Friday, April 30, 2010

Fighting Friday: Charity and Its Fruits - The Greatest Performances or Sufferings in Vain Without Love by Jonathan Edwards (3/13)

The Greatest Performances or Sufferings in Vain without Love


Jonathan Edwards


Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.—1 Corinthians 13:3


In the previous verses of this chapter, the necessity and excellence of charity are set forth, as we have seen, by its preference to the greatest privileges, and the utter vanity and insignificance of these privileges without it. The privileges particularly mentioned are those that consist in the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit of God. In this verse, things of another kind are mentioned, viz. those that are of a moral nature. It is declared that none of these avail anything without charity. And, particularly,

First, that our performances are in vain without it. Here is one of the highest kinds of external performances mentioned, viz. giving all our goods to feed the poor. Giving to the poor is a duty very much insisted on in the Word of God, and particularly under the Christian dispensation. And in the primitive times of Christianity, the circumstances of the Church were such, that persons were sometimes called to part with all they had, and give it away to others. This was partly because of the extreme necessities of those who were persecuted and in distress, and partly because the difficulties that attended being a follower of Christ, and doing the work of the gospel, were such as to call for the disciples disentangling themselves from the care and burden of their worldly possessions, and going forth, as it were, without gold or silver in their purses, or scrip, or even two coats apiece. The apostle Paul tells us that he had suffered the loss of all things for Christ; and the primitive Christians, in the church at Jerusalem, sold all that they had, and gave it into a common fund, and “none said that aught that he had was his own” (Acts 4:32). The duty of giving to the poor was a duty that the Christian Corinthians at this time had particular occasion to consider, not only because of the many troubles of the times, but by reason, also, of a great dearth or famine that sorely distressed the brethren in Judea: in view of which, the apostle had already urged it on the Corinthians, as their duty, to send relief to them, speaking of it particularly in this epistle, in the sixteenth chapter; and also in his second epistle to the same church, in the eighth and ninth chapters. And yet, though he says so much in both these epistles, to stir them up to the duty of giving to the poor, still he is very careful to inform them, that though they should go ever so far in it, yea, though they should bestow all their goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it would profit them nothing.

Secondly, the apostle teaches, that not only our performances, but also our sufferings are of no avail without charity. Men are ready to make much of what they do, but more of what they suffer. They are ready to think it a great thing when they put themselves out of their way, or are at great expense or suffering, for their religion. The apostle here mentions a suffering of the most extreme kind, suffering even to death, and that one of the most terrible forms of death, and says that even this is nothing without charity. When a man has given away all his goods, he has nothing else remaining that he can give, but himself. And the apostle teaches, that when a man has given all his possessions, if he then goes on to give his own body, and that to be utterly consumed in the flames, it will avail nothing, if it is not done from sincere love in the heart. The time when the apostle wrote to the Corinthians was a time when Christians were often called, not only to give their goods, but their bodies also, for Christ’s sake. For the Church then was generally under persecution, and multitudes were then or soon after put to very cruel deaths for the gospel’s sake. But though they suffered in life, or endured the most agonizing death, it would be in vain without charity. What is meant by this charity, has already been explained in the former lectures on these verses, in which it has been shown that charity is the sum of all that is distinguishing in the religion of the heart.


I. There may be great performance, and so there may be great sufferings, without sincere Christian love in the heart. And,

1. There may be great performances without it. The apostle Paul, in the third chapter of the epistle to the Philippians, tells us what things he did before his conversion, and while he remained a Pharisee. In the fourth verse, he says, “If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more.” Many of the Pharisees did great things, and abounded in religions performances. The Pharisee mentioned in Luke 18:11, 12, boasted of the great things that he had done, both towards God and men, and thanked God that he so exceeded other men in his doings. And many of the heathen have been eminent for their great performances: some for their integrity, or for their justice, and others for their great deeds done for the public good. Many men, without any sincerity of love in their hearts, have been exceeding magnificent in their gifts for pious and charitable uses, and have thus gotten to themselves great fame, and had their names handed down in history to posterity with great glory. Many have done great things from fear of hell, hoping thereby to appease the Deity and make atonement for their sins, and many have done great things from pride, and from a desire for reputation and honor among men. And though these motives are not wont to influence men to a constant and universal observance of God’s commands, and to go on with a course of Christian performances, and with the practice of all duties towards God and man through life, yet it is hard to say how far such natural principles may carry men in particular duties and performances. And so,

