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A Crisis of Faith | Book Release Jan 2016

Crisis of Faith CoverAs the Lord allows, I plan to release this book in January 2016.  It chronicles my journey of faith, theologically, from birth to date and reveals just how harshly Reformed doctrine has affected me, my life and my family as well as my ministry.  In the last ten years or so a movement has ensued that seems to be taking large groups of Evangelicals and dividing them from fellowship.  I have experienced this first hand and in all honesty, have experienced hatred, hurt, death threats and the like while keeping quiet and tending to my own business.

My hope in this writing would be to allow the reader to journey with me, see what I see and then realize that everyone, no matter who they are, at one time or another has had a crisis of faith.  During these times believers are to stand together, work with each other, pray for grace and reconciliation and see God work through it.  Sadly, it hasn’t been the case.  So, my crisis of faith resulted in major growth for my good, but it has been painful.  Pray for me as I put the final touches to this text and pray that the message of the gospel would be paramount to it all.

For His Glory,

James

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BY JONATHAN EDWARDS

“That every mouth may be stopped.” [Romans 3:19]

The main subject of the doctrinal part of this epistle, is the free grace of God in the salvation of men by Christ Jesus; especially as it appears in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. And the more clearly to evince this doctrine, and show the reason of it, the apostle, in the first place, establishes that point, that no flesh living can be justified by the deeds of the law. And to prove it, he is very large and particular in showing, that all mankind, not only the Gentiles, but Jews, are under sin, and so under the condemnation of the law; which is what he insists upon from the beginning of the epistle to this place. He first begins with the Gentiles; and in the first chapter shows that they are under sin, by setting forth the exceeding corruptions and horrid wickedness that overspread the Gentile world: and then through the second chapter, and the former part of this third chapter, to the text and following verse, he shows the same of the Jews, that they also are in the same circumstances with the Gentiles in this regard. They had a high thought of themselves, because they were God’s covenant people, and circumcised, and the children of Abraham. They despised the Gentiles as polluted, condemned, and accursed; but looked on themselves, on account of their external privileges, and ceremonial and moral righteousness, as a pure and holy people, and the children of God; as the apostle observes in the second chapter. It was therefore strange doctrine to them, that they also were unclean and guilty in God’s sight, and under the condemnation and curse of the law. The apostle does therefore, on account of their strong prejudices against such doctrine, the more particularly insists upon it, and shows that they are no better than the Gentiles; and as in the 9th verse of this chapter, “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” And, to convince them of it, he then produces certain passages out of their own law, or the Old Testament, (to whose authority they pretend a great regard,) from the ninth verse to our text. And it may be observed, that the apostle, first, cites certain passages to prove that all mankind are corrupt, (verses 10-12.) “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God: They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one.” Secondly, the passages he cites next, are to prove, that not only all are corrupt, but each one wholly corrupt, as it were all over unclean, from the crown of the head to the soles of his feet; and therefore several particular parts of thebody are mentioned, the throat, the tongue, the lips, the mouth, the feet, (verses 13-15.) “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood.” And, Thirdly, he quotes other passages to show, that each one is not only all over corrupt, but corrupt to a desperate degree, by affirming the most pernicious tendency of their wickedness; “Destruction and misery are in their ways.” And then by denying all goodness or godliness in them; “And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” And then, lest the Jews should think these passages of their law do not concern them, and only the Gentiles are intended in them, the apostle shows in the text, not only that they are not exempt, but that they especially must be understood: “Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.” By those that are under the law is meant the Jews; and the Gentiles by those that are without law; as appears by the 12th verse of the preceding chapter. There is a special reason to understand the law, as speaking to and of them, to whom it was immediately given. And therefore the Jews would be unreasonable in exempting themselves. And if we examine the places of the Old Testament whence these passages are taken, we shall see plainly that special respect is had to the wickedness of the people of that nation, in every one of them. So that the law shuts all up in universal and desperate wickedness, that every mouth may be stopped; the mouths of the Jews, as well as of the Gentiles, notwithstanding all those privileges by which they were distinguished from the Gentiles.

The things that the law says, are sufficient to stop the mouths of all mankind, in two respects.

1. To stop them from boasting of their righteousness, as the Jews were wont to do; as the apostle observes in the 23rd verse of the preceding chapter.- That the apostle has respect to stopping their mouths in this respect, appears by the 27th verse of the context, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded.” The law stops our mouths from making any plea for life, or the favor of God, or any positive good, from our own righteousness.

2. To stop them from making any excuse for ourselves, or objection against the execution of the sentence of the law, or the infliction of the punishment that it threatens. That it is intended, appears by the words immediately following, “That all the world may become guilty before God.” That is, that they may appear to be guilty, and stand convicted before God, and justly liable to the condemnation of his law, as guilty of death, according to the Jewish way of speaking.

And thus the apostle proves, that no flesh can be justified in God’s sight by the deeds of the law; as he draws the conclusion in the following verse; and so prepares the way for establishing of the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, which he proceeds to do in the following part of the chapter, and of the epistle.

DOCTRINE

“It is just with God eternally to cast off and destroy sinners.”- For this is the punishment which the law condemns to- The truth of this doctrine may appear by the joint consideration of two things, viz. Man’s sinfulness, and God’s sovereignty.

I. It appears from the consideration of man’s sinfulness. And that whether we consider the infinitely evil nature of all sin, or how much sin men are guilty of.

1. If we consider the infinite evil and heinousness of sin in general, it is not unjust in God to inflict what punishment is deserved; because the very notion of deserving any punishment is, that it may be justly inflicted. A deserved punishment and a just punishment are the same thing. To say that one deserves such a punishment, and yet to say that he does not justly deserve it, is a contradiction; and if he justly deserves it, then it may be justly inflicted.

Every crime or fault deserves a greater or less punishment, in proportion as the crime itself is greater or less. If any fault deserves punishment, then so much the greater the fault, so much the greater is the punishment deserved. The faulty nature of any thing is the formal ground and reason of its desert of punishment; and therefore the more any thing hath of this nature, the more punishment it deserves. And therefore the terribleness of the degree of punishment, let it be never be so terrible, is no argument against the justice of it, if the proportion does but hold between the heinousness of the crime and the dreadfulness of the punishment; so that if there be any such thing as a fault infinitely heinous, it will follow that it is just to inflict a punishment for it that is infinitely dreadful.

A crime is more or less heinous, according as we are under greater or less obligations to the contrary. This is self-evident; because it is herein that the criminalness or faultiness of any thing consists, that it is contrary to what we are obliged or bound to, or what ought to be in us. So the faultiness of one being hating another, is in proportion to his obligation to love him. The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to honour him. The fault of disobeying another, is greater or less, as any one is under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.

Our obligation to love, honour, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honourableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honourable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honour. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience.

But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honourable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honourable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him.

So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.- Nothing is more agreeable to the common sense of mankind, than that sins committed against any one, must be proportionably heinous to the dignity of the being offended and abused; as it is also agreeable to the word of God, I Samuel 2:25. “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him;” (i.e. shall judge him, and inflict a finite punishment, such as finite judges can inflict;) “but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?” This was the aggravation of sin that made Joseph afraid of it. Genesis 39:9. “How shall I commit this great wickedness, and sin against God?” This was the aggravation of David’s sin, in comparison of which he esteemed all others as nothing, because they were infinitely exceeded by it. Psalm 51:4. “Against thee, thee only have I sinned.”-The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite: and it renders it no more than infinite; and therefore renders no more than proportionable to the heinousness of what they are guilty of.

If there be any evil or faultiness in sin against God, there is certainly infinite evil: for if it be any fault at all, it has an infinite aggravation, viz. that it is against an infinite object. If it be ever so small upon other accounts, yet if it be any thing, it has one infinite dimension; and so is an infinite evil. Which may be illustrated by this: if we suppose a thing to have infinite length, but no breadth and thickness, (a mere mathematical line,) it is nothing: but if it have any breadth and thickness, though never so small, and infinite length, the quantity of it is infinite; it exceeds the quantity of any thing, however broad, thick, and long, wherein these dimensions are all finite.

So that the objections made against the infinite punishment of sin, from the necessity, or rather previous certainty, of the futurition of sin, arising from the unavoidable original corruption of nature, if they argue any thing, argue against any faultiness at all: for if this necessity or certainty leaves any evil at all in sin, that fault must be infinite by reason of the infinite object.

But every such objector as would argue from hence, that there is no fault at all in sin, confutes himself, and shows his own insincerity in his objection. For at the same time that he objects, that men’s acts are necessary, and that this kind of necessity is inconsistent with faultiness in the act, his own practice shows that he does not believe what he objects to be true: otherwise why does he at all blame men? Or why are such persons at all displeased with men, for abusive, injurious, and ungrateful acts towards them? Whatever they pretend, by this they show that indeed they do believe that there is no necessity in men’s acts that is inconsistent with blame. And if their objection be this, that this previous certainty is by God’s own ordering, and that where God orders an antecedent certainty of acts, he transfers all the fault from the actor on himself; their practice shows, that at the same time they do not believe this, but fully believe the contrary: for when they are abused by men, they are displeased with men, and not with God only.

The light of nature teaches all mankind, that when an injury is voluntary, it is faulty, without any consideration of what there might be previously to determine the futurition of that evil act of the will. And it really teaches this as much to those that object and cavil most as to others; as their universal practice shows. By which it appears, that such objections are insincere and perverse. Men will mention others’ corrupt nature when they are injured, as a thing that aggravates their crime, and that wherein their faultiness partly consists. How common is it for persons, when they look on themselves greatly injured by another, to inveigh against him, and aggravate his baseness, by saying, “He is a man of a most perverse spirit: he is naturally of a selfish, niggardly, or proud and haughty temper: he is one of a base and vile disposition.” And yet men’s natural and corrupt dispositions are mentioned as an excuse for them, with respect to their sins against God, as if they rendered them blameless.

2. That it is just with God eternally to cast off wicked men, may more abundantly appear, if we consider how much sin they are guilty of. From what has been already said, it appears, that if men were guilty of sin but in one particular, that is sufficient ground of their eternal rejection and condemnation. If they are sinners, that is enough. Merely this, might be sufficient to keep them from ever lifting up their heads, and cause them to smite on their breasts, with the publican that cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But sinful men are full of sin; full of principles and acts of sin: their guilt is like great mountains, heaped one upon another, till the pile is grown up to heaven. They are totally corrupt, in every part, in all their faculties, and all the principles of their nature, their understandings, and wills; and in all their dispositions and affections. Their heads, their hearts, are totally depraved; all the members of their bodies are only instruments of sin; and all their senses, seeing, hearing, tasting, &c. are only inlets and outlets of sin, channels of corruption. There is nothing but sin, no good at all. Romans. 7:18. “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” There is all manner of wickedness. There are the seeds of the greatest and blackest crimes. There are principles of all sorts of wickedness against men; and there is all wickedness against God. There is pride; there is enmity; there is contempt; there is quarreling; there is atheism; there is blasphemy. There are these things in exceeding strength; the heart is under the power of them, is sold under sin, and is a perfect slave to it. There is hard-heartedness, hardness greater than that of a rock, or an adamant-stone. There is obstinacy and perverseness, incorrigibleness and inflexibleness in sin, that will not be overcome by threatenings or promises, by awakenings or encouragements, by judgments or mercies, neither by that which is terrifying nor that which is winning. The very blood of God our Saviour will not win the heart of a wicked man.

And there are actual wickednesses without number or measure. There are breaches of every command, in thought, word, and deed: a life full of sin; days and nights filled up with sin; mercies abused and frowns despised; mercy and justice, and all the divine perfections, trampled on; and the honour of each person in the Trinity trod in the dirt. Now if one sinful word or thought has so much evil in it, as to deserve eternal destruction, how do they deserve to be eternally cast off and destroyed, that are guilty of so much sin!

II. If with man’s sinfulness, we consider God’s sovereignty, it may serve further to clear God’s justice in the eternal rejection and condemnation of sinners, from men’s cavils and objections. I shall not now pretend to determine precisely, what things are, and what things are not, proper acts and exercises of God’s holy sovereignty; but only, that God’s sovereignty extends to the following things.

1. That such is God’s sovereign power and right, that he is originally under no obligation to keep men from sinning; but may in his providence permit and leave them to sin. He was not obliged to keep either angels or men from falling. It is unreasonable to suppose, that God should be obliged, if he makes a reasonable creature capable of knowing his will, and receiving a law from him, and being subject to his moral government, at the same time to make it impossible for him to sin, or break his law. For if God be obliged to this, it destroys all use of any commands, laws, promises, or threatenings, and the very notion of any moral government of God over those reasonable creatures. For to what purpose would it be, for God to give such and such laws, and declare his holy will to a creature, and annex promises and threatenings to move him to his duty, and make him careful to perform it, if the creature at the same time has this to think of, that God is obliged to make it impossible for him to break his laws? How can God’s threatenings move to care or watchfulness, when, at the same time, God is obliged to render it impossible that he should be exposed to the threatenings? Or, to what purpose is it for God to give a law at all? For according to this supposition, it is God, and not the creature, that is under the law. It is the lawgiver’s care, and not the subject’s, to see that his law is obeyed; and this care is what the lawgiver is absolutely obliged to! If God be obliged never to permit a creature to fall, there is an end of all divine laws, or government, or authority of God over the creature; there can be no manner of use of these things.

