holiness and righteousness?

I find two or three objections which may be reduced to this head. First, it seems unrighteousness with God, to predestinate men to eternal death, without their own evil deserving, or any forethought of it, — that before any man had a being, God should have been in his counsel fitting so many to destruction. Is it not a strange mocking of the creatures, to punish them for that sin and corruption, unto which by his eternal counsel they were fore-ordained? This is even that which Paul objects to himself, ‘Is there unrighteousness with God?’ Is it not unrighteousness to hate Esau before he deserves it? Is he not unrighteous, to adjudge him to death before he do evil? ver. 14. Let Paul answer for us, ‘God forbid!’ Why, there needs no more answer, but all thoughts or words which may in the least reflect upon his holiness are abomination. Though we could not tell how it is righteous and holy with him to do it, yet this we must hold, that it is. It is his own property to comprehend the reason of his counsels; it is our duty to believe what he reveals of them, without farther inquiry. He tells us, that thus it is clearly in this chapter; this far then we must believe. He tells us not how it is; then farther we should not desire to learn. God, in keeping silence of that, may put us to silence, and make us conceive that there is a depth to be admired, not sounded. Yet he goeth a little farther, and indeed as high as can be, to God’s will — ‘He hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.’ Now, further he cannot go, for there is nothing above this. We may descend from this, but we cannot ascend, or rise above it. But is this any answer to the argument? A sophister could press it further, and take advantage from that very ground — What! Is not this to establish a mere tyranny in the Lord; that he doeth all things of mere will and pleasure, distributes rewards and punishments without previous consideration of men’s carriage? But here we must stand, and go no farther than the scriptures walk with us. Whatever reasons or causes may be assigned, yet certainly we must at length come up hither. All things are, because he so willed; and why willed we should not ask a reason, because his will is supreme reason, and the very self-rule of all righteousness. Therefore if we once know his will, we should presently conclude that it is most righteous and holy. If that evasion of the foreknowledge of men’s sins and impenitency had been found solid, certainly Paul would have answered so, and not have had his refuge to the absolute will and pleasure of God, which seem to perplex it more. But he knew well that there could nothing of that kind, whether good or evil, either actually be without his will or be to come without the determination of the same will, and so could not be foreseen without the counsel of his will upon it; and therefore it had been but a poor shift to have refuge to that starting-hole of foreknowledge, out of which he must presently flee to the will and pleasure of God, and so he betakes him straightway to that he must hold at, and opposes that will to man’s doings. ‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.’ If he had meant only that Jacob and Esau had actually done neither good or evil, he needed not return to the sanctuary of God’s will, for still it might be said, it is of him that runs and wills and not of God’s will as the first original; because their good and evil foreseen did move him to such love and hatred. It is all alike of works of men, whether these works be present or to come: therefore I would advise every one of you, whatever ye conceive of his judgment or mercy, if he have showed mercy to you, O then rest not in thyself, but arise and ascend till thou come to the height of his eternal free purpose! And if thou conceive thy sin, and misery, and judgment, thou mayest go up also to his holy counsels, for the glory of his name, and silence thyself with them. But it shall be most expedient for thee in the thought of thy miseries, to return always within, and search the corruption of thy nature, which may alone make thee hateful enough to God. If thou search thy own conscience, it will stop thy mouth, and make thee guilty before God. Let not the thought of his eternal counsels diminish the conviction of thy guilt, or the hatred of thyself for sin and corruption; but dwell more constantly upon this, because thou art called and commanded so to do. One thing remains fixed, — though he hath fore-ordained man to death, yet none shall be damned till his conscience be forced to say, that he is worthy of it a thousand times.

There is another whispering and suggestion of the wicked hearts of men against the predestination of God, which insinuates that God is an accepter of persons, and so accuses him of partial and unrighteous dealing, because he deals not equally with all men. Do ye not say this within yourselves — If he find all guilty, why does he not punish all? Why does he spare some? And if ye look upon all men in his first and primitive thought of them, as neither doing good nor evil, why does he not have mercy on all? But is thine eye evil because he is good? May he not do with his own as he pleases? Because he is merciful to some souls, shall men be displeased, and do well to be angry? Or, because he, of his own free grace, extends it, shall he be bound by a rule to do so with all? Is not he both just and merciful, and is it not meet that both be showed forth? If he punish thee, thou canst not complain, for thou deservest it; if he show mercy, why should any quarrel, for it is free and undeserved grace. By saving some, he shows his grace; by destroying others, he shows what all deserve. God is so far from being an accepter of persons according to their qualifications and conditions, that he finds nothing in any creature to cast the balance of his choice. If he did choose men for their works’ sake, or outward privileges, and refuse others for the want of these, then it might be charged on him; but he rather goes over all these, nay, he finds none of these. In his first view of men he beholds them all alike, and nothing to determine his mind to one more than another, so that his choice proceedeth wholly from within his own breast — ‘I will have mercy on whom I will.’