2. There may be great sufferings for religion, and yet no sincerity of love in the heart. Persons may undergo great sufferings in life, just as some of the Pharisees used themselves to great severities, and to penances and voluntary inflictions. Many have undertaken wearisome pilgrimages and have shut themselves out from the benefits and pleasures of the society of mankind, or have spent their lives in deserts and solitudes, and some have suffered death, of whom we have no reason to think they had any sincere love to God in their hearts. Multitudes among the Papists have voluntarily gone and ventured their lives in bloody wars, in hopes of meriting heaven by it. In the wars carried on with the Turks and Saracens, called the Holy Wars, or Crusades, thousands went voluntarily to all the dangers of the conflict, in the hope of thus securing the pardon of their sins and the rewards of glory hereafter. Many thousands, yea, some millions, in this way lost their lives, even to the depopulation, in a considerable measure, of many parts of Europe. And the Turks were many of them enraged by this exceedingly, so as to venture their lives, and rush, as it were, upon the very points of the swords of their enemies, because Mahomet has promised that all that die in war, in defense of the Mahometan faith, shall go at once to Paradise. And history tells us of some that have yielded themselves to voluntary death, out of mere obstinacy and sturdiness of spirit, rather than yield to the demand of others, when they might, without dishonor, have saved their lives. Many among the heathen have died for their country, and many as martyrs for a false faith, though not in anywise in such numbers, nor in such a manner, as those that have died as martyrs for the true religion. And in all these cases, many doubtless have endured their sufferings, or met death, without having any sincere divine love in their hearts, But,

II. Whatever men may do or suffer, they cannot, by all their performances and sufferings, make up for the want of sincere love in the heart. — If they lay themselves out ever so much in the things of religion and are ever so much engaged in acts of justice and kindness and devotion, and if their prayers and fastings are ever so much multiplied, or if they should spend their time ever so much in the forms of religious worship, giving days and nights to it, and denying sleep to their eyes and slumber to their eyelids that they might be the more laborious in religious exercises, and if the things that they should do in religion were such as to get them a name throughout the world and make them famous to all future generations, it would all be in vain without sincere love to God in the heart. And so if a man should give most bounteously to religious or charitable uses, and if, possessing the riches of a kingdom, he should give it all, and from the splendor of an earthly prince should reduce himself to a level of beggars, and if he should not stop there, but when he had done all this, should yield himself to undergo the fiercest sufferings, giving up not only all his possessions, but also giving his body to be clothed in rags, or to be mangled and burned and tormented as much as the wit of man could conceive, all, even all this, would not make up for the want of sincere love to God in the heart. And it is plain that it would not, for the following reasons: —

1. It is not the external work done, or the suffering endured, that is, in itself, worth anything in the sight of God. — The motions and exercise of the body, or anything that may be done by it, if considered separately from the heart — the inward part of the man — is of no more consequence or worth in the sight of God than the motions of anything without life. If anything be offered or given, though it be silver, or gold, or the cattle on a thousand hills, though it be a thousand rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil, there is nothing of value in it, as an external thing, in God’s sight. If God were in need of these things, they might be of value to him in themselves considered, independently of the motives of the heart that led to their being offered. We often stand in need of external good things, and therefore such things, offered or given to us, may and do have a value to us, in themselves considered. But God stands in need of nothing. He is all-sufficient in himself. He is not fed by the sacrifices of beasts, nor enriched by the gift of silver, or gold, or pearls — “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psa. 50:10, 12.) “All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name, cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own” (1 Chr. 29:14, 16). And as there is nothing profitable to God in any of our services or performances, so there can be nothing acceptable in his sight in a mere external action without sincere love in the heart, “for the Lord seeth not as men seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart.” The heart is just as naked and open to him as the external actions. And therefore he sees our actions, and all our conduct, not merely as the external motions of a machine, but as the actions of rational, intelligent creatures, and voluntary free agents; and therefore there can be, in his estimation, no excellence or amiableness in anything we can do, if the heart be not right with him.

And so God takes no pleasure in any sufferings that we may endure, in themselves considered. He is not profited by the torments men may undergo, nor does he delight to see them putting themselves to suffering, unless it he from some good motive, or to some good purpose and end. We sometimes may need that our fellowmen, our friends and neighbors, should suffer for us, and should help us to bear our burdens, and put themselves to inconvenience for our sake. But God stands in no such need of us, and therefore our sufferings are not acceptable to him, considered merely as sufferings endured by us, and are of no account apart from the motive that leads us to endure them. No matter what may be done or suffered, neither doings nor sufferings will make up for the want of love to God in the soul. They are not profitable to God, nor lovely for their own sake in his sight. Nor can they ever make up for the absence of that love to God and love to men, which is the sum of all that God requires of his moral creatures.

2. Whatever is done or suffered, yet if the heart is withheld from God, there is nothing really given to him. — The act of the individual, in what he does or suffers, is in every case looked upon, not as the act of a lifeless engine or machine, but as the act of an intelligent, voluntary, moral being. For surely a machine is not properly capable of giving anything; and if any such machine that is without life, being moved by springs or weights, places anything before us, it cannot properly be said to give it to us. Harps and cymbals, and other instruments of music, were of old made use of in praising God in the temple and elsewhere. But these lifeless instruments could not be said to give praise to God, because they had no thought, nor understanding, or will, or heart, to give value to their pleasant sounds. And so, though a man has a heart, and an understanding, and a will, yet if when he gives anything to God, he gives it without his heart, there is no more truly given to God than is given by the instrument of music.