God may permit sin, though the being of sin will certainly ensue on that permission: and so, by permission, he may dispose and order the event. If there were any such thing as chance, or mere contingence, and the very notion of it did not carry a gross absurdity, (as might easily be shown that it does,) it would have been very unfit that God should have left it to mere chance, whether man should fall or no. For chance, if there should be any such thing, is undesigning and blind. And certainly it is more fit that an event of so great importance, and that is attended with such an infinite train of great consequences, should be disposed and ordered by infinite wisdom, than that it should be left to blind chance.

If it be said, that God need not have interposed to render it impossible for man to sin, and yet not leave it to mere contingence or blind chance neither; but might have left it with man’s free will, to determine whether to sin or no: I answer, if God did leave it to man’s free will, without any sort of disposal, or ordering [or rather, adequate cause] in the case, whence it should be previously certain how that free will should determine, then still that first determination of the will must be merely contingent or by chance. It could not have any antecedent act of the will to determine it; for I speak now of the very first act of motion of the will, respecting the affair that may be looked upon as the prime ground and highest source of the event. To suppose this to be determined by a foregoing act is a contradiction. God’s disposing this determination of the will by his permission, does not at all infringe the liberty of the creature: it is in no respect any more inconsistent with liberty, than mere chance or contingence. For if the determination of the will be from blind, undesigning chance, it is no more from the agent himself, or from the will itself, than if we suppose, in the case, a wise, divine disposal by permission.

2. It was fit that it should be at the ordering of the divine wisdom and good pleasure, whether every particular man should stand for himself, or whether the first father of mankind should be appointed as the moral and federal head and representative of the rest. If God has not liberty in this matter to determine either of these two as he pleases, it must be because determining that the first father of men should represent the rest, and not that every one should stand for himself, is injurious to mankind. For if it be not injurious, how is it unjust? But it is not injurious to mankind; for there is nothing in the nature of the case itself, that makes it better that each man should stand for himself, than that all should be represented by their common father; as the least reflection or consideration will convince any one. And if there be nothing in the nature of the thing that makes the former better for mankind than the latter, then it will follow, that they are not hurt in God’s choosing and appointing the latter, rather than the former; or, which is the same thing, that it is not injurious to mankind.

3. When men are fallen, and become sinful, God by his sovereignty has a right to determine about their redemption as he pleases. He has a right to determine whether he will redeem any or not. He might, if he had pleased, have left all to perish, or might have redeemed all. Or, he may redeem some, and leave others; and if he doth so, he may take whom he pleases, and leave whom he pleases. To suppose that all have forfeited his favor, and deserved to perish, and to suppose that he may not leave any one individual of them to perish, implies a contradiction; because it supposes that such a one has a claim to God’s favor, and is not justly liable to perish; which is contrary to the supposition.

It is meet that God should order all these things according to his own pleasure. By reason of his greatness and glory, by which he is infinitely above all, he is worthy to be sovereign, and that his pleasure should in all things take place. He is worthy that he should make himself his end, and that he should make nothing but his own wisdom his rule in pursuing that end, without asking leave or counsel of any, and without giving account of any of his matters. It is fit that he who is absolutely perfect, and infinitely wise, and the Fountain of all wisdom, should determine every thing [that he effects] by his own will, even things of the greatest importance. It is meet that he should be thus sovereign, because he is the first being, the eternal being, whence all other beings are. He is the Creator of all things; and all are absolutely and universally dependent on him; and therefore it is meet that he should act as the sovereign possessor of heaven and earth.

APPLICATION

In the improvement of this doctrine, I would chiefly direct myself to sinners who are afraid of damnation, in a use of conviction. This may be matter of conviction to you, that it would be just and righteous with God eternally to reject and destroy you. This is what you are in danger of. You who are a Christless sinner are a poor condemned creature: God’s wrath still abides upon you; and the sentence of condemnation lies upon you. You are in God’s hands, and it is uncertain what he will do with you. You are afraid what will become of you. You are afraid that it will be your portion to suffer eternal burnings; and your fears are not without grounds; you have reason to tremble every moment. But be you never so much afraid of it, let eternal damnation be never so dreadful, yet it is just. God may nevertheless do it, and be righteous, and holy, and glorious. Though eternal damnation be what you cannot bear, and how much soever your heart shrinks at the thought of it, yet God’s justice may be glorious in it. The dreadfulness of the thing on your part, and the greatness of your dread of it, do not render it the less righteous on God’s part. If you think otherwise, it is a sign that you do not see yourself, that you are not sensible what sin is, nor how much of it you have been guilty of. Therefore for your conviction, be directed,

First, To look over your past life: inquire at the mouth of conscience, and hear what that has to testify concerning it. Consider what you are, what light you have had, and what means you have lived under: and yet how you have behaved yourself! What have those many days and nights you have lived been filled up with? How have those years that have rolled over your heads, one after another, been spent? What has the sun shone upon you for, from day to day, while you have improved his light to serve Satan by it? What has God kept your breath in your nostrils for, and given you meat and drink, that you have spent your life and strength, supported by them, in opposing God, and rebellion against him?

How many sorts of wickedness have you not been guilty of! How manifold have been the abominations of your life! What profaneness and contempt of God has been exercised by you! How little regard have you had to the Scriptures, to the word preached, to sabbaths, and sacraments! How profanely have you talked, many of you, about those things that are holy! After what manner have many of you kept God’s holy day, not regarding the holiness of the time, not caring what you thought of in it! Yea, you have not only spent the time in worldly, vain, and unprofitable thoughts, but in immoral thoughts; pleasing yourself with the reflection on past acts of wickedness, and in contriving new acts. Have not you spent much holy time in gratifying your lusts in your imaginations; yea, not only holy time, but the very time of God’s public worship, when you have appeared in God’s more immediate presence? How have you not only attended to the worship, but have in the mean time been feasting your lusts, and wallowing yourself in abominable uncleanness! How many sabbaths have you spent, one after another, in a most wretched manner! Some of you not only in worldly and wicked thoughts, but also a very wicked outward behavior! When you on sabbath-days have got along with your wicked companions, how has holy time been treated among you! What kind of conversation has there been! Yea, how have some of you, by a very indecent carriage, openly dishonored and cast contempt on the sacred services of God’s house, and holy day! And what you have done some of you alone, what wicked practices there have been in secret, even in holy time, God and your own consciences know.

And how have you behaved yourself in the time of family prayer! And what a trade have many of you made of absenting yourselves from the worship of the families you belong to, for the sake of vain company! And how have you continued in the neglect of secret prayer! Therein wilfully living in a known sin, going abreast against as plain a command as any in the Bible! Have you not been one that has cast off fear, and restrained prayer before God?

What wicked carriage have some of you been guilty of towards your parents! How far have you been from paying that honour to them which God has required! Have you not even harboured ill-will and malice towards them? And when they have displeased you, have wished evil to them? yea, and shown your vile spirit in your behavior? and it is well if you have not mocked them behind their backs; and, like the cursed Ham and Canaan, as it were, derided your parents’ nakedness instead of covering it, and hiding your eyes from it. Have not some of you often disobeyed your parents, yea, and refused to be subject to them? Is it not a wonder of mercy and forbearance, that the proverb has not before now been accomplished on you, Proverbs 30:17. “The eye that mocketh at his father, and refuseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.”

What revenge and malice have you been guilty of towards your neighbors! How have you indulged this spirit of the devil, hating others, and wishing evil to them, rejoicing when evil befell them, and grieving at others’ prosperity, and lived in such a way for a long time! Have not some of you allowed a passionate furious spirit, and behaved yourselves in your anger more like wild beasts than like Christians?

What covetousness has been in many of you! Such has been your inordinate love of the world, and care about the things of it, that it has taken up your heart; you have allowed no room for God and religion; you have minded the world more than your eternal salvation. For the vanities of the world you have neglected reading, praying and meditation; for the things of the world, you have broken the sabbath: for the world you have spent a great deal of your time in quarreling. For the world you have envied and hated your neighbor; for the world you have cast God, and Christ, and heaven, behind your back; for the world you have sold your own soul. You have as it were drowned your soul in worldly cares and desires; you have been a mere earth-worm, that is never in its element but when grovelling and buried in the earth.

How much of a spirit of pride has appeared in you, which is in a peculiar manner the spirit and condemnation of the devil! How have some of you vaunted yourselves in your apparel! others in their riches! others in their knowledge and abilities! How has it galled you to see others above you! How much has it gone against the grain for you to give others their due honour! And how have you shown your pride by setting up your wills and in opposing others, and stirring up and promoting division, and a party spirit in public affairs.

How sensual have you been! Are there not some here that have debased themselves below the dignity of human nature, by wallowing in sensual filthiness, as swine in the mire, or as filthy vermin feeding with delight on rotten carrion? What intemperance have some of you been guilty of! How much of your precious time have you spent at the tavern, and in drinking companies, when you ought to have been at home seeking God and your salvation in your families and closets!

And what abominable lasciviousness have some of you been guilty of! How have you indulged yourself from day to day, and from night to night, in all manner of unclean imaginations! Has not your soul been filled with them, till it has become a hold of foul spirits, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird? What foul-mouthed persons have some of you been, often in lewd and lascivious talk and unclean songs, wherein were things not fit to be spoken! And such company, where such conversation has been carried on, has been your delight. And with what unclean acts and practices have you defiled yourself! God and your own consciences know what abominable lasciviousness you have practised in things not fit to be named, when you have been alone; when you ought to have been reading, or meditating, or on your knees before God in secret prayer. And how have you corrupted others, as well as polluted yourselves! What vile uncleanness have you practised in company! What abominations have you been guilty of in the dark! Such as the apostle doubtless had respect to in Ephesians 5:12. “For it is a shame even to speak of those things that are done of them in secret.” Some of you have corrupted others, and done what in you lay to undo their souls, (if you have not actually done it;) and by your vile practices and example have made room for Satan, invited his presence, and established his interest, in the town where you have lived.
What lying have some of you been guilty of, especially in your childhood! And have not your heart and lips often disagreed since you came to riper years? What fraud, and deceit, and unfaithfulness, have many of you practised in your own dealings with your neighbours, of which your own heart is conscious, if you have not been noted by others.

And how have some of you behaved yourselves in your family relations! How have you neglected your children’s souls! And not only so, but have corrupted their minds by your bad examples; and instead of training them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, have rather brought them up in the devil’s service!

How have some of you attended that sacred ordinance of the Lord’s supper without any manner of serious preparation, and in a careless slighty frame of spirits, and chiefly to comply with custom! Have you not ventured to put the sacred symbols of the body and blood of Christ into your mouth, while at the same time you lived in ways of known sins, and intended no other than still to go on in the same wicked practices? And, it may be, have sat at the Lord’s table with rancour in your heart against some of your brethren that you have sat there with. You have come even to that holy feast of love among God’s children, with the leaven of malice and envy in your heart; and so have eaten and drank judgment to yourself.

What stupidity and sottishness has attended your course of wickedness: which has appeared in your obstinacy under awakening dispensations of God’s word and providence. And how have some of you backslidden after you have set out in religion, and quenched God’s Spirit after he had been striving with you! And what unsteadiness, and slothfulness, and long misimprovement of God’s strivings with you, have you been chargeable with!

Now, can you think when you have thus behaved yourself, that God is obliged to show you mercy? Are you not after all this ashamed to talk of its being hard with God to cast you off? Does it become one who has lived such a life to open his mouth to excuse himself, to object against God’s justice in his condemnation, or to complain of it as hard in God not to give him converting and pardoning grace, and make him his child, and bestow on him eternal life? Or to talk of his duties and great pains in religion, as if such performances were worthy to be accepted, and to draw God’s heart to such a creature? If this has been your manner, does it not show how little you have considered yourself, and how little a sense you have had of your own sinfulness?

Secondly, Be directed to consider, if God should eternally reject and destroy you, what an agreeableness and exact mutual answerableness there would be between God so dealing with you, and your spirit and behaviour. There would not only be an equality, but a similitude. God declares, that his dealings with men shall be suitable to their disposition and practice. Psalm 18:25, 26. “With the merciful man, thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man, thou wilt show thyself upright; with the pure, thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward, thou wilt show thyself froward.” How much soever you dread damnation, and are affrighted and concerned at the thoughts of it; yet if God should indeed eternally damn you, you would be met with but in your own way; you would be dealt with exactly according to your own dealing. Surely it is but fair that you should be made to buy in the same measure in which you sell.

Here I would particularly show,- 1. That if God should eternally destroy you, it would be agreeable to your treatment of God. 2. That it would be agreeable to your treatment of Jesus Christ. 3. That it would be agreeable to your behaviour towards your neighbours. 4. That it would be according to your own foolish behaviour towards yourself.