But then, thirdly, Our hearts object against the righteousness of God; that this fatal chain of predestination overturns all exhortations and persuasions to godliness, all care and diligence in well-doing. For thus do many profane souls conceive — If he be in one mind, who can turn him? Then, what need I pray, since he has already determined what shall be, and what shall become of me? His purpose will take effect whether I pray or pray not; my prayer will not make him change his mind; and if it be in his mind he will do it; if he hath appointed to save us, saved we shall be, live as we desire; if he hath appointed us to death, die we must, live as we can. Therefore men, in this desperate estate, throw themselves headlong into all manner of iniquity, and that with quietness and peace. Thus do many souls perish upon the stumbling-stone laid in Zion, and wrest the truths and counsels of God to their own destruction, even quite contrary to their true intent and meaning. Paul, (Eph. 1:4.) speaks another language — ‘He hath chosen us in him, — that we should be holy and without blame.’ His eternal counsel of life is so far from loosing the reins to men’s lusts, that it is the only certain foundation of holiness; it is the very spring and fountain from whence our sanctification flows by an infallible course. This chain of God’s counsels concerning us, hath also linked together the end and the means, — glory and grace, — happiness and holiness, — that there is no destroying of them. Without holiness it is impossible to see God; so that those who expect the one without any desire of, and endeavour after the other, they are upon a vain attempt to loose the links of this eternal chain. It is the only eternal choosing love of God, which separated so many souls from the common misery of men. It is that only which in time doth appear, and rise as it were from under ground, in the streams or fruits of sanctification. And if the ordinance of life stand, so shall the ordinance of fruits, John 15:16. Eph. 2:10. If he hath appointed thee to life, it is certain he has also ordained thee to fruits, and chosen thee to be holy; so that whatever soul casts by the study of this, there is too gross a brand of perdition upon its forehead. It is true, all is already determined with him, and he is incapable of any change, or ‘shadow of turning.’ Nothing then wants, but he is in one mind about it, and thy prayer cannot turn him. Yet a godly soul will pray with more confidence, because it knows that as he hath determined upon all its wants and receipts, so he hath appointed this to be the very way of obtaining what it wants. This is the way of familiarity and grace. He takes with his own to make them call; and he performs his purpose in answer to their cry. But suppose there were nothing to be expected by prayer, yet I say, that is not the thing thou shouldst look to, but what is required of thee, as thy duty, to do that simply out of regard to his majesty, though thou shouldst never profit by it. This is true obedience, to serve him for his own pleasure, though we had no expectation of advantage by it. Certainly he doth not require thy supplications for this end, to move him, and incline his affections toward thee, but rather as a testimony of thy homage and subjection to him; therefore, though they cannot make him of another mind than he is, or hasten performance before his purposed time — so that in reality they have no influence upon him — yet in praying, and praying diligently, thou declarest thy obligation to him, and respect to his majesty, which is all thou hast to look to, committing the event solely to his good pleasure.

The second objection Paul mentions, tends to justify men. ‘Why then doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?’ Since by his will he hath chained us with an inevitable necessity to sin, what can we do? Men cannot wrestle with him; why then doth he condemn and accuse them? ‘But who art thou, O man, who disputest against God?’ As if Paul had said, thou art a man, and so I am, why then lookest thou for an answer from me? Let us rather both consider whom we speak of, whom thou accusest, and whom I defend. It is God; what art thou then to charge him, or what am I so to clear him? Believing ignorance is better than presumptuous knowledge, especially in those forbidden secrets in which it is more concerning to be ignorant with faith and admiration, than to know with presumption. Dispute thou, O man, I will wonder; reply thou, I will believe! Doth it become thee, the clay, to speak so to thy Maker, ‘Why hast thou made me thus?’ Let the consideration of the absolute right and dominion of God over us, — more than any creature hath over another, yea, or over themselves, — let that restrain us, and keep us within bounds. He may do with us what he pleaseth, for his own honour and praise; but it is his will that we should leave all the blame to ourselves, and rather behold the evident cause of our destruction in our sin, which is nearer us, than to search into a secret and incomprehensible cause in God’s counsel.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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