He that has no sincerity in his heart, has no real respect to God in what he seems to give, or in all his performances or sufferings, and therefore God is not his great end in what he does or gives. What is given, is given to that which the individual makes his great end in giving. If his end be only himself, then it is given only to himself. and not to God. If his aim be his own honor or ease, or worldly profit, then the gift is but an offering to these things. The gift is an offering to him to whom the giver’s heart devotes, and for whom he designs it. It is the aim of the heart that makes the reality of the gift. And if the sincere aim of the heart be not to God, then there is in reality nothing given to him, no matter what is performed or suffered. So that it would be a great absurdity to suppose that anything that can be offered or given to God, can make up for the absence of love in the heart to him. For without this, nothing is truly given, and the seeming gift is but mockery of the Most High. This further appears, (Please click here to continue reading, The Greatest Performances Or Sufferings In Vain Without Love)

Vimeo: Dangers Facing the Young and Reformed (Interview with Paul Washer)

Dangers Facing the Young and Reformed - Paul Washer from I'll Be Honest on Vimeo.

Fighting Five Articles of Interest

Dr. Mohler's Blog

Death of an (Former) Atheist – Antony Flew (1923 – 2010) by Al Mohler

Dr. Mohler on the life and legacy of Antony Flew, and why Flew's denial of atheism and acceptance of deism was not enough to save him from his sins.

Ligonier Blog

Articles from R.C. Sproul concerning God's will.

Defining God's Will by R.C. Sproul

Comprehending the Decretive Will of God by R.C. Sproul

Grace To You Blog

Naturalism as Religion Faith and Science, Falsely So-Called by John MacArthur

Why naturalism and evolution are a religion.

Reformed Baptist Fellowship

The Mormon Issue by James White

Dr. White explains why Mormonism is not Christianity.

"FIGHTING MAD" or other articles of interest

Biblical Christianity

From the Chan "taking a step of faith" meta by Dan Phillips

A response from a charismatic believer who agrees with Dan's critique of Francis Chan's decision to leave his church.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A.W. Pink: Studies on Saving Faith, Part 3 - 9. Coming to Christ With Our Will


Part III



The man within the body is possessed of three principal faculties: the understanding, the affections, and the will. As was shown earlier, all of these were radically affected by the Fall: they were defiled and corrupted, and in consequence, they are used in the service of self and sin, rather than of God and of Christ. But in regeneration, these faculties are quickened and cleansed by the Spirit: not completely, but initially, and continuously so in the life-long process of sanctification, and perfectly so at glorification. Now each of these three faculties is subordinated to the others by the order of nature, that is, as man has been constituted by his Maker. One faculty is influenced by the other. In Genesis 3:6 we read, "the woman saw (perceived) that the tree was good for food"—that was a conclusion drawn by the understanding; "and that it was pleasant to the eyes"—there was the response of her affections; "and a tree to be desired"—there was the moving of the will; "she took"—there was the completed action.

Now the motions of Divine grace work through the apprehensions of faith in the understanding, these warming and firing the affections, and they in turn influencing and moving the will. Every faculty of the soul is put forth in a saving "coming to Christ": "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest"—be baptized (Acts 8:37). "Coming to Christ" is more immediately an act of the will, as John 5:40 shows; yet the will is not active toward Him until the understanding has been enlightened and the affections quickened. The Spirit first causes the sinner to perceive his deep need of Christ, and this, by showing him his fearful rebellion against God, and that none but Christ can atone for the same. Secondly, the Spirit creates in the heart a desire after Christ, and this, by making him sick of sin and in love with holiness. Third, as the awakened and enlightened soul has been given to see the glory and excellency of Christ, and His perfect suitability to the lost and perishing sinner, then the Spirit draws out the will to set the highest value on that excellency, to esteem it far above all else, and to close with Him.

As there is a Divine order among the three Persons of the Godhead in providing salvation, so there is in the applying or bestowing of it. It was God the Father’s good pleasure appointing His people from eternity unto salvation, which was the most full and sufficient impulsive cause of their salvation, and every whit able to produce its effect. It was the incarnate Son of God whose obedience and sufferings were the most complete and sufficient meritorious cause of their salvation, to which nothing can be added to make it more apt and able to secure the travail of His soul. Yet neither the one nor the other can actually save any sinner except as the Spirit applies Christ to it: His work being the efficient and immediate cause of their salvation. In like manner, the sinner is not saved when his understanding is enlightened, and his affections fired: there must also be the act of the will, surrendering to God and laying hold of Christ.

The order of the Spirit’s operations corresponds to the three great offices of Christ, the Mediator, namely, His prophetic, priestly, and kingly. As Prophet, He is first apprehended by the understanding, the Truth of God being received from His lips. As Priest, He is trusted and loved by the heart or affections, His glorious person being first endeared unto the soul by the gracious work which He performed for it. As Potentate, our will must be subdued unto Him, so that we submit to His government, yield to His scepter, and heed His commandments. Nothing short of the throne of our hearts will satisfy the Lord Jesus. In order to do this, the Holy Spirit casts down our carnal imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and brings into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), so that we freely and gladly take His yoke upon us; which yoke is, as one of the Puritans said, "lined with love."

"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). This "drawing" is accomplished by the Spirit: first, in effectually enlightening the understanding; secondly, by quickening the affections; third, by freeing the will from the bondage of sin and inclining it toward God. By the invincible workings of grace, the Spirit turns the bent of that will, which before moved only toward sin and vanity, unto Christ. "Thy people," said God unto the Mediator, "shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Ps. 110:3). Yet though Divine power be put forth upon a human object, the Spirit does not infringe the will’s prerogative of acting freely: He morally persuades it. He subdues its sinful intractability. He overcomes its prejudice, wins and draws it by the sweet attractions of grace.