I. If God should for ever cast you off, it would be exactly agreeable to your treatment of him. That you may be sensible of this, consider,

1. You never have exercised the least degree of love to God; and therefore it would be agreeable to your treatment of him, if he should never express any love to you. When God converts and saves a sinner, it is a wonderful and unspeakable manifestation of divine love. When a poor lost soul is brought home to Christ, and has all his sins forgiven him, and is made a child of God, it will take up a whole eternity to express and declare the greatness of that love. And why should God be obliged to express such wonderful love to you, who never exercised the least degree of love to him in all your life? You never have loved God, who is infinitely glorious and lovely; and why then is God under obligation to love you, who are all over deformed and loathsome as a filthy worm, or rather a hateful viper? You have no benevolence in your heart towards God; you never rejoiced in God’s happiness; if he had been miserable, and that had been possible, you would have liked it as well as if he were happy; you would not have cared how miserable he was, nor mourned for it, any more than you now do for the devil’s being miserable. And why then should God be looked upon as obliged to take so much care for your happiness, as to do such great things for it, as he doth for those that are saved? Or why should God be called hard, in case he should not be careful to save you from misery? You care not what becomes of God’s glory; you are not distressed how much soever his honour seems to suffer in the world: and why should God care any more for your welfare? Has it not been so, that if you could but promote your private interest, and gratify your own lusts, you cared not how much the glory of God suffered? And why may not God advance his own glory in the ruin of your welfare, not caring how much your interest suffers by it? You never so much as stirred one step, sincerely making the glory of God your end, or acting from real respect to him: and why then is it hard if God doth not do such great things for you, as the changing of your nature, raising you from spiritual death to life, conquering the powers of darkness for you, translating you out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, delivering you from eternal misery, and bestowing upon you eternal glory? You were not willing to deny yourself for God; you never cared to put yourself out of your way for Christ; whenever any thing cross or difficult came in your way, that the glory of God was concerned in, it has been your manner to shun it, and excuse yourself from it. You did not care to hurt yourself for Christ, whom you did not see worthy of it; and why then must it be looked upon as a hard and cruel thing, if Christ has not been pleased to spill his blood and be tormented to death for such a sinner.

2. You have slighted God; and why then may not God justly slight you? When sinners are sensible in some measure of their misery, they are ready to think it hard that God will take no notice of them; that he will see them in such a lamentable distressed condition, beholding their burdens and tears, and seem to slight it, and manifest no pity to them. Their souls they think are precious: it would be a dreadful thing if they should perish, and burn in hell for ever. They do not see through it, that God should make so light of their salvation. But then, ought they not to consider, that as their souls are precious, so is God’s honour precious? The honour of the infinite God, the great King of heaven and earth, is a thing of as great importance, (and surely may justly be so esteemed by God,) as the happiness of you, a poor little worm. But yet you have slighted that honour of God, and valued it no more than the dirt under your feet. You have been told that such and such things were contrary to the will of a holy God, and against his honour; but you cared not for that. God called upon you, and exhorted you to be more tender of his honour; but you went on without regarding him. Thus have you slighted God! And yet, is it hard that God should slight you? Are you more honourable than God, that he must be obliged to make much of you, how light soever you make of him and his glory?

And you have not only slighted God in time past, but you slight him still. You indeed now make a pretence and show of honouring him in your prayers, and attendance on other external duties, and by sober countenance, and seeming devoutness in your words and behaviour; but it if all mere dissembling. That downcast look and seeming reverence, is not from any honour you have to God in your heart, though you would have God take it so. You who have not believed in Christ, have not the least jot of honour to God; that show of it is merely forced, and what you are driven to by fear, like those mentioned in Psalm 66:3. “Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves to thee.” In the original it is, “shall lie unto thee;” that is, yield feigned submission, and dissemble respect and honour to thee. There is a rod held over you that makes you seem to pay such respect to God. This religion and devotion, even the very appearance of it, would soon be gone, and all vanish away, if that were removed. Sometimes it may be you weep in your prayers, and in your hearing sermons, and hope God will take notice of it, and take it for some honour; but he sees it to be all hypocrisy. You weep for yourself; you are afraid of hell; and do you think that is worthy of God to take much notice of you, because you can cry when you are in danger of being damned; when at the same time you indeed care nothing for God’s honour.

Seeing you thus disregard so great a God, is it a heinous thing for God to slight you, a little, wretched, despicable creature; a worm, a mere nothing, and less than nothing; a vile insect, that has risen up in contempt against the Majesty of heaven and earth?

3. Why should God be looked upon as obliged to bestow salvation upon you, when you have been so ungrateful for the mercies he has bestowed upon you already? God has tried you with a great deal of kindness, and he never has sincerely been thanked by you for any of it. God has watched over you, and preserved you, and provided for you, and followed you with mercy all your days; and yet you have continued sinning against him. He has given you food and raiment, but you have improved both in the service of sin. He has preserved you while you slept; but when you arose, it was to return to the old trade of sinning. God, notwithstanding this ingratitude, has still continued his mercy; but his kindness has never won your heart, or brought you to a more grateful behaviour towards him. It may be you have received many remarkable mercies, recoveries from sickness, or preservations of your life when exposed by accidents, when if you had died, you would have gone directly to hell; but you never had any true thankfulness for any of these mercies. God has kept you out of hell, and continued your day of grace, and the offers of salvation, so long a time; while you did not regard your own salvation so much as in secret to ask God for it. And now God has greatly added to his mercy to you, by giving you the strivings of his Spirit, whereby a most precious opportunity for your salvation is in your hands. But what thanks has God received for it? What kind of returns have you made for all this kindness? As God has multiplied mercies, so have you multiplied provocations.

And yet now are you ready to quarrel for mercy, and to find fault with God, not only that he does not bestow more mercy, but to contend with him, because he does not bestow infinite mercy upon you, heaven with all it contains, and even himself, for your eternal portion. What ideas have you of yourself, that you think God is obliged to do so much for you, though you treat him ever so ungratefully for his kindness wherewith you have been followed all the days of your life.

4. You have voluntarily chosen to be with Satan in his enmity and opposition to God; how justly therefore might you be with him in his punishment! You did not choose to be on God’s side, but rather chose to side with the devil, and have obstinately continued in it, against God’s often repeated calls and counsels. You have chosen rather to hearken to Satan than to God, and would be with him in his work. You have given yourself up to him, to be subject to his power and government, in opposition to God; how justly therefore may God also give you up to him, and leave you in his power, to accomplish your ruin! Seeing you have yielded yourself to his will, to do as he would have you, surely God may leave you in his hands to execute his will upon you. If men will be with God’s enemy, and on his side, why is God obliged to redeem them out of his hands, when they have done his work? Doubtless you would be glad to serve the devil, and be God’s enemy while you live, and then to have God your friend, and deliver you from the devil, when you come to die. But will God be unjust if he deals otherwise by you? No, surely! It will be altogether and perfectly just, that you should have your portion with him with whom you have chosen to work; and that you should be in his possession to whose dominion you have yielded yourself; and if you cry to God for deliverance, he may most justly give you that answer. Judges 10:14. “Go to the gods which you have chosen.”

5. Consider how often you have refused to hear God’s calls to you, and how just it would therefore be, if he should refuse to hear you when you call upon him. You are ready, it may be, to complain that you have often prayed, and earnestly begged of God to show you mercy, and yet have no answer of prayer: One says, I have been constant in prayer for so many years, and God has not heard me. Another says, I have done what I can; I have prayed as earnestly as I am able; I do not see how I can do more; and it will seem hard if after all I am denied. But do you consider how often God has called, and you have denied him? God has called earnestly, and for a long time; he has called and called again in his word, and in his providence, and you have refused. You was not uneasy for fear you should not show regard enough to his calls. You let him call as loud and as long as he would; for your part, you had no leisure to attend to what he said; you had other business to mind; you had these and those lusts to gratify and please, and worldly concerns to attend; you could not afford to stand considering of what God had to say to you. When the ministers of Christ have stood and pleaded with you, in his name, sabbath after sabbath, and have even spent their strength in it, how little was you moved! It did not alter you, but you went on still as you used to do; when you went away, you returned again to your sins, to your lasciviousness, to your vain mirth, to your covetousness, to your intemperance, and that has been the language of your heart and practice, Exodus 5:2. “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” Was it no crime for you to refuse to hear when God called? And yet is it now very hard that God does not hear your earnest calls, and that though your calling on God be not from any respect to him, but merely from self-love? The devil would beg as earnestly as you, if he had any hope to get salvation by it, and a thousand times as earnestly, and yet be as much of a devil as he is now. Are your calls more worthy to be heard than God’s? Or is God more obliged to regard what you say to him, than you to regard his commands, counsels, and invitations to you? What can be more justice than this, Proverbs 1:24, &c. “Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I will also laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.”

6. Have you not taken encouragement to sin against God, on that very presumption, that God would show you mercy when you sought it? And may not God justly refuse you that mercy that you have so presumed upon? You have flattered yourself, that though you did so, yet God would show you mercy when you cried earnestly to him for it: how righteous therefore would it be in God, to disappoint such a wicked presumption! It was upon that very hope that you dared to affront the majesty of heaven so dreadfully as you have done; and can you now be so sottish as to think that God is obliged not to frustrate that hope?

When a sinner takes encouragement to neglect secret prayer which God has commanded, to gratify his lusts, to live a carnal vain life, to thwart God, to run upon him, and contemn him to his face, thinking with himself, “If I do so, God would not damn me; he is a merciful God, and therefore when I seek his mercy he will bestow it upon me;” must God be accounted hard because he will not do according to such a sinner’s presumption?

Cannot he be excused from showing such a sinner mercy when he is pleased to seek it, without incurring the charge of being unjust; if this be the case, God has no liberty to vindicate his own honour and majesty; but must lay himself open to all manner of affronts, and yield himself up to the abuse of vile men, though they disobey, despise, and dishonour him, as much as they will; and when they have done, his mercy and pardoning grace must not be in his own power and at his own disposal, but he must be obliged to dispense it at their call. He must take these bold and vile contemners of his majesty, when it suits them to ask it, and must forgive all their sins, and not only so, but must adopt them into his family, and make them his children, and bestow eternal glory upon them. What mean, low, and strange thoughts have such men of God, who think thus of him! Consider, that you have injured God the more, and have been the worse enemy to him, for his being a merciful God. So have you treated that attribute of God’s mercy! How just is it therefore that you never should have any benefit of that attribute!

There is something peculiarly heinous in sinning against the mercy of God more than other attributes. There is such base and horrid ingratitude, in being the worse to God because he is a being of infinite goodness and grace, that it above all things renders wickedness vile and detestable. This ought to win us, and engage us to serve God better; but instead of that, to sin against him the more, has something inexpressibly bad in it, and does in a peculiar manner enhance guilt, and incense wrath; as seems to be intimated, Romans 2:4, 5. “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

The greater the mercy of God is, the more should you be engaged to love him, and live to his glory. But it has been contrariwise with you; the consideration of the mercies of God being so exceeding great, is the thing wherewith you have encouraged yourself in sin. You have heard that the mercy of God was without bounds, that it was sufficient to pardon the greatest sinner, and you have upon that very account ventured to be a very great sinner. Though it was very offensive to God, though you heard that God infinitely hated sin, and that such practices as you went on in were exceeding contrary to his nature, will, and glory, yet that did not make you uneasy; you heard that he was a very merciful God, and had grace enough to pardon you, and so cared not how offensive your sins were to him. How long have some of you gone on in sin, and what great sins have some of you been guilty of, on that presumption! Your own conscience can give testimony to it, that this has made you refuse God’s calls, and has made you regardless of his repeated commands. Now, how righteous would it be if God should swear in his wrath, that you should never be the better for his being infinitely merciful!

Your ingratitude has been the greater, that you have not only abused the attribute of God’s mercy, taking encouragement from it to continue in sin, but you have also presumed that God would exercise infinite mercy to you in particular; which consideration should have especially endeared God to you. You have taken encouragement to sin the more, from that consideration, that Christ came into the would and died to save sinners; such thanks has Christ had from you, for enduring such a tormenting death for his enemies! Now, how justly might God refuse that you should ever be the better for his Son’s laying down his life! It was because of these things that you put off seeking salvation. You would take the pleasures of sin still longer, hardening yourself because mercy was infinite, and it would not be too late, if you sought it afterwards; now, how justly may God disappoint you in this, and so order it that it shall be too late!

7. How have some of you risen up against God, and in the frame of your minds opposed him in his sovereign dispensations! And how justly upon that account might God oppose you, and set himself against you! You never yet would submit to God; never willingly comply, that God should have dominion over the world, and that he should govern it for his own glory, according to his own wisdom. You, a poor worm, a potsherd, a broken piece of an earthen vessel, have dared to find fault and quarrel with God. Isaiah 45:9. “Woe to him that striveth with his Maker. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth: shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What makest thou?” But yet you have ventured to do it. Romans 9:20. “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” But yet you have thought you was big enough; you have taken upon you to call God to an account, why he does thus and thus; you have said to Jehovah, What dost thou?

If you have been restrained by fear from openly venting your opposition and enmity of heart against God’s government, yet it has been in you; you have not been quiet in the frame of your mind; you have had the heart of a viper within, and have been ready to spit your venom at God. It is well if sometimes you have not actually done it, by tolerating blasphemous thoughts and malignant risings of heart against him; yea, and the frame of your heart in some measure appeared in impatient and fretful behaviour.- Now, seeing you have thus opposed God, how just is it that God should oppose you! Or is it because you are so much better, and so much greater than God, that it is a crime for him to make that opposition against you which you make against him? Do you think that the liberty of making opposition is your exclusive prerogative, so that you may be an enemy to God, but God must by no means be an enemy to you, but must be looked upon under obligation nevertheless to help you, and save you by his blood, and bestow his best blessings upon you?

Consider how in the frame of your mind you have thwarted God in those very exercises of mercy towards others that you are seeking for yourself. God exercising his infinite grace towards your neighbours, has put you into an ill frame, and it may be, set you into a tumult of mind. How justly therefore may God refuse ever to exercise that mercy towards you! Have you not thus opposed God showing mercy to others, even at the very time when you pretended to be earnest with God for pity and help for yourself? Yea, and while you was endeavouring to get something wherewith to recommend yourself to God? And will you look to God still with a challenge of mercy, and contend with him for it notwithstanding? Can you who have such a heart, and have thus behaved yourself, come to God for any other than mere sovereign mercy?