"God never treats man as though he were a brute; He does not drag him with cart ropes; He treats men as men; and when He binds them with cords, they are the cords of love and the bands of a man. I may exercise power over another’s will, and yet that other man’s will may be perfectly free; because the constraint is exercised in a manner accordant with the laws of the human mind. If I show a man that a certain line of action is much for his advantage, he feels bound to follow it, but he is perfectly free in so doing. If man’s will were subdued or chained by some physical process, if man’s heart should, for instance, be taken from him and be turned round by a manual operation, that would be altogether inconsistent with human freedom, or indeed with human nature; and yet I think some few people imagine that we mean this when we talk of constraining influence and Divine grace. We mean nothing of the kind; we mean that Jehovah Jesus knows how, by irresistible arguments addressed to the understanding, by mighty reasons appealing to the affections, and by the mysterious influence of His Holy Spirit operating upon all the powers and passions of the soul, so to subdue the whole man, that whereas it was once rebellious it becomes obedient; whereas it stood stoutly against the Most High, it throws down the weapons of its rebellion and cries, ‘I yield! I yield! subdued by sovereign love, and by the enlightenment which Thou hast bestowed upon me, I yield myself to Thy will’" (C. H. Spurgeon, John 6:37).

The perfect consistency between the freedom of a regenerated man’s spiritual actions and the efficacious grace of God moving him thereto, is seen in 2 Corinthians 8:16,17. "But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation: but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you." Titus was moved to that work by Paul’s exhortation, and was "willing of his own accord" to engage therein; and yet it was "God which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus" for them. God controls the inward feelings and acts of men without interfering either with their liberty or responsibility. The zeal of Titus was the spontaneous effusion of his own heart, and was an index to an element of his character; nevertheless, God wrought in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

No sinner savingly "comes to Christ," or truly receives Him into the heart, until the will freely consents (not merely "assents" in a theoretical way) to the severe and self—denying terms upon which He is presented in the Gospel. No sinner is prepared to forsake all for Christ, take up "the cross," and "follow" Him in the path of universal obedience, until the heart genuinely esteems Him "The Fairest among ten thousand," and this none will ever do before the understanding has been supernaturally enlightened and the affections supernaturally quickened. Obviously, none will espouse themselves with conjugal affections to that person whom they account not the best that can be chosen. It is as the Spirit convicts us of our emptiness and shows us Christ’s fulness, our guilt and His righteousness, our filthiness and the cleansing merits of His blood, our depravity and His holiness, that the heart is won and the resistance of the will is overcome.

The holy and spiritual Truth of God finds nothing akin to itself in the unregenerate soul, but instead, everything that is opposed to it (John 15:18; Rom. 8:7). The demands of Christ are too humbling to our natural pride, too searching for the callous conscience, too exacting for our fleshly desires. And a miracle of grace has to be wrought within us before this awful depravity of our nature, this dreadful state of affairs, is changed. That miracle of grace consists in overcoming the resistance which is made by indwelling sin, and creating desires and longings Christward; and then it is that the will cries,

"Nay, but I yield, I yield,

I can hold out no more;

I sink, by dying love compell’d,

And own Thee Conqueror."

A beautiful illustration of this is found in Ruth 1:14-18. Naomi, a backslidden saint, is on the point of leaving the far country, and (typically) returning to her Father’s house. Her two daughters-in-law wish to accompany her. Faithfully did Naomi bid them "count the cost" (Luke 14:28); instead of at once urging them to act on their first impulse, she pointed out the difficulties and trials to be encountered. This was too much for Orpha: her "goodness" (like that of the stony-ground hearers, and myriads of others) was only "as a morning cloud" and "as the early dew" it quickly went away (Hos. 6:4). In blessed contrast from this we read, "But Ruth clave unto her. . . saying, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."

What depth and loveliness of affection was here! What whole-hearted self-surrender! See Ruth freely and readily leaving her own country and kindred, tearing herself from every association of nature, turning a deaf ear to her mother-in-law’s begging her to return to her gods (v. 15) and people. See her renouncing idolatry and all that flesh holds dear, to be a worshipper and servant of the living God, counting all things but loss for the sake of His favour and salvation; and her future conduct proved her faith was genuine and her profession sincere. Ah, naught but a miraculous work of God in her soul can explain this. It was God working in her "both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). He was drawing her with the bands of love: grace triumphed over the flesh. This is what every genuine conversion is—a complete surrender of the mind, heart and will to God and His Christ, so that there is a desire to "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth" (Rev. 14:4).

The relation between our understanding being enlightened and the affections quickened by God and the resultant consent of the will, is seen in Psalm 119:34, "Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart." "The sure result of regeneration, or the bestowal of understanding, is the devout reverence for the law and a reverent keeping of it in the heart. The Spirit of God makes us to know the Lord and to understand somewhat of His love, wisdom, holiness, and majesty; and the result is that we honour the law and yield our hearts to the obedience of the faith. The understanding operates upon the affections; it convinces the heart of the beauty of the law, so that the soul loves it with all its powers; and then it reveals the majesty of the law-Giver, and the whole nature bows before His supreme will. He alone obeys God who can say ‘My Lord, I would serve Thee, and do it with all my heart’; and none can truly say this till they have received as a free grant the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit" (C. H. Spurgeon).

Ere turning to our final section, a few words need to be added here upon 1 Peter 2:4, "To whom coming as unto a living stone. . .we also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house." Has the sovereign grace of God inclined me to come unto Christ? then it is my duty and interest to "abide" in Him (John 15:4). Abide in Him by a life of faith, and letting His Spirit abide in me without grieving Him (Eph. 4:30) or quenching His motions (1 Thess. 5:19). It is not enough that I once believed on Christ, I must live in and upon Him by faith daily: Galatians 2:20. It is in this way of continual coming to Christ that we are "built up a spiritual house." It is in this way the life of grace is maintained, until it issue in the life of glory. Faith is to be always receiving out of His fulness "grace for grace" (John 1:16). Daily should there be the renewed dedication of myself unto Him and the heart’s occupation with Him.

HT: PB Ministries

Friday, April 23, 2010

YouTube: You Call This the Gospel? (Creflo Dollar Dances on Money During Church Service) - Todd Friel (Wretched)

Fighting Friday: Charity and Its Fruits - Love More Excellent than the Extraordinary Gifts of Spirit (2/13)

Love More Excellent than the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit


Jonathan Edwards


"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. L And 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."—1 Corinthians 13:1, 2


Having in the last lecture shewn that an the virtue in the saints which is distinguishing and saving may be summed up in Christian love, I would now consider what things are compared with it in the text, and to which of the two the preference is given.

The things compared together, in the text, are of two kinds: on the one hand, the extraordinary and miraculous gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy, &c., which were frequent in that age, and particularly in the church at Corinth; and on the other hand, the effect of the ordinary influences of the same Spirit, in true Christians, viz. charity, or divine love.

That was an age of miracles. It was not then, as it had been of old among the Jews, when two or three, or at most a very few in the whole nation, had the gift of prophecy: it rather seemed as if Moses's wish, recorded in Num. xi. 29, had become in a great measure fulfilled: " Would to God all the Lord's people were prophets !" Not only some certain persons of great eminence were endowed with such gifts, but they were common to all sorts, old and young, men and women; according to the prophecy of the prophet Joel, who, preaching of those days, foretold beforehand that great event—"And it shall come to pass in the last days (saith God), I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and y our young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants, and on my handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy, Especially the church at Corinth was very eminent for such gifts. All sorts of miraculous gifts were, as is apparent from this epistle, bestowed on that church; and the number who enjoyed these gifts was not small. " To one," says the apostle, " is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; . . . but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." And so some had one gift, and some another. "But,,, says the apostle, "covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way,', i. e. something more excellent than all these gifts put together, yea, something of 80 great import ace, that all these gifts without it are no thing. For "though I speak with the tongues of men," as they did on the day of Pentecost, yea, "and of angels,, too, "and have not charity, I am become" an empty worthless thing, " as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have '' not only one, but all the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and can not only speak with tongues, but have " the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge,,, to see into all the deep things of God by immediate inspiration; ``and though I have all faith" to work all sorts of miracles, yea, even " so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." Charity, then, which is the fruit of the ordinary sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, is preferred, as being more excellent than any, yea, than all the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; even Christian love, which, as has been shewn, is the sum of all saving grace. Yea, so very much is it preferred, that all the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, without it, are nothing, and can profit nothing. The doctrine taught, then, is—THAT THE ORDINANCES INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WORKING THE GRACE OF CHARITY IN THE HEART, IS A MORE EXCELLENT BLESSING THAN ANY or THE EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. Here I would endeavour to sheer, first, what is meant by the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; secondly, that the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are indeed great privileges; and yet, thirdly, that the ordinary influence of the Spirit, working the grace of charity or love in the heart, is a more excellent lent blessing.

L I would briefly explain what is meant are by the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; for the gifts and operations of the Spirit of God are, by divines, distinguished into common and saving, and into ordinary and extraordinary.

1. The gifts and operations of the Spirit of God are distinguished into those that are common, and those that are saving. By common gifts of the Spirit are meant such as are common both to the godly and the ungodly. There are certain ways in which the Spirit of God influences the minds of natural men, as well as the minds of the godly. Thus there are common convictions of sin, i c. such convictions as ungodly men may hare as well as godly. So there are common illuminations or enlightening, i c. such as are common to both godly and ungodly. So there are common religious affections common gratitude—common sorrow, and the like. But there are other gifts of the Spirit, which are peculiar to the godly, such as saving faith and lore, and all the other saving graces of the Spirit.