II. If you should for ever be cast off by God, it would be agreeable to your treatment of Jesus Christ.

It would have been just with God if he had cast you off for ever, without ever making you the offer of a Saviour. But God hath not done that; he has provided a Saviour for sinners, and offered him to you, even his own Son Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of men. All that are not for ever cast off are saved by him. God offers men salvation through him, and has promised us, that if we come to him, we shall not be cast off. But if you have treated, and still treat, this Saviour after such a manner, that if you should be eternally cast off by God, it would be most agreeable to your behaviour towards him; which appears by this, viz. “That you reject Christ, and will not have him for your Saviour.”

If God offers you a Saviour from deserved punishment, and you will not receive him, then surely it is just that you should go without a Saviour. Or is God obliged, because you do not like this Saviour, to provide you another? He has given an infinitely honourable and glorious person, even his only begotten Son, to be a sacrifice for sin, and so provided salvation; and this Saviour is offered to you: now if you refuse to accept him, is God therefore unjust if he does not save you? Is he obliged to save you in a way of your own choosing, because you do not like the way of his choosing? Or will you charge Christ with injustice because he does not become your Saviour, when at the same time you will not have him when he offers himself to you, and beseeches you to accept of him as your Saviour?

I am sensible that by this time many persons are ready to object against this. If all should speak what they now think, we should hear a murmuring all over the meeting-house, and one and another would say, “I cannot see how this can be, that I am not willing that Christ should be my Saviour, when I would give all the world that he was my Saviour: how is it possible that I should not be willing to have Christ for my Saviour when this is what I am seeking after, and praying for, and striving for, as for my life?”

Here therefore I would endeavour to convince you, that you are under a gross mistake in this matter. And, First, I would endeavour to show the grounds of your mistake. And Secondly, To demonstrate to you, that you have rejected, and do wilfully reject, Jesus Christ.

First, That you may see the weak grounds of your mistake, consider,

1. There is a great deal of difference between a willingness not to be damned, and a being willing to receive Christ for your Savior. You have the former; there is no doubt of that: nobody supposes that you love misery so as to choose an eternity of it; and so doubtless you are willing to be saved from eternal misery. But that is a very different thing from being willing to come to Christ: persons very commonly mistake the one for the other, but they are quite two things. You may love the deliverance, but hate the deliverer. You tell of a willingness; but consider what is the object of that willingness. It does not respect Christ; the way of salvation by him is not at all the object of it; but it is wholly terminated on your escape from misery. The inclination of your will goes no further than self, it never reaches Christ. You are willing not to be miserable; that is, you love yourself, and there your will and choice terminate. And it is but a vain pretence and delusion to say or think, that you are willing to accept of Christ.

2. There is certainly a great deal of difference between a forced compliance and a free willingness. Force and freedom cannot consist together. Now that willingness, whereby you think you are willing to have Christ for a Saviour, is merely a forced thing. Your heart does not go out after Christ of itself, but you are forced and driven to seek an interest in him. Christ has no share at all in your heart; there is no manner of closing of the heart with him. This forced compliance is not what Christ seeks of you; he seeks a free and willing acceptance, Psalm 110:3. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” He seeks not that you should receive him against your will, but with a free will. He seeks entertainment in your heart and choice.- And if you refuse thus to receive Christ, how just is it that Christ should refuse to receive you? How reasonable are Christ’s terms, who offers to save all those that willingly, or with a good will, accept of him for their Saviour! Who can rationally expect that Christ should force himself upon any man to be his Saviour? Or what can be looked for more reasonable, than that all who would be saved by Christ, should heartily and freely entertain him? And surely it would be very dishonourable for Christ to offer himself upon lower terms.- But I would now proceed,

Secondly, To show that you are not willing to have Christ for a Saviour. To convince you of it, consider,

1. How it is possible that you should be willing to accept of Christ as a Saviour from the desert of a punishment that you are not sensible you have deserved. If you are truly willing to accept of Christ as a Saviour, it must be as a sacrifice to make atonement for your guilt. Christ came into the world on this errand, to offer himself as an atonement, to answer for our desert of punishment. But how can you be willing to have Christ for a Saviour from a desert of hell, if you be not sensible that you have a desert of hell? If you have not really deserved everlasting burnings in hell, then the very offer of an atonement for such a desert is an imposition upon you. If you have no such guilt upon you, then the very offer of a satisfaction for that guilt is an injury, because it implies in it a charge of guilt that you are free from. Now therefore it is impossible that a man who is not convinced of his guilt can be willing to accept of such an offer; because he cannot be willing to accept the charge which the offer implies. A man who is not convinced that he has deserved so dreadful a punishment, cannot willingly submit to be charged with it. If he thinks he is willing, it is but a mere forced, feigned business; because in his heart he looks upon himself greatly injured; and therefore he cannot freely accept of Christ, under that notion of a Saviour from the desert of such a punishment; for such an acceptance is an implicit owning that he does deserve such a punishment.

I do not say, but that men may be willing to be saved from an undeserved punishment; they may rather not suffer it, than suffer it. But a man cannot be willing to accept one at God’s hands, under the notion of a Saviour from a punishment deserved from him which he thinks he has not deserved; it is impossible that any one should freely allow a Saviour under that notion. Such an one cannot like the way of salvation by Christ; for if he thinks he has not deserved hell, then he will think that freedom from hell is a debt; and therefore cannot willingly and heartily receive it as a free gift.- If a king should condemn a man to some tormenting death, which the condemned person thought himself not deserving of, but looked upon the sentence as unjust and cruel, and the king, when the time of execution drew nigh, should offer him his pardon, under the notion of a very great act of grace and clemency, the condemned person never could willingly and heartily allow it under that notion, because he judged himself unjustly condemned.

Now by this it is evident that you are not willing to accept of Christ as your Saviour; because you never yet had such a sense of your own sinfulness, and such a conviction of your great guilt in God ‘s sight, as to be indeed convinced that you lay justly condemned to the punishment of hell. You never was convinced that you had forfeited all favour, and was in God’s hands, and at his sovereign and arbitrary disposal, to be either destroyed or saved, just as he pleased. You never yet was convinced of the sovereignty of God. Hence are there so many objections arising against the justice of your punishment from original sin, and from God’s decree, from mercy shown to others, and the like.

2. That you are not sincerely willing to accept of Christ as your Saviour, appears by this, That you never have been convinced that he is sufficient for the work of your salvation. You never had a sight or sense of any such excellency or worthiness in Christ, as should give such great value to his blood and his mediation with God, as that it was sufficient to be accepted for such exceeding guilty creatures, who have so provoked God, and exposed themselves to such amazing wrath. Saying it is so and allowing it be as others say, is a very different thing from being really convinced of it, and a being made sensible of it in your own heart. The sufficiency of Christ depends upon, or rather consists in his excellency. It is because he is so excellent a person that his blood is of sufficient value to atone for sin, and it is hence that his obedience is so worthy in God’s sight; it is also hence that his intercession is so prevalent; and therefore those that never had any spiritual sight or sense of Christ’s excellency, cannot be sensible of his sufficiency.

And that sinners are not convinced that Christ is sufficient for the work he has undertaken, appears most manifestly when they are under great convictions of their sin, and danger of God’s wrath. Though it may be before they thought they could allow Christ to be sufficient, (for it is easy to allow any one to be sufficient for our defense at a time when we see no danger,) yet when they come to be sensible of their guilt and God’s wrath, what discouraging thoughts do they entertain! How are they ready to draw towards despair, as if there were no hope or help for such wicked creatures as they! The reason is, They have no apprehension or sense of any other way that God’s majesty can be vindicated, but only in their misery. To tell them of the blood of Christ signifies nothing, it does not relieve their sinking, despairing hearts. This makes it most evident that they are not convinced that Christ is sufficient to be their Mediator.- And as long as they are unconvinced of this, it is impossible they should be willing to accept of him as their Mediator and Saviour. A man in distressing fear will not willingly betake himself to a fort that he judges not sufficient to defend him from the enemy. A man will not willingly venture out into the ocean in a ship that he suspects is leaky, and will sink before he gets through his voyage.

3. It is evident that you are not willing to have Christ for your Saviour, because you have so mean an opinion of him, that you durst not trust his faithfulness. One that undertakes to be the Saviour of souls had need be faithful; for if he fails in such a trust, how great is the loss! But you are not convinced of Christ’s faithfulness; as is evident, because at such times as when you are in a considerable measure sensible of your guilt and God’s anger, you cannot be convinced that Christ is willing to accept of you, or that he stands ready to receive you, if you should come to him, though Christ so much invites you to come to him, and has so fully declared that he will not reject you, if you do come; as particularly, John 6:37. “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Now, there is no man can be heartily willing to trust his eternal welfare in the hands of an unfaithful person, or one whose faithfulness he suspects.

4. You are not willing to be saved in that way by Christ, as is evident, because you are not willing that your own goodness should be set at nought. In the way of salvation by Christ men’s own goodness is wholly set at nought; there is no account at all made of it. Now you cannot be willing to be saved in a way wherein your own goodness is set at nought, as is evident, since you make much of it yourself. You make much of your prayers and pains in religion, and are often thinking of them; how considerable do they appear to you, when you look back upon them! And some of you are thinking how much more you have done than others, and expecting some respect or regard that God should manifest to what you do. Now, if you make so much of what you do yourself, it is impossible that you should be freely willing that God should make nothing of it . As we may see in other things; if a man is proud of a great estate, or if he values himself much upon his honourable office, or his great abilities, it is impossible that he should like it, and heartily approve of it, that others should make light of these things and despise them.

Seeing therefore it is so evident, that you refuse to accept of Christ as your Saviour, why is Christ to be blamed that he does not save you? Christ has offered himself to you, to be your Saviour in time past, and he continues offering himself still, and you continue to reject him, and yet complain that he does not save you.- So strangely unreasonable, and inconsistent with themselves, are gospel sinners!

But I expect there are many of you that still object. Such an objection as this, is probably now in the hearts of many here present.

Objection. If I am not willing to have Christ for my Saviour, I cannot make myself willing.- But I would give an answer to this objection by laying down two things, that must be acknowledged to be exceeding evident.

1. It is no excuse, that you cannot receive Christ of yourself, unless you would if you could. This is so evident of itself, that it scarce needs any proof. Certainly if persons would not if they could, it is just the same thing as to the blame that lies upon them, whether they can or cannot. If you were willing, and then found that you could not, your being unable would alter the case, and might be some excuse; because then the defect would not be in your will, but only in your ability. But as long as you will not, it is no matter, whether you have ability or no ability.

If you are not willing to accept of Christ, it follows that you have no sincere willingness to be willing; because the will always necessarily approves of and rests in its own acts. To suppose the contrary, would be to suppose a contradiction; it would be to suppose that a man’s will is contrary to itself, or that he wills contrary to what he himself wills. As you are not willing to come to Christ, and cannot make yourself willing, so you have no sincere desire to be willing; and therefore may most justly perish without a Saviour. There is no excuse at all for you; for say what you will about your inability, the seat of your blame lies in your perverse will, that is an enemy to the Saviour. It is in vain for you to tell of your want of power, as long as your will is found defective. If a man should hate you, and smite you in the face, but should tell you at the same time, that he hated you so much, that he could not help choosing and willing so to do, would you take it the more patiently for that? Would not your indignation be rather stirred up the more?

2. If you would be willing if you could, that is no excuse, unless your unwillingness to be willing be sincere. That which is hypocritical, and does not come from the heart, but is merely forced, ought wholly to be set aside, as worthy of no consideration; because common sense teaches, that what is not hearty, but hypocritical is indeed nothing, being only a show of what is not; but that which is good for nothing, ought to go for nothing. But if you set aside all that is not free, and call nothing a willingness, but a free hearty willingness, then see how the case stands, and whether or no you have not lost all your excuse for standing out against the calls of the gospel. You say you would make yourself willing to accept if you could; but it is not from any good principle that you are willing for that. It is not from any free inclination, or true respect to Christ, or any love to your duty, or any spirit of obedience. It is not from the influence of any real respect, or tendency in your heart, towards any thing good, or from any other principle than such as is in the hearts of devils, and would make them have the same sort of willingness in the same circumstances. It is therefore evident, that there can be no goodness in that would be willing to come to Christ: and that which has no goodness, cannot be an excuse for any badness. If there be no good in it, then it signifies nothing, and weighs nothing, when put into the scales to counterbalance that which is bad.

Sinners therefore spend their time in foolish arguing and objecting, making much of that which is good for nothing, making those excuses that are not worth offering. It is in vain to keep making objection. You stand justly condemned. The blame lies at your door: Thrust it off from you as often as you will, it will return upon you. Sew fig-leaves as long as you will, your nakedness will appear. You continue wilfully and wickedly rejecting Jesus Christ, and will not have him for your Saviour, and therefore it is sottish madness in you to charge Christ with injustice that he does not save you.

Here is the sin of unbelief! Thus the guilt of that great sin lies upon you! If you never had thus treated a Saviour, you might most justly have been damned to all eternity: it would but be exactly agreeable to your treatment of God. But besides this, when God, notwithstanding, has offered you his own dear Son, to save you from this endless misery you had deserved, and not only so, but to make you happy eternally in the enjoyment of himself, you have refused him, and would not have him for your Saviour, and still refuse to comply with the offers of the gospel; what can render any person more inexcusable? If you should now perish for ever, what can you have to say?