2. Ordinary and extraordinary.—The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of miracles, of prophecy, &c., are called extraordinary, because cause they are such as are not given in the ordinary course of God's providence. They are not bestowed in the way of God's ordinary providential dealing with his children, but only on extraordinary occasions, as they were bestowed on the prophets and apostles to enable them to reveal the mind and will of God before the canon of Scripture was complete, and so on the primitive Church, in order to the founding and establishing of it in the world. But since the canon of the Scripture has been completed, and the Christian Church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased. But the ordinary gifts of the Spirit are such as are continued to the Church of God throughout all ages; such gifts as are granted in conviction and conversion, and such as appertain to the building up of the saints in holiness and comfort.

It may be observed, then, that the distinction of the gifts of the Spirit into ordinary and extraordinary, is very different from the other distinction into common and special; for some of the ordinary gifts, such as faith, hope, charity, are not common gifts. They are such gifts as God ordinarily bestows on his Church in all ages, but they are not common to the godly and the ungodly; they are peculiar to the godly. And the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are common gifts. The gifts of tongues, of miracles, of prophecy, &c., although they are not ordinarily bestowed on the Christian Church, but only on extraordinary occasions, yet are not peculiar to the godly, for many ungodly men have had these gifts (Matt. vii. 22, 23) - " Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Having explained these terms, I proceed to shew - -

II. That the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit of God are indeed great privileges.—When God endows any one with a spirit of prophecy, favours him with immediate inspiration, or gives him power to work miracles, to heal the sick, to cast out devils, and the like, the privilege is great; yea, this is one of the highest kind of privileges that God ever bestows on men, next to saving grace. It is a great privilege to live in the enjoyment of the outward means of grace, and to belong to the risible Church; but to be a prophet and a worker of miracles in the Church is a much greater privilege still. It is a great privilege to hear the word which has been spoken by prophets and inspired persons; but a much greater to be a prophet, to preach the word, to be inspired by God to make known his mind and will to others. It was a great privilege that God bestowed on Moses when he called him to be a prophet, and employed him as an instrument to reveal the law to the children of Israel, and to deliver to the church so great a part of the written word of God, even the first written revelation that ever was delivered to it; and when he used him as an instrument of working so many wonders in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness Great was the privilege that God bestowed on David, in inspiring him, and making him the penman of so great and excellent a part of his word, for the use of the Church in all ages. Great was the privilege that God bestowed on those two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, in enabling them to perform such miraculous and wonderful works. And the privilege was very great that God bestowed on the prophet Daniel, in airing him so much of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, particularly such understanding in the visions of God. This procured him great honour among the heathen, and even in the court of the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar that great and mighty and haughty monarch, so admired Daniel for it, that he was once about to worship him as a god. He fell upon his face before him, and commanded that an oblation and sweet odours should be offered unto him (Dan. ii. 46). And Daniel was advanced to greater honour than all the wise men, the magicians, astrologers, and soothsayers of Babylon, in consequence of these extraordinary gifts which God bestowed upon him. Hear how the queen speaks of him to Belshazzar (Dan. v. 11, 12 ) " ' There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father, light and understanding, and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers Chaldeans, and soothsayers; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel." This privilege was also the thing which gave Daniel honour in the Persian court (Dan. vi. 1-3) It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents, of whom Daniel was first; that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the Icing should hare no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the Icing thought to set him over the whole realm." By this excellent spirit was doubtless, among other things, meant the spirit of prophecy and divine inspiration for which he had been so honoured by the princes of Babylon.

It was a great privilege that Christ bestowed on the apostles, in so filling them with the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, inspiring them to teach all nations, and making them as it were next to himself, and to be the twelve precious stones, that are considered as the twelve foundations of the Church (Rev. xxi. 14— " And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb;" (Eph. ii. 20) " Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone." And bow highly was the apostle John favoured, when he was " in the Spirit on the Lord's day,', and had such extraordinary visions, representing the great events of God's providence towards the Church, in all ages of it, to the end of the world.

Such extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are spoken of in Scripture as very great privileges. So was the privilege that God bestowed on Moses in speaking to him by way of extraordinary miraculous revelation, as it were, "face to face." And that outpouring of the Spirit in his extraordinary gifts on the day of Pentecost, which was foretold and spoken of by the prophet Joel as a very great privilege, in those fore_cited words in Joel ii. 28, 29. And Christ speaks of the gifts of miracles and of tongues, as great privileges that he would bestow on them that should believe in him (Matt. xvi. 17, 18).

Such extraordinary gifts of the Spirit have been looked upon as a great honour. Moses and Aaron were envied in the camp because of the peculiar honour that God put upon them Ps. cvi. 16). And so Joshua was ready to envy Eldad and Medad because they prophesied in the camp (Rum. xi. 27). And when the angels themselves hale been sent to do the work of the prophets, to reveal things to come, it has set them in a very honourable point of light. Even the apostle John himself, in his great surprise, was once and again ready to fall down and worship the angel that was sent by Christ to reveal to him the future events of the Church; but the angel forbids him, acknowledging that the privilege of the Spirit of prophecy which he bad was not of himself, but that he had received it of Jesus Christ (Rev. xix. 10, and xxii. 8, 9). The heathen of the city of Lystra were so astonished at the power the apostles Barnabas and Paul had, to work miracles, that they were about to offer sacrifices to them as gods (Acts xiv. 11-13). And Simon the sorcerer had a great hankering after that gift that the apostles had, of conferring the Holy Ghost by laying on their hands, and offered them money for it.