Hereby the justice of God in your destruction appears in two respects:

1. It is more abundantly manifest that it is just that you should be destroyed. Justice never appears so conspicuous as it does after refused and abused mercy. Justice in damnation appears abundantly the more clear and bright, after a wilful rejection of offered salvation. What can an offended prince do more than freely offer pardon to a condemned malefactor? And if he refuses to accept of it, will any one say that his execution is unjust?

2. God’s justice will appear in your greater destruction. Besides the guilt that you would have had if a Saviour never had been offered, you bring that great additional guilt upon you, of most ungratefully refusing offered deliverance. What more base and vile treatment of God can there be, than for you, when justly condemned to eternal misery, and ready to be executed, and God graciously sends his own Son, who comes and knocks at your door with a pardon in his hand, and not only a pardon, but a deed of eternal glory; I say, what can be worse, than for you, out of dislike and enmity against God and his Son, to refuse to accept those benefits at his hands? How justly may the anger of God be greatly incensed and increased by it! When a sinner thus ungratefully rejects mercy, his last error is worse than the first; this is more heinous than all his former rebellion, and may justly bring down more fearful wrath upon him.

The heinousness of this sin of rejecting a Saviour especially appears in two things:

1. The greatness of the benefits offered: which appears in the greatness of the deliverance, which is from inexpressible degrees of corruption and wickedness of heart and life, the least degree of which is infinitely evil; and from misery that is everlasting; and in the greatness and glory of the inheritance purchased and offered. Hebrews 2:3. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.”

2. The wonderfulness of the way in which these benefits are procured and offered. That God should lay help on his own Son, when our case was so deplorable that help could be had in no mere creature; and that he should undertake for us, and should come into the world, and take upon him our nature, and should not only appear in a low state of life, but should die such a death, and endure such torments and contempt for sinners while enemies, how wonderful is it! And what tongue or pen can set forth the greatness of the ingratitude, baseness, and perverseness there is in it, when a perishing sinner that is in the most extreme necessity of salvation, rejects it, after it is procured in such a way as this! That so glorious a person should be thus treated, and that when he comes on so gracious an errand! That he should stand so long offering himself and calling and inviting, as he has done to many of you, and all to no purpose, but all the while be set at nought! Surely you might justly be cast into hell without one more offer of a Saviour! Yea, and thrust down into the lowest hell! Herein you have exceeded the very devils; for they never rejected the offers of such glorious mercy; no, nor of any mercy at all. This will be the distinguishing condemnation of gospel-sinners, John 3:18. “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”- That outward smoothness of your carriage towards Christ, that appearance of respect to him in your looks, your speeches, and gestures, do not argue but that you set him at nought in your heart. There may be much of these outward shows of respect, and yet you be like Judas, that betrayed the Son of man with a kiss; and like those mockers that bowed the knee before him, and at the same time spit in his face.

III. If God should for ever cast you off and destroy you, it would be agreeable to your treatment of others.- It would be no other than what would be exactly answerable to your behaviour towards your fellow-creatures, that have the same human nature, and are naturally in the same circumstances with you, and that you ought to love as yourself. And that appears especially in two things.

1. You have many of you been opposite in your spirit to the salvation of others. There are several ways that natural men manifest a spirit of opposition against the salvation of souls. It sometimes appears by a fear that their companions, acquaintances, and equals, will obtain mercy, and so become unspeakably happier than they. It is sometimes manifested by an uneasiness at the news of what others have hopefully obtained. It appears when persons envy others for it, and dislike them the more, and disrelish their talk, and avoid their company, and cannot bear to hear their religious discourse, and especially to receive warnings and counsels from them. And it oftentimes appears by their backwardness to entertain charitable thoughts of them, and by their being brought with difficulty to believe that they have obtained mercy, and a forwardness to listen to any thing that seems to contradict it. The devil hated to own Job’s sincerity, Job 1:7, &c. and chapter 2, verses 3, 4, 5. There appears very often much of this spirit of the devil in natural men. Sometimes they are ready to make a ridicule of others’ pretended godliness; they speak of the ground of others’ hopes, as the enemies of the Jews did of the wall that they built. Nehemiah 4:3. “Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, That which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.” There are many that join with Sanballat and Tobiah, and are of the same spirit with them. There always was, and always will be, an enmity betwixt the seed of the serpent and the seed of the women. It appeared in Cain, who hated his brother, because he was more acceptable to God than himself; and it appears still in these times, and in this place. There are many that are like the elder brother, who could not bear that the prodigal when he returned should be received with such joy and good entertainment, and was put into a fret by it, both against his brother that had returned, and his father that had made him so welcome. Luke 15.

Thus have many of you been opposite to the salvation of others, who stand in as great necessity of it as you. You have been against their being delivered from everlasting misery, who can bear it no better than you; not because their salvation would do you any hurt, or their damnation help you, any otherwise than as it would gratify that vile spirit that is so much like the spirit of the devil, who, because he is miserable himself, is unwilling that others should be happy. How just therefore is it that God should be opposite to your salvation! If you have so little love or mercy in you as to begrudge your neighbour’s salvation, whom you have no cause to hate, but the law of God and nature requires you to love, why is God bound to exercise such infinite love and mercy to you, as to save you at the price of his own blood? you, whom he is no way bound to love, but who have deserved his hatred a thousand and a thousand times? You are not willing that others should be converted, who have behaved themselves injuriously towards you; and yet, will you count it hard if God does not bestow converting grace upon you that have deserved ten thousand times as ill of God, as ever any of your neighbours have of you? You are opposite to God’s showing mercy to those that you think have been vicious persons, and are very unworthy of such mercy. Is others’ unworthiness a just reason why God should not bestow mercy on them? And yet will God be hard, if, notwithstanding all your unworthiness, and the abominableness of your spirit and practice in his sight, he does not show you mercy? You would have God bestow liberally on you, and upbraid not; but yet when he shows mercy to others, you are ready to upbraid as soon as you hear of it; you immediately are thinking with yourself how ill they have behaved themselves; and it may be your mouths on this occasion are open, enumerating and aggravating the sins they have been guilty of. You would have God bury all your faults, and wholly blot out all your transgressions; but yet if he bestows mercy on others, it may be you will take that occasion to rake up all their old faults that you can think of. You do not much reflect on and condemn yourself for your baseness and unjust spirit towards others, in your opposition to their salvation; you do not quarrel with yourself, and condemn yourself for this; but yet you in your heart will quarrel with God, and fret at his dispensations, because you think he seems opposite to showing mercy to you. One would think that the consideration of these things should for ever stop your mouth.

2. Consider how you have promoted others’ damnation. Many of you, by the bad examples you have set, by corrupting the minds of others, by your sinful conversation, by leading them into or strengthening them in sin, and by the mischief you have done in human society other ways that might be mentioned, have been guilty of those things that have tended to others’ damnation. You have heretofore appeared on the side of sin and Satan, and have strengthened their interest, and have been many ways accessary to others’ sins, have hardened their hearts, and thereby have done what has tended to the ruin of their souls.- Without doubt there are those here present who have been in a great measure the means of others’ damnation. One man may really be a means of others’ damnation as well as salvation. Christ charges the scribes and Pharisees with this, Matthew 23:13. “Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering, to go in.” We have no reason to think that this congregation has none in it who are cursed from day to day by poor souls that are roaring out in hell, whose damnation they have been the means of, or have greatly contributed to.- There are many who contribute to their own children’s damnation, by neglecting their education, by setting them bad examples, and bringing them up in sinful ways. They take some care of their bodies, but take little care of their poor souls; they provide for them bread to eat, but deny them the bread of life, that their famishing souls stand in need of. And are there no such parents here who have thus treated their children? If their children be not gone to hell, no thanks to them; it is not because they have not done what has tended to their destruction. Seeing therefore you have had no more regard to others’ salvation, and have promoted their damnation, how justly might God leave you to perish yourself!

IV. If God should eternally cast you off, it would but be agreeable to your own behaviour towards yourself; and that in two respects:

1. In being so careless of your own salvation. You have refused to take care for your salvation, as God has counselled and commanded you from time to time; and why may not God neglect it, now you seek it of him? Is God obliged to be more careful of your happiness, than you are either of your own happiness or his glory? Is God bound to take that care for you, out of love to you, that you will not take for yourself, either from love to yourself, or regard to his authority? How long, and how greatly, have you neglected the welfare of your precious soul, refusing to take pains and deny yourself, or put yourself a little out of your way for your salvation, while God has been calling upon you! Neither your duty to God, nor love to your own soul, were enough to induce you to do little things for your own eternal welfare; and yet do you now expect that God should do great things, putting forth almighty power, and exercising infinite mercy for it? You was urged to take care for your salvation, and not to put it off. You was told that was the best time before you grew older, and that it might be, if you would put it off, God would not hear you afterwards; but yet you would not hearken; you would run the venture of it. Now how justly might God order it so, that it should be too late, leaving you to seek in vain! You was told, that you would repent of it if you delayed; but you would not hear: how justly therefore may God give you cause to repent of it, by refusing to show you mercy now! If God sees you going on in ways contrary to his commands and his glory, and requires you to forsake them, and tells you that they tend to the destruction of your own soul, and therefore counsels you to avoid them, and you refuse; how just would it be if God should be provoked by it, henceforward to be as careless of the good of your soul as you are yourself!

2. You have not only neglected your salvation, but you have wilfully taken direct courses to undo yourself. You have gone on in those ways and practices which have directly tended to your damnation, and have been perverse and obstinate it. You cannot plead ignorance; you had all the light set before you that you could desire. God told you that you was undoing yourself; but yet you would do it. He told you that the path you was going in led to destruction, and counselled you to avoid it; but you would not hearken. How justly therefore may God leave you to be undone! You have obstinately persisted to travel in the way that leads to hell for a long time, contrary to God’s continual counsels and commands, till it may be at length you are got almost to your journey’s end, and are come near to hell’s gate, and so begin to be sensible of your danger and misery; and not account it unjust and hard if God will not deliver you! You have destroyed yourself, and destroyed yourself wilfully, contrary to God’s repeated counsels, yea, and destroyed yourself in fighting against God. Now therefore, why do you blame any but yourself if you are destroyed? If you will undo yourself in opposing God, and while God opposes you by his calls and counsels, and, it may be too, by the convictions of his Spirit, what can you object against it, if God now leaves you to be undone? You would have your own way, and did not like that God should oppose you in it, and your way was to ruin your own soul; how just therefore is it, if, now at length, God ceases to oppose you, and falls in with you, and lets your soul be ruined; and as you would destroy yourself, so should put to his hand to destroy you too! The ways you went on in had a natural tendency to your misery: if you would drink poison in opposition to God, and in contempt of him and his advice, who can you blame but yourself if you are poisoned, and so perish? If you would run into the fire against all restraints both of God’s mercy and authority, you must even blame yourself if you are burnt.

Thus I have proposed some things to your consideration, which, if you are not exceeding blind, senseless, and perverse, will stop your mouth, and convince you that you stand justly condemned before God; and that he would in no wise deal hardly with you, but altogether justly, in denying you any mercy, and in refusing to hear your prayers, though you pray never so earnestly, and never so often, and continue in it never so long. God may utterly disregard your tears and moans, your heavy heart, your earnest desires, and great endeavours; and he may cast you into eternal destruction, without any regard to your welfare, denying you converting grace, and giving you over to Satan, and at last cast you into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, to be there to eternity, having no rest day or night, for ever glorifying his justice upon you in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.

Objection. But here many may still object, (for I am sensible it is a hard thing to stop sinners’ mouths,) “God shows mercy to others that have done these things as well as I, yea, that have done a great deal worse than I.”

Answer. 1. That does not prove that God is any way bound to show mercy to you, or them either. If God bestows it on others, he does not so because he is bound to bestow it: he might if he had pleased, with glorious justice, have denied it them. If God bestows it on some, that does not prove that he is bound to bestow it on any; and if he is bound to bestow it on none, then he is not bound to bestow it on you. God is in debt to none; and if he gives to some that he is not in debt to, because it is his pleasure, that does not bring him into debt to others. It alters not the case as to you, whether others have it, or have it not: you do not deserve damnation the less, than if mercy never had been bestowed on any at all. Matthew 20:15. “Is thine eye evil, because mine is good?”

2. If this objection be good, then the exercise of God’s mercy is not in his own right, and his grace is not his own to give. That which God may not dispose of as he pleases, is not his own; for that which is one’s own, is at his own disposal: but if it be not God’s own, then he is not capable of making a gift or present of it to any one; it is impossible to give what is a debt.- What is it that you would make of God? Must the great God be tied up, that he must not use his own pleasure in bestowing his own gifts, but if he bestows them on one, must be looked upon obliged to bestow them on another? Is not God worthy to have the same right, with respect to the gifts of his grace, that a man has to his money or goods? Is it because God is not so great, and should be more in subjection than man, that this cannot be allowed him? If any of you see cause to show kindness to a neighbour, do all the rest of your neighbours come to you, and tell you, that you owe them so much as you have given to such a man? But this is the way that you deal with God, as though God were not worthy to have as absolute a property in his goods, as you have in yours.

At this rate God cannot make a present of any thing; he has nothing of his own to bestow: if he has a mind to show peculiar favour to some, or to lay some particular persons under peculiar obligations to him, he cannot do it; because he has no special gift at his own disposal. If this be the case, why do you pray to God to bestow saving grace upon you? If God does not do fairly to deny it you, because he bestows it on others, then it is not worth your while to pray for it, but you may go and tell him that he has bestowed it on others as bad or worse than you, and so demand it of him as a debt. And at this rate persons never need to thank God for salvation, when it is bestowed; for what occasion is there to thank God for that which was not at his own disposal, and that he could not fairly have denied? The thing at bottom is, that men have low thoughts of God, and high thoughts of themselves; and therefore it is that they look upon God as having so little right, and they so much. Matthew 20:15. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”

3. God may justly show greater respect to others than to you, for you have shown greater respect to others than to God. You have rather chosen to offend God than men. God only shows a greater respect to others, who are by nature your equals, than to you; but you have shown a greater respect to those that are infinitely inferior to God than to him. You have shown a greater regard to wicked men than to God; you have honoured them more, loved them better, and adhered to them rather than to him. Yea, you have honoured the devil, in many respects, more than God: you have chosen his will and his interest, rather than God’s will and his glory: you have chosen a little worldly pelf, rather than God: you have set more by a vile lust than by him: you have chosen these things, and rejected God. You have set your heart on these things, and cast God behind your back: and where is the injustice if God is pleased to show greater respect to others than to you, or if he chooses others and rejects you? You have shown greater respect to vile and worthless things, and no respect to God’s glory; and why may not God set his love on others, and have no respect to your happiness? You have shown great respect to others, and not to God, whom you are laid under infinite obligations to respect above all; and why may not God show respect to others, and not to you, who never have laid him under the least obligation?

And will you not be ashamed, notwithstanding all these things, still to open your mouth, to object and cavil about the decrees of God, and other things that you cannot fully understand. Let the decrees of God be what they will, that alters not the case as to your liberty, any more than if God had only foreknown. And why is God to blame for decreeing things? Especially since he decrees nothing but good. How unbecoming an infinitely wise Being would it have been to have made a world, and let things run at random, without disposing events, or fore-ordering how they should come to pass? And what is that to you, how God has fore-ordered things, as long as your constant experience teaches you, that it does not hinder your doing what you choose to do. This you know, and your daily practice and behaviour amongst men declares that you are fully sensible of it with respect to yourself and others. Still to object, because there are some things in God’s dispensations above your understanding, is exceedingly unreasonable. Your own conscience charges you with great guilt, and with those things that have been mentioned, let the secret things of God be what they will. Your conscience charges you with those vile dispositions, and that base behaviour towards God, that you would at any time most highly resent in your neighbour towards you, and that not a whit the less for any concern those secret counsels and mysterious dispensations of God may have in the matter. It is in vain for you to exalt yourself against an infinitely great, and holy, and just God. If you continue in it, it will be to your eternal shame and confusion, when hereafter you shall see at whose door all the blame of your misery lies.

I will finish what I have to say to natural men in the application of this doctrine, with a caution not to improve the doctrine to discouragement. For though it would be righteous in God for ever to cast you off, and destroy you, yet it would also be just in God to save you, in and through Christ, who has made complete satisfaction for all sin. Romans 3:25, 26. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Yea, God may, through this Mediator, not only justly, but honourably, show you mercy. The blood of Christ is so precious, that it is fully sufficient to pay the debt you have contracted, and perfectly to vindicate the Divine Majesty from all the dishonour cast upon it, by these many great sins of yours that have been mentioned. It was as great, and indeed a much greater thing, for Christ to die, than it would have been for you and all mankind to have burnt in hell to all eternity. Of such dignity and excellency is Christ in the eyes of God, that, seeing he has suffered so much for poor sinners, God is willing to be at peace with them, however vile and unworthy they have been, and on how many accounts soever the punishment would be just. So that you need not be at all discouraged from seeking mercy, for there is enough in Christ.

Indeed it would not become the glory of God’s majesty to show mercy to you, so sinful and vile a creature, for any thing that you have done; for such worthless and despicable things as your prayers, and other religious performances. It would be very dishonourable and unworthy of God so to do, and it is in vain to expect it. He will show mercy only on Christ’s account; and that, according to his sovereign pleasure, on whom he pleases, when he pleases, and in what manner he pleases. You cannot bring him under obligation by your works; do what you will, he will not look on himself obliged. But if it be his pleasure, he can honourably show mercy through Christ to any sinner of you all, not one in this congregation excepted.- Therefore here is encouragement for you still to seek and wait, notwithstanding all your wickedness; agreeable to Samuel’s speech to the children of Israel, when they were terrified with the thunder and rain that God sent, and when guilt stared them in the face, 1 Samuel 12:20. “Fear not; ye have done all this wickedness; yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

I would conclude this discourse by putting the godly in mind of the freeness and wonderfulness of the grace of God towards them. For such were the same of you.- The case was just so with you as you have heard; you had such a wicked heart, you lived such a wicked life, and it would have been most just with God for ever to have cast you off: but he has had mercy upon you; he hath made his glorious grace appear in your everlasting salvation. You had no love to God; but yet he has exercised unspeakable love to you. You have contemned God, and set light by him: but so great a value has God’s grace set on you and your happiness, that you have been redeemed at the price of the blood of his own Son. You chose to be with Satan in his service; but yet God hath made you a joint heir with Christ of his glory. You was ungrateful for past mercies; yet God not only continued those mercies, but bestowed unspeakably greater mercies upon you. You refused to hear when God called; yet God heard you when you called. You abused the infiniteness of God’s mercy to encourage yourself in sin against him; yet God has manifested the infiniteness of that mercy, in the exercises of it towards you. You have rejected Christ, and set him at nought; and yet he is become your Saviour. You have neglected your own salvation; but God has not neglected it. You have destroyed yourself; but yet in God has been your help. God has magnified his free grace towards you, and not to others; because he has chosen you, and it hath pleased him to set his love upon you.

O! what cause is here for praise! What obligations you are under to bless the Lord who hath dealt bountifully with you, and magnify his holy name! What cause for you to praise God in humility, to walk humbly before him. Ezekiel 16:63. “That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God!” You shall never open your mouth in boasting, or self-justification; but lie the lower before God for his mercy to you. You have reason, the more abundantly, to open your mouth in God’s praises, that they may be continually in your mouth, both here and to all eternity, for his rich, unspeakable, and sovereign mercy to you, whereby he, and he alone, hath made you to differ from others.

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Making the Mind a Slave to Fodder

Brain Slave Facebook Sins“I have to fix the internet!”  This is a slapstick phrase I have heard many times in my own home and abroad when dealing with the idea that someone is wrong online and “I” or someone else, must make sure they know it and make it right.  While there is something innately heroic about such things, it really comes down to being an opinion police or worse, trying to be the God of the world.  Before I move on let me say that I use social media, I blog at times and I enjoy the occasional debate within my social sphere.  Through it all, we believers are bound by power to do all things for the glory of Christ and to be humble, concerned and affectionate toward all people, even those who disagree.

While I desire to make everything right (in contradiction to this very article) in many areas, I understand that I have to just place what is on my heart in simple and succinct ways and that if I ever desire to do a Ph.D. in “Corrective Rightness” then I may need to fully disclose every angle of possible issues, outcomes and arguments from these points, but today, let’s just think about a few things.

ADDICTION

For the most part, I think that at times we fail to see that we have an addiction to social things.  We love to “check” our email, get a text, see our Facebook posts, count the likes, the shares, the comments and the number of “friends” we have.  We enjoy seeing who cares, who sneers and who jeers at us along with the overwhelming desire to have our cronies back us up and begin to fight for us.  In the end, we need to realize just what kind of evil idolatry rests at the root of such desires.  We are selfish and want to be the center of things.  Even when we are in good intentions, sometimes we are elated when something “blows up” online.  We love it, we get up and go to bed with it on our minds and when this is true for us, we need to realize we have a true addiction.

EGO

This one is easy to see.  We really think we have the answer and we really think that our thoughts and comments are what is going to set the record straight.  Well remember “pride comes before the fall.”  So, before we jump in to something that wasn’t even said to us or for us, let’s consider if we think more highly of ourselves than we should.

STEWARDSHIP

Money or course would come to mind with this word, but in this issue I think it’s more of a time management issue.  Everyone I know is busy.  They don’t have time to meet, talk, pray, study, serve, share their faith, spend time with their kids, work on their marriage, get in shape, learn a new trade, help their neighbor or just get the right amount of sleep; but they ALL have ample HOURS to update, comment, post, ping, tweet, insta”slam” and everything else.  Who are we kidding?  We have plenty of time, we just love wasting it on so-called “important” issues.  Get real.  Nuff said.

GLORY

This is redundant from the “ego” area, but it has a more theological and spiritual implication.  We must guard ourselves from seeking glory as the “winner” or the “warrior” and realize that what Christ has given through the Spirit is a humble and quiet resolve.  A spirit of desiring truth without causing more problems.  This is seen mainly in the “multi-faceted” areas of expertise that everyone seems to hold online and in truth, none of use are actually thinking rightly when we seek glory.

OUTCOME

When it’s all said and done let’s ask ourselves, “What am I leaving behind?”  Will it be honoring to me, my family, my community and my Lord?  Will the battle reveal the power of God or something else?  Am I spending my attention on things that are godless and counterproductive to my calling and my adoption as a child of God?  If things like this don’t stop, there could be catastrophic outcomes:

  1. Depression.  Yes, a continued desire to be the light of the internet world and shine on every problem from here to Helena will cause a deep emotional dissatisfaction that concludes in a depressed and broken mind and heart.  But that’s what happens when we put our lives away for the sake of darkness instead of light.
  2. Division.  How many “friends” are lost through silly and non-vital foolishness?  Taking things wrongly and assuming the worst is not the fruit of God, but the fruitless work of darkness.
  3. Darkness.  People will type things they would never say in public.  There is something really wicked about this and for many, it changes their temperament and in some cases, proves them unbelievers.
  4. Delusion.  Seeing what is not there to be seen and making one’s own mind dull because the gospel is not central and without glorious food, we all die.
  5. Death.  The wages of sin is death.  Sin and temptation is not just the sinful actions of debauchery, but the subtle attitudes of delight that we get when we engage to “correct” everything.

CAVEAT

OK, please do not hear what I am not saying.  There are times to correct, point out and make known darkness.  Paul teaches us this in several places (Eph 5, Titus etc.) but he also teaches that it is the work and guiding of those who are spiritual for the sake of the safety and sanctity of the body of Christ.  God is not in need of a defender and the purpose of these thoughts are for reflection not aggravation.

NOW WHAT?

Now let’s settle our hearts and minds and follow some clear and practical things that will help us in our never-ending battle against the never-ending battle against the never-ending battle against …. you get the point.

  1. Pray that God will show us the way that is light and true and honorable.
  2. Be settled when something disagrees with us online and let it go.
  3. When we have to engage, be sure it is only because we know and love the person involved and we do it PRIVATELY.
  4. Block things and people who continue to cause division or derail our joy.
  5. Delete the medium that causes us sin; such as Facebook or Twitter.  We don’t need them anyway.

This scripture preaches itself, so I have no need to explain it.  Print it out, put it on your desk, make it your header, tattoo it on your hands and most surely your heart and you will have peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James H. Tippins

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Can Immigration Prove our Faith?

caged childrenAre you Born Again?  The gravity surrounding this question is unmeasurable and should be taken very seriously.  In many conversations I find people usually come to this question at some time in their life as Christians.  Whether it is because of doubt or a concern over sin or even a concern over someone else who seems to be slipping from the faith.  While many have given some true wisdom on this subject from God’s word, today I want to focus on “ONE” element of true salvation that will be certain in the hearts and lives of all the children of God.

Jesus says that there is a law that summarizes the fullness of His entire nature, His essence, and His worth when He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)  To know and desire such a law in one’s heart is proof that he is born again.  On the other hand, disdain toward these laws is proof that one has the spirit of the devil, not the Spirit of the Lord.  This is proven in many places throughout scripture (John 13:34; Philippians 2:3-4; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 4:11; 1 Cor 13:13; James 2:14-17; Matthew 5:43-48; 1 Peter 4:8-9) and talks about serving, giving, suffering, dying, and giving up rights for the sake of others.

Scripture teaches that if one confesses a love for God but has no love for his brothers and his enemies, then that one is a liar and has nothing but a fear of judgment.  Now, so often we can argue what love looks like and say, “well, I do love folks, but…” when in reality we love the “but” more than the people.  This is proven because we would rather hate our neighbor so we can secure our right to have our microwaved popcorn.  Maybe that is too harsh?  Maybe it is just too true for some folks.  When so-called Christians are blinded by self-preservation and are unwilling to lose everything they have for the sake of their enemies, then they are either living in rebellion or darkness.  One could argue these are two in the same.

So, the utmost outward test of true salvation is that one has a heart for others; particularly those who are in need, unable to fend for themselves, hungry, running for their lives, being killed and given up for power and greed.  When Christians see people anywhere (btw, there are more people in other parts of the world than there will ever be in the US) they have heart for them and their internal desire is to die for them that they might know the great unsurpassing love of God who stepped out of Heaven to die for the sins of His people.