These extraordinary gifts are a great privilege, in that there is in them a conformity to Christ in his prophetical office. And the greatness of the privilege appears also in this, that though sometimes they have been bestowed on natural men, yet it has been very rarely; and commonly such as have had them bestowed on them have been saints, yea, and the most eminent saints. Thus it was on the day of Pentecost, and thus it was in more early ages (2 Pet. i. 21) " Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." These gifts have commonly been bestowed as tokens of God's extraordinary favour and love, as it was with Daniel. He was a man greatly beloved, and therefore he was admitted to such a great privilege as that of having these revelations made to him (Dan. ix. 23, and x. 11-19). And the apostle John, as he was the disciple whom Jesus loved, 80 he was selected above all the other apostles to be the man to whom those great events were revealed that we have an account of in the book of Revelation. I come now, (Please click here to continue reading, Love More Excellent than the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A.W. Pink: Studies on Saving Faith, Part 3 - 8. Coming to Christ With Our Affections


Part III



"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (John 6:37), declared the Lord Jesus. He who, before the foundation of the world, gave the persons of His people unto Christ, now gives them, in regeneration, a heart for Christ. The "heart" includes the affections as well as the understanding. In the previous chapter we pointed out how that no man will (or can) "come to Christ" while ignorant of Him; it is equally true that no man will (or can) "come to Christ" while his affections are alienated from Him. Not only is the understanding of the natural man shrouded in total darkness, but his heart is thoroughly opposed to God. "The carnal mind is enmity (not merely "at enmity," but "enmity" itself) against God" (Rom. 8:7); and "enmity" is something more than a train of hostile thoughts, it is the hatred of the affections themselves. Therefore when the Holy Spirit makes a man a "new creature in Christ," He not only renews his understanding, but He radically changes the heart.

When faith gives us a sight of spiritual things, the heart is warmed with love to them. Note the order in Hebrews 11:13, where, in connection with the patriarchs’ faith in God’s promises, we are told, "were persuaded of them, and embraced them," which is a term denoting great affection. When the understanding is renewed by the Spirit, then the heart is drawn unto Christ with a tender desire for Him. When the Holy Spirit is pleased to make known in the soul the wondrous love of Christ to me, then love unto Him is begotten and goes out toward Him in return. Observe the order in 1 John 4:16, "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him;" the apostle places knowledge (not intellectual, but spiritual) before faith, and both before a union and communion with Divine love. The light and knowledge of Christ and heaven which we have by tradition, education, hearing or reading, never fires the affections. But when the love of God is "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 5:5), O what a difference is produced!

Far too little emphasis has been placed upon this aspect of our subject. In proof of this assertion, weigh carefully the following question: Why is it that "he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16) is quoted a hundred times more frequently by preachers and tract-writers than "if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema" (1 Cor. 16:22)? If we are to properly preserve the balance of truth, we must note carefully the manner in which the Holy Spirit has rung the changes on "believe" and "love" in the N. T. Consider the following verses: "all things work together for good to them that (not "trust," but) love God" (Rom. 8:28); "the things which God hath prepared for them that (not only "believe," but) love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9); "if any love God, the same is known (or "approved") of Him" (1 Cor. 8:3); "a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that (not "believe in," but) love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8); "a crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him" (James 1:12); "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8).

"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). In the last chapter we saw that this "drawing" consists, in part, of the Spirit’s supernatural enlightenment of the understanding. It also consists in the Spirit’s inclining the affections unto Christ. He acts upon sinners agreeably to their nature: not by external force, such as is used on an unwilling animal, but by spiritual influence or power moving their inward faculties: "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love" (Hosea 11:4)—by rational conviction of their judgment, by showing them that there is infinitely more goodness and blessedness in Christ than in the creature or the sinful gratification of carnal desire; by winning their hearts to Christ, by communicating to them a powerful sense of His superlative excellency and complete suitability unto all their needs. To them that believe, "he is precious" (1 Pet. 2:7)—so precious, they are willing to part with the world and everything, that they may "win Christ" (Phil. 3:8).

As was shown at some length in the opening chapter, the affections of the natural man are alienated from God, wedded to the things of time and sense, so that he will not come to Christ. Though God’s servants seek to charm him with the lovely music of the Gospel, like the adder he closes his ear. It is as the Lord portrayed it in the parable of the Great Supper: "they all with one consent began to make excuse" (Luke 14:18), one preferring his lands, another his merchandise, another his social recreation. And nothing short of the Almighty power and working of the Holy Spirit in the heart can break the spell which sin and Satan has cast over man, and turn his heart from perishing objects to an imperishable one. This He does in God’s elect by His secret and invincible operations, sweetly working in and alluring them by revealing Christ to them in the winsomeness of His person and the infinite riches of His grace, by letting down His love into their hearts, and by moving them to lay hold of His kind invitations and precious promises.