How can we tell if we love people?  Well, here are a few thoughts:

  1. Do we love them in our passions?  Are we able to see a burden and draw toward others, no matter their circumstances, and a desire to give of ourselves fully for the sake of others?
  2. Do we love them in our prayers?  If we love others we are prayerful for them.  We plead with our Father to help them and even ask God to put us “outside” the camp in order to do what is necessary.
  3. Do we love them in our purse?  What I mean is that it takes nothing for an abundance to be given away, but what about when all we have is what we absolutely need?  Remember the rich young ruler and remember the widow’s mite.  Love is love when it’s sacrifice.  It’s all God’s anyway.
  4. Do we love them in our purpose?  Are we caring more about “us” than “them”?  Do we see God moving opportunities for ministry, Gospel-sized ministry and think it to be a burden that would “IMPOSE” on our lives?  If so, then we are not loving.
  5. Do we love them in our presence?  Do we care enough to “be there?”  Do we care enough to not just say and pray but to also ‘stay?’
  6. Do we love them in our politics?  We do know that ALL the children of God are in ALL the world right?  Then why would we ever close our doors to anyone seeking to be with us, especially those running from harm?
  7. Do we love them in our pride?  Do we love people who are or could be our siblings in Christ and take “pride” and honor toward them as our own body?  No one hates his own body, but nurtures it and protects it, just as Christ does for His bride.

What do we do now?  We pray for God to heal us of our pride, reveal our sinful and selfish hearts and praise Him for saving us from ourselves, our dreams, our ego, our idols and our hatred.  God loves us and we do love others.  Church, one day this nation will die and the only nation that will remain is a nation of priests from every tongue and tribe.  We need to think to that end.  So often people who claim Christ want to stand up against laws that hurt the unborn but when they “are” born, they need to be viable or they are worthless.  Well, I am thankful that my God, who knew I was worthless, saw fit in His mercy to save me, an immigrant in the faith, an enemy of the King, a traitor to the crown who was helpless and blind and dead.

To all my brothers and sisters in South Africa, Russia, India, China, Mexico, Canada, America, Brazil, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, and elsewhere, know that the God of Heaven doesn’t shut you out of His kingdom, for He is righteous and His people do not shut you out either.  I am glad that those for whom we pray in foreign lands are willing to be felons for the sake of the gospel.  I wish in place where it was legal to be faithful, people would.  But hey, that’s how God works in the first place; when we are left to ourselves, we perish.

Praise Him for His glorious grace!

Pastor James Tippins

 

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Why I Don’t Write Anymore

Writing for God's GloryWell, if one had to know, I really have never written, just played around with some semi-quasi-halfway syntax and called it writing.  The breath of my pen has exhaled with not even a vapor of expression remaining and at the end of this sentence I could stop and hit delete.  Seriously, well… more like honestly, I don’t write much anymore because I have more drafts in books, files and on my blog than I actually have published.  I look at everything I want to say and think, “I don’t really want to say it and if I did, I want it to be perfect.”  To this I confess that I have a pride issue when it comes to writing.

Yes, pride.  Not the, “look at my great prose and covet” but more like, “if I don’t get this perfect then I am a loser” pride.  Yes, pride is the core reason I have not completed much of the writing that I really would like to publish.  Two finished manuscripts, many pamphlets, articles galore and yet I sit here writing about how I don’t want to write.  Now as I talk to myself about this issue I have several thoughts that are ringing in my ears that need to be pressed into the pad of this article.  Why do I feel this way?

SOCIAL MEDIA

I believe the draw of “interaction” has overtaken the allure of intimacy in writing.  Thorough and insightful script seems fruitless in today’s social sphere and if it can’t be said in 140 characters, it probably isn’t worth saying.  No one is going to read it anyway.

BACKLASH AND NASTY PEOPLE

There is no more etiquette or politeness any longer among opinions and conversation has been devoured by the cookie monster of “hear me, hear me” to the point that most people with anything useful are fearful of having to deal with all the mess.  Even if the comments are off, it doesn’t take the heat away.  I especially enjoy the rebukes and wickedness poured over people’s heart-felt testimonies as if anyone ever asks for input in the first place.

YOU DIDN’T SAY THAT

In the end with everything being said, it’s hard to actually have an original thought.  In today’s googley  circles, nothing is precious and there are some out there that would rather steal words than anything else.  Who cares?  Well, let’s just say if someone who stands against everything you ever did stole your words then someone else found them in your mouth, you would be quoting them right?  Meh.

LEARNING VS LAUGHING VS LOOTING

Writing for the sake of teaching is mainly what I enjoy, but it seems that people would rather laugh or take advantage of a controversy and “loot” the wave to the center of “likes” and “&^%$@#&^!@” listed on their blogs and social pages.  Come on, who doesn’t enjoy having 4893 friends that they have never met comment and like what they didn’t even say to begin with but shared what someone else didn’t say about what someone else said about what their other friend who they never met said about what they didn’t hear anyone say.  You know?

SUBLIME GLORY

At the core of it all though is the fear that something is too precious and glorious to waste.  That the object at the tip of the pen is so concerning with divinity and the beauty of ineffable majesty that no amount of paper and ink could do it justice.  It seems that sometimes it just cannot be said rightly so is it better to not say it at all?  I think this is truly where I sit, worrying about whether or not my service to the glory of God and His word, doctrine, et al in my writing is even effectual to the praise of His glorious grace.  Is it even going to partner with His purpose to engage the mind of the saints to a greater seeing of His wonder?

You know what?  It doesn’t matter.  If nothing else, a partnering with God’s great work in small and piece-milled ways will outshine the grandest of debates on the most divisive issues of man.  The majesty of Grace will devastate the minds of Americans who work to the end of their fingers to produce yet another wasted effort against the grain of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The smallest drop of blood from the Savior is heavier and weightier than the chasm of the cosmos and the doxology of silence in the face of Holiness is louder than the highest gathering of the greatest people for the greatest cause.

So, I desire to write for the glory of God, for an audience beyond my knowledge and sight and to do what I can, if nothing else, to catalogue the Master’s fingerprint of my own heart as I encourage all the saints to do the same.  What would happen if the children of God for one season all praised Him in their words?  I cannot even imagine.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

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The Death of Discipleship

treeWhile it’s a common term and mission, discipleship as we know it in America’s church is dead.  So dead that many believe that few are even being taught rightly by the scripture much less being brought into the Kingdom of God.  Having a limited amount of time and a limited amount of webspace, there is no way one could attempt to revise and restore the biblical idea of discipleship, though many have tried.  So, as a mark on the starting line, I hope to list a few things on my heart for the sake of future direction and discussion.

Discipleship is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the full and final revelation of God to man and in His ministry one can find the reality of what Jesus did and thus create a theology of growing others “to” the faith and “in” the faith.  Jesus selected His disciples specifically, then He lived with them and taught them to invest in others for the sake of the kingdom.  As they invested, they preached, proclaimed the good news of Christ and saw God save many through the hearing of the Word. (Rom 10:17)  These who came to know God through Jesus Christ became part of the body, that is the church.  The local church was governed by the Word of God through the apostles who “appointed elders (pastors) in every city to put in order what remained.”  The flock was taught to “do the work of the ministry” to each other and teach others to do the same in the power and for the sake of the person of Jesus Christ.  Discipleship is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else.

Discipleship is evangelism.

“Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”  This is a familiar song in the hearts of the church, but ever so often she refuses to hear this portion but rather hears the “Go ye into all the nations…”  While the church is to go, what it DOES as it goes is to teach the Gospel of Jesus as God plants the church and saves people by grace through faith.  So, reaching people is teaching people, these things are not divided but one in the same.  Any attempt to make “reaching” apart from rightly dividing the word of God is another gospel and as Paul states, “no gospel at all.”

Discipleship is what the church does, period.

So the church hears, believes, trusts, hopes, lives, loves and learns at the feet of her savior, the living Word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us.  So, the church is to hear the word, do the word, know the word, love the word, live the word, teach the word and all for the sake of the praise of the glorious grace of God in Christ.  So, when the church thinks that “discipleship” is apart from the word, then she has forsaken her first love and must “do the things that she did before” so her Lord will not remove her lampstand (influence) from the world.  The church around the globe is hard at work teaching people to understand and teach others the bible, but for some strange reason, the dominant church in the USA seems to have given way to personal growth, personal esteem, personal influence, personal ministry and personal preference instead of powerful purpose found only in God’s word.  Just imagine, a people so hungry for power and never finding it because the grace of God (the power of God) is nowhere to be found because it is only given through the hearing and teaching of the word of God… Grace be with you.

Discipleship is personal, intimate and individual.

Widget companies can go the way of the assembly line just fine with identical outcomes having only a small margin of error.  But when it comes to people, each one is unique and unable to be stamped as a cookie on a sheet.  So why does so many congregations pour countless individuals into the same pot and then ask the question, “how can we get people to love the Lord and be committed?”  They cannot be committed to the Christ they have never heard and they will not hear unless someone preaches to them and then they will not encounter the Christ-filled life without the church continually living together in the pursuit of God’s grace through His word.  So, mass making of strong believers is like mass making of a bag of toenails.  It’s gross and worthless.  The preaching and the preacher should enable the body to do the work of the ministry while each one models unique but personal discipleship.  There is no other way.

Discipleship is carried through teaching what accords with sound doctrine.

In the end the body of Christ will prevail as the holy and pure bride prepared for her groom.  Until then she is to press and lean by faith alone on the promises of God through Jesus Christ who fully furnished and finished redemption by justifying a people for Himself through His blood having taken their guilt and debt and paid it in full.  It is finished!  So, let the church lives as the body of the Christ who bought her by growing as disciples who prove their adoptions as sons and daughters through the sacrifice of their living for the sake of glory that comes from God, not man.

The church will live eternally and she will do eternally what Christ has saved her to do because she no longer lives as her own but it is Christ who lives within her.  Therefore, the perpetuity of sound disciples will make more and nothing will make this happen apart from the power of God the Holy Spirit through the simple and wonderful teaching of God’s word, not to the masses, but to the few who teaches the few who teaches the few.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James Tippins

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Pastoral Challenges | QNA

Scriptural AuthorityThis past week I have received dozens of questions but I had an email from a few weeks back that asked about challenges that pastors face and how they stand under the challenges.  In a quick reply I realized that there are MANY challenges that could stand against shepherds and that they are too many to list and never-ending.  Here are a few “thoughts” and then my reply.

  1. Spiritual Battles of the Enemy – any type of struggle causing any type of struggle.
  2. Spiritual Battles of the Flesh – this is obvious and would include temptation.
  3. Spiritual Battles of the Mind – these would include feelings, hurt, pride etc.
  4. Spiritual Battles of the Heart – the affections and lusts of the world vs. the affections of glory.
  5. Spiritual Battles of the Word of God
  6. Spiritual Battles are ALL for our good.
  7. Challenges come in the form of people
  8. Challenges come in the form of thoughts
  9. Challenges come in the form of temptations
  10. Challenges come in the form of time
  11. Challenges come and they always will

What challenges (both private & public) are ‘Pastors’ facing daily?
How do they cope? Your insight would be truly appreciated.

I could list hundreds, but off the top of my head, here are the most critical:

CHALLENGE OF UNDERMINING BIBLICAL AUTHORITY

Pastors face the challenge of undermining biblical authority. This means that in the world we live in, it is often the “norm” to just do things that draw people or create environments that would appeal to the masses of the world. In doing this, the pastor demonstrates that he has no faith in God or His power to save.

Let me explain: God’s word does not return void, it goes forth and does that for which it was sent. (Is 55:11) Hebrew 4:12 says that the word of God is living and breathing. 2 Tim 3 teaches that ALL scripture is breathed out by God and is useful for success to all the men of God. 2 Peter writes that all that is needed for life and godliness is given to us by God’s divine power and Paul in Romans 1 says that God’s word and His “gospel” is His power unto salvation. It is also very clear in Rom 10:17 that the hearing of Christ’s word alone brings salvation, nothing else.

John says that the word became flesh, so the word is Jesus who speaks truth as He is truth and Jesus reveals the eternal glory of God to the fullest. If you turn to 2 Cor 4 you will see Paul teaching that there is in no way cunning or tampering with God’s word with any attempt to draw, lure, engage, entice, or incite people to faith or interest. But he says that if people are not interested or cannot see the gospel they preach it is because satan has blinded their eyes and through the open statement of the truth of the gospel their eyes can be opened.

All through Jesus’ ministry people came from near and far to follow him but they perished in their sins because they wanted food, healing, power, encouragement and hope but they didn’t see Him for who He was and couldn’t because they did not have ears to hear. So, to make a long answer longer, the word of God alone is all we need as pastors to successfully shepherd, reach and minister to all the people of the world.

CHALLENGE OF THE PAIN OF THE HEART & PRIDE

Pastors face fear, rejection, temptation, loneliness and other personal issues because the job is demanding, overbearing and at times “prideful” when everyone seems to think highly of us. Therefore, Pride is a problem with many of us if we are not careful.

CHALLENGE OF TIME STEWARDSHIP & COPING

Time – we need more and that which we do have is mostly spent wastefully. We think that “living” with others in their circles and interests is better than prayer, study and teaching of scripture. But scripture has clearly called pastors to shepherd through feeding, not fellowship per se.

How we cope in these matters is surely back to the number one problem… we HOLD FAST to the word of God alone for our needs and desires. He read, meditate and pray.

Secondly, we must be accountable to other men who share the wisdom, maturity and insight of the role of pastor so we are not led to the slaughter by temptation.

Finally, we intercede for ourselves and our flock through prayer as often as possible many times in every hour. We care and we focus on knowing that God will do what He will do and that the outcome of our ministry is not how people respond or who is saved or how big things become, but the faithfulness of God. If Noah had no converts, then he wasn’t a failure because God used him to faithfully preach Christ (2 Peter).

So an added challenge would be to measure success by the world and not the word.

As I post this response, I am reminded that there are millions more and that these could very well each be a series of discussions and thoughts.  What challenges do you face pastor?  How do you cope?

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What Church Attendance Means

Did you realize that worshipping with your church is evidence of the grace of God and the ONLY “place” that a true believer can exercise his or her gifts and obedience in the context of love and truth? (Eph 4:11-16; Heb 10:25; 1 Jn. 3:14)  Those that fail in this, fail in love.  They fail in wisdom and fail in understanding of God’s truths.  That’s why so often they fall away.  If discipline is exercised biblically, they reveal God’s grace in their lives or they become islands, bitter, gossips, offended, and dead.  Admonish each other and watch the power of Grace unfold in repentance, faith and powerful affection to the Christ and His bride!

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To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
(Titus 1:15-16 ESV)

From the beginning, we have prayed and followed God’s direction in all matters to best of our wisdom, and by His sovereign grace we have followed His leading and longed for service and obedience for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has been and always will be faithful and in Him we trust.   In 2004, as we were in Roanoke, VA, we began feeling the need and burden to see a church planted in Claxton as a central point for church plants across the area. Despite popular belief, only 12 to 15 percent of individuals in Evans County alone are affiliated with ANY church and these numbers of church goers decline as the population changes each year.

Not only studies but also the biblical narrative reveals to us that planting new and smaller churches, even multiple congregations in the same city is best practice in regards to evangelism and ministry. It takes only a few seconds to look at many church roles to discover the truth about the “back door” of churches in America. Planting churches is one, not the only strategy to answer this issue and it is to this that my family, and I have been called.

From 2004 until 2011 we had conversations with many young men, church planters, local and remote pastors about partnering with us in church planting but never considered that we would be the ones moving to Evans County to start a church. But in May of 2011, the Lord changed it all, He put in both my and Robyn’s heart to come and we made open plans to make a transition within two years. By making our calling and plans public, we found God moving quicker than expected and the first Sunday in September we moved to Georgia from the East Bay of California and our plan after arrival scheduled things to begin about within about two years. Through word of mouth alone we scheduled a date for an informational meeting to be set in October of 2011. At that first meeting, we had over forty people attend and the consensus was that we would begin meeting weekly in bible study for the purpose of seeking a church to be planted.

Families from Lyons, Statesboro, Glenville, Pooler, Savannah, Rincon, Springfield, Reidsville, Vidalia and other areas gathered over the next few months until March of 2012 when we moved out of our living room into a small rental building that we currently occupy. All of us were astonished and are still amazed at the work of God. We have seen new life in Christ, baptisms and on July of 2014, we constituted with our founding families as members and today we have actively 58 covenant members including member’s children.

Having served in ministry in four states over nearly two decades, the heartbeat of the “bible belt” always seemed like a safe and sound location for church planting and in May of 2011 I contacted the GA Baptist Convention and spoke with Butch Butcher, the director of church planting and discussed with him about our plans to come and begin GraceTruth Church. He was elated and told me to contact Mr. James Bland, the Association Missionary or “Director of Missions” for Evans County to work with them in our efforts. I did, and that same day Mr. Bland said, “we don’t need you coming down here and messing up our current churches… we have enough Baptist churches here.” I attempted to help Mr. Bland see that we were not coming to move sheep from church to church but to reach the lost, equip the scattered and love the sheep. This conversation set the tone for the remainder of this portion of our experience.

When we arrived in Claxton, one of our first ministry plans was to assist a local church in Reidsville with their Fall Revival where I gave seven sermons and three plenary sessions with questions and answers over the week-long period. Some of those evenings Mr. Bland attended and offered a compliment to my teaching. We also in short time petitioned (Read Request) to be considered as an affiliated church of the local association where the response would be to assemble a committee to talk with me and our church leadership and then present us to the assembly of churches to be considered a “petitioning” church under watch care for twelve months.

As this process continued, the annual meeting of the association was at hand where we were supposed to be present and presented. Just a few days before the meeting I received a call from Mr. Bland that the committee needed more time and that they would not be presenting us at this time. Upon pushing, he gave me over ten reasons, of which all were petty assumptions, as to why he felt we were not “of like faith and order” even though we fully subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message. I requested a meeting with the committee that was honored in February of 2013. At this meeting of 2 hours and 22 minutes, (which is recorded and available upon request) many accusations were made about our doctrine and practice, but as the conversation moved on, we settled the minds of these men that we were indeed of like faith, but due to the polity differences, this group felt it would be confusing for us to be a part of the local association. At the final moments of our meeting, we asked for a letter to be written to GraceTruth Church as to why we had decided to remove our petition from the TEBA. Mr. Ross made the comment that Mr. Bland should maybe even come to discuss it with the church to help them understand our decision. Several of the credentials group actually indicated they felt we should be a part of the association. We adjourned the meeting with prayer and a spirit of acceptance and agreement that we would await the letter to GraceTruth and decide if Mr. Bland would come or not at a later date. This letter never came.

A few weeks later, James Bland joined as a provisional member, the fellowship of Elza Baptist Church in Reidsville where Luke Adams, an assisting Elder/Pastor with GraceTruth, was Sr. Pastor. Though several people were skeptical about Mr. Bland’s presence, he and Pastor Luke discussed the matter and the church received him for a period of six months in an attempt to “get to know the church”. Within a few weeks, Mr. Bland spoke up at a business meeting and accused Rev. Adams of being a false teacher and of not being Southern Baptist. (Notes of this meeting available upon request) After a quick rebuke and the adjourning of the meeting, Mr. Bland continued to pass out literature and cause division. Some time later, Mr. Bland was a guest preacher at Eastside Baptist Church in Claxton and on that day he preached against the “false teachers” that had come into the area and among his sermon’s errors were not only false witness claims against Luke and me, but also grave theological errors. This sermon was transcribed and several local pastors were alarmed. (Audio and Transcription available)

The next day, Mr. Bland had an unsigned letter sent to all the churches in the association stating that me, Luke and another elder, Dave Hanson (who moved his family from California to help plant the church) were indeed false teachers, divisive, non-Baptistic, not of like faith and order, and other things that were hellish to say the least. (TEBA Accusation Letter) GraceTruth church had removed her petition and already petitioned with another local association and the only letter that was to be sent was to her outlining our conversation in February. This letter caused a storm of confusion and two long-standing churches in the association: Rehoboth Missionary Baptist Church (see statement) and Hagan Baptist Church (see letter) submitted a formal complaint of sinful behavior and bearing false witness against brethren against the men on the committee. Their response was a short “we did not mean to state these men were hyper-Calvinist” sent only to the associational churches.

I personally sent two letters asking for repentance and an explanation and to date, I have had no personal response from any member of the committee nor have I been allowed to have a conversation regarding the circumstances except for this “receipt of our withdrawal“. While I am cordial around the men, their words and accusations and lack of repentance did damage. Because of the confusion, four of our families moved on and since that time, several preachers in the association have and are currently preaching actual series of sermons (so-called) against us, calling “those” that teach “such things” as unbelievers and wicked. The damage has caused harm to several marriages, not just among our congregation, but among some of the associational churches. Several people have left their church because the local pastors would not stand up for or against the claims. All-in-all, we have become ostracized and even long-standing friendships are strained as people are unsure as to how to relate to me and our members.

While many of the state leadership did dialog with us, none of them were at liberty to give biblical instruction on the matter and while some of them gave stern rebuke, no public statement has been made on this matter. While this may be odd, the GBC has a long history of public statements concerning misconduct and public or political actions that do not suit certain criterion, but when the scriptural mandate of unity and repentance is at stake, they remain silent.  I pray that I may one day make a retraction of this post by way of an update. May the Lord bring us all together.

At the date of this post, May 24, 2014, in the last week, there have been two separate occasions where individuals have informed me or another member of our church that pastors and church members are continuing to gossip and cause trouble in an attempt to have our church removed from the area.  Many other advocates have called for repentance and biblical discipline but nothing has come. Public leaders have joined the bandwagon, singing in the gossip wind in order to discredit the teaching of our pastors and one such letter was voted in executive committee to be “not received” and discarded while the people passionately hated the truth.

While things like these seem deplorable, and they are, they are not outside the sovereignty of God’s glorious hand and His timing and purpose in them all is good. Therefore, our desire is to be biblical and humble in our dealings and these men along with subsequent murderous slanderers are forgiven. In the future, the Lord will prove the substance of these claims but the damage will never be completely healed and these actions will have far reaching implication for years and decades to come. When the truth of God’s love or the touch of His ministry and the power of His word springs forth through the ministry of the family of GraceTruth Baptist Church, many will rejoice, then the enemy will come and remind them that we are “scary” or “different” and they will rejoice no more having had the joy snatched away. In the end, the men who allowed these things to happen will be seen for what they are; either brothers who are restored to fellowship with us and others or liars who are not in the faith. My pray is that of Paul’s who desired God to “grant them repentance that they may escape the snare of the devil.”

The Tattnall-Evans Baptist Association of Churches have allowed these actions by a large majority and gone against their own constitution and bylaws as well as the referencing to biblical mandates contained within. I pray that as time moves on all these churches (the Christians in them) can see and do what is right.

Lord have mercy,

Pastor James

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“No Mr., I will not talk with you…”

Screenshot 2014-05-18 22.25.25Many of you won’t believe this, but I have heard this more in the last two years than in all my 40 years on this Earth combined.  Yes, I have heard these words from pastors, brothers in Christ, people who have visited worship services, people in town and aliens from outer space.  Ok, not the aliens.  I have heard this said from the mouths of these people and I have also heard this said by the actions of people.  You know, those folks who avoid you for no reason.  They tell you that they love you, but in reality, they don’t.  They don’t know what to do with you.  They talk nice in front of others, but look forward to the moment when they are able to slip away, hoping that you won’t call after them.  For some reason these types of people have really begun to annoy me.  And yes, that annoyance could be sin, but I am certain that it isn’t.  First of all, I am really not annoyed with them, I love them and desperately want to engage in Gospel-centered life together with them, but I am annoyed at the premise that they consider themselves siblings in Christ.  After all, if we have the same Father and are filled by the same God the Holy Spirit, then surely we can find a mutual, supernatural affection in Christ?!

I guess it’s not really annoyance, I think it would be better described as broken-hearted.  Because the only fruit the is measured by the Christ is the fruit of genuine affection among believers; genuine affection through prayer, serving, crying, rejoicing and the like.  But, if Christians have become so cold and “sociopathic” that they are unable to afford time for each other out of an inner desire to be moved by the Grace of God to obedient life-together, then something is very amis.  So amis that it almost sounds like darkness instead of light.  1 John expounds on this in great detail that the false confessors of Christ in his day were known not by their messed up theology per se, but the messed up application of what they say the do believe; namely, a hatred of the people of God.  You know what else if fascinating, that avoidance of other people without just cause and due process is a guarantee of one being dead in their sins!  When conflict arises, the church, not just the “one congregation” but the church at large must desire to make fellowship a top priority.  When someone calls us to work out an issue, we must be willing to listen, learn and love each other.  When someone makes accusation, they MUST be willing to work toward a reconciled conclusion and do so by the commands of Christ.

James teaches that one must not be a respecter of persons and all through the NT we are taught that even our ENEMIES are to be blessed, ministered to, and prayed for.  But when a brother or sister in Christ avoids you, then count it as it is; a certain argument that they should check to see if they are even in the faith.  What in the world did Christ do in redeeming His church if they are not the church?  Headless bodies carrying around bitters that causes division is one thing, but headless bodies that carry around apathy; well that is damning.  Eternally damning.  Now that I’ve moved onto the soap box, I’ll part with this small idea.  I believe that it’s easy to understand when things are just “swept under the rug” so often for the sake of “peace.”  But this is no true peace, but is the peace being preached by the Devil who lies all the time.  Friends, stop listening to him, stop listening to him through the mouths of others and man or woman up and be a person of Christ; an agent of peace and truth.

If there is something that needs to be dealt with, the do it.  Do it biblically, follow the course, follow the Spirit inside of you that is clearly instructing us through His word.  Be a powerful agent for change and stop being a pig-headed fool that says by his actions, “the gospel is NOT the power of God.”  It is the power of God and if God can reconcile us to Himself through Christ, then we are to be reconciled to each other.  Now I am not talking about those removed from the church or those who HAVE BEEN pleaded with about false teaching but will not change.  I am talking about you.  I am talking about me.  We are just as guilty of such things as anyone else.  We know in our spirit that our siblings need us, but we cower, we hide behind stupid schedules and busy lies.  This is not Christ but death.  No wonder revival makes no ground among the churches of America; we are liars and find ourselves amidst wolves.  Even the pagans love each other better than the church and it is now time for that to change.

Reach out, pick up the phone, answer the email, stop the gossip (yea, with your ears too) and make obedient and expectant grounds for reconciliation.  If you try to no avail, then try again. If your child, sibling or spouse/parent didn’t respond, talk to you or come home for a week or so it would drive you mad.  Well, saint, get angry but do not sin when your siblings have no time for the glorious mercies of Christ. Press and pray that God would make them see and serve them even when they tell you to get lost.  As for those who just won’t talk to you, make it difficult for them not to.  Go to them, knock on the door.  If they shoot you, then die as a missionary for truth.  (metaphor)…

Romans 12
[1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [3] For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. [4] For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, [5] so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. [6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; [7] if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; [8] the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 
[9] Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. [10] Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. [11] Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. [12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. [13] Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. [14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. [16] Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. [17] Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [18] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Go in Peace Brethren,

Pastor James

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