Most blessedly is this represented to us in "My beloved put is hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him" (Song of Sol. 5:4). Here the door of the heart (Acts 16:14), or more specifically, the "door of faith" (Acts 14:27), is seen shut against Christ, and the object of His love being so loath and unwilling as to rise and open to Him. But though unwelcome, His love cannot be quenched, and He gently enters (He does not burst the door open!) uninvited. His "hand" opening the "door" is a figure of His efficacious grace removing every obstacle in the heart of His elect (cf. Acts 11:21), and winning it to Himself. The effect of His gracious entry, by His Spirit, is seen in the "and my bowels were moved for him," which is a figure of the stirring of the affections after Him—cf. Isaiah 63:15, Philemon 12. For the thoughts of this paragraph we are indebted to the incomparable commentary of John Gill on the Song of Solomon.

O what a miracle of grace has been wrought when the heart is truly turned from the world unto God, from self unto Christ, from love of sin unto love of holiness! It is this which is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise in Ezekiel 36:26, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." There is no man that loves money so much, but that he is willing to part with it, for that which he values more highly than the sum he parts with to purchase it. The natural man esteems material things more highly than he does spiritual, but the regenerated loves Christ more than all other objects beside, and this, because he has been made a "new creature." It is a spiritual love which binds the heart to Christ.

It is not simply a knowledge of the Truth which saves, but a love of it which is the essential prerequisite. This is clear from 2 Thessalonians 2:10, "Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." Close attention must be paid unto these words, or a wrong conclusion may be drawn: it is not a love for the Truth, but a love of the Truth. There are those who have the former, who are destitute of the latter. We have met Russelites, and have boarded with Christadelphians, who put many a real Christian to shame: people who after a long day’s work, spent the whole evening in diligently studying the Bible. Nor was it just to satisfy curiosity. Their zeal had lasted for years. Their Bible was as precious to them as a devout Romanist’s "beads" or "rosary" are to her. So too there is a natural "love" for Christ, an ardent devotion for Him, which springs not from a renewed heart. Just as one reared among devout Romanists, grows up with a deep veneration and genuine affection for the Virgin; so one carefully trained by Protestant parents, told from infancy that Jesus loves him, grows up with a real but natural love for Him.

There may be a historical faith in all the doctrines of Scripture, where the power of them is never experienced. There may be a fleshly zeal for portions of God’s Truth (as there was in the case of the Pharisees) and yet the heart not be renewed. There may be joyous emotions felt by a superficial reception of the Word (as there was in the stonyground hearers: Matt. 13:20), where the "root of the matter" (Job 19:28) be lacking. Tears may flow freely at the pathetic sight of the suffering Saviour (as with the company of women who bewailed Christ as He journeyed to the cross: Luke 23:27, 28), and yet the heart be as hard as the nether millstone toward God. There may be a rejoicing in the light of God’s Truth (as was the case with Herod: Mark 6:20), and yet Hell never be escaped from.

Since then there is a "love for the Truth" in contradistinction from a "love of the Truth," and a natural love for Christ in contrast from a spiritual love of Him, how am I to be sure which mine is? We may distinguish between these "loves" thus: first, the one is partial, the other is impartial: the one esteems the doctrines of Scripture but not the duties it enjoins, the promises of Scripture but not the precepts, the blessings of Christ but not His claims, His priestly office but not His kingly rule; but not so with the spiritual lover. Second, the one is occasional, the other is regular: the former balks when personal interests are crossed; not so the latter. Third, the one is evanescent and weak, the other lasting and powerful: the former quickly wanes when other delights compete, and prevails not to control the other affections; the latter rules the heart, and is strong as death. Fourth, the former betters not its possessor; the latter transforms the life.

That a saving "coming to Christ" is the affections being turned to and fixed upon Him, may be further demonstrated from the nature of backsliding, which begins with the heart’s departure from Christ. Observe how this is traced to its real source in Revelation 2:4, "Thou hast left (not "lost") thy first love." The reality and genuineness of our returning to Christ is evidenced by the effects which the workings of the understanding produce upon the affections. A striking example of this is found in Matthew 26:75, "and Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ And he went out, and wept bitterly": that "remembrance" was not merely an historical, but a gracious one—his heart was melted by it. So it ever is when the Holy Spirit works in and "renews" us. I may recall a past sin, without being duly humbled thereby. I may "remember" Christ’s death in a mechanical and speculative way, without the affections being truly moved. It is only as the faculty of our understanding is quickened by the Holy Spirit that the heart is powerfully impressed.

HT: PB Ministries

Vimeo: The Church is the Gospel Made Visible, Mark Dever (Together for the Gospel - Session 1)

T4G 2010 -- Session 1 -- Mark Dever from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Vimeo: Together for the Gospel Live Album - Bob Kauflin (Interview with Bob Kauflin)

Together for the Gospel Live Album from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spurgeon Monday: Human Inability (Sermons on the Gospel of John)


(No. 182)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 7, 1858 by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.


"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him."—John 6:44.

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

I shall endeavour this morning, first of all, to notice man's inability, wherein it consists. Secondly, the Father's drawings—what these are, and how they are exerted upon the soul. And then I shall conclude by noticing a sweet consolation which may be derived from this seemingly barren and terrible text.

I. First, then, MAN'S INABILITY. The text says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." Wherein does this inability lie?

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

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

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

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

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

A Sermon
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...