Archive for the ‘Sanctification’ Category

Multi-Apostolic Defense of Paul Washer

January 14, 2009

I had written: “This objector’s works-salvation is showing itself: note how this objector indicates that God makes a first move and then it is man that fails or succeeds. That is a great definition of works-salvation. It is to be contrasted with a salvation in which God is both the author (first mover) and finisher (last mover) of our faith.” (link)

A kind reader, styling himself “Another Anonymous in America” has provided a response to this comment of mine. His response is as follows:

Calvinism has a works-salvation as well, even though it is concealed. For example, consider the sermons of Paul Washer. More than anyone else in the calvinistic movement, he emphasizes what he calls the signs of a genuine conversion by means of a very suspicious works-oriented self-introspection. “If God has started a work in you, then he will continue it.” How will He continue this work? By your works . In the final analysis, calvinistic “sanctification” boils down to the real payment of what was first handed over as a “free gift of grace”. How does a believer know that he is a believer? Because of his works. And there is much talk about the Perseverance of Saints. How do they persevere? Well, by persevering on their own!
How does calvinistic sanctification work? By their own subjective judgmental opinions. Where is the line between “sheep” and “goats”? Well, again a matter of subjective, personal guess work, personal attitude and opinion. So the only “salvation” in calvinism is ultimately not without works on the part of the recipient of God’s grace. While I know that Calvinists vehemently deny this conclusion, I haven’t seen anyone clearing up what the significant difference between a “true conversion” and a “counterfeit conversion” is supposed to be. Folks like Washer do not contribute any more clarity here but promote the idea of salvation by works more and more in the reformed minds.

(all errors and emphases in original)

I’ll go line-by-line, responding to these allegations.

A) “Calvinism has a works-salvation as well, even though it is concealed.”

No, that’s not the case. Calvinism is the pure gospel of salvation by grace alone.

B) “For example, consider the sermons of Paul Washer.”

I have considered a number of them. Although Washer does not tend to call himself a Calvinist (for his own reasons), his sermons tend to be quite Calvinistic.

C) “More than anyone else in the calvinistic movement, he emphasizes what he calls the signs of a genuine conversion by means of a very suspicious works-oriented self-introspection.”

Washer’s apparent emphasis on introspection is likely the result of so-called “easy believism” that suggests people should focus their attention on a decision they made, or on their holding to a certain collection of doctrines. Washer is quite right to call people to make sure that they really have been converted, as opposed to recklessly assuming.

D) “‘If God has started a work in you, then he will continue it.'”

That’s quite right. Scripture says so:

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

E) “How will He continue this work? By your works.”

This is not quite an accurate characterization. One’s works are the evidence of God’s working in a person. It is not that God continues the process of sanctification by our works, but that our works are the fruit, or evidence, of the Spirit working in our lives. They are the result of a changed heart that loves God rather than ourselves.

F) “In the final analysis, calvinistic “sanctification” boils down to the real payment of what was first handed over as a “free gift of grace”.”

No, that’s not an accurate picture. Our works can be thought to be a payment of a debt to God, in the sense of a debt of gratitude. They cannot, however, in any way contribute to our salvation. Nevertheless, they are not worthless to us, because they demonstrate to us that God is working in our lives. The works that we do show that the faith that we have is a lively and true faith, as opposed to a dead and false faith.

G) “And there is much talk about the Perseverance of Saints. How do they persevere? Well, by persevering on their own!”

That’s neither the Biblical nor the Calvinistic teaching on this subject. The Saints do persevere, but not on their own. God is described this way:

Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy …

Unless one thinks that this is just a trivial recitation of an ability God doesn’t use, the point is not just that God can keep us from falling, but that he does use this power. Why? Because he loves us.

H) “How does calvinistic sanctification work? By their own subjective judgmental opinions.”

This is rather odd and inaccurate. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. That is how it is expressed in the very Calvinistic Westminster Shorter Catechism.

The Larger Catechism spells it out even more fully: Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

That’s the Calvinist and Biblical position, not that we are sanctified by our own judgmental opinions.

I) “Where is the line between “sheep” and “goats”? Well, again a matter of subjective, personal guess work, personal attitude and opinion.”

No. The line between “sheep” and “goats” is a line drawn by God, not by man. Nevertheless, we are told:

2 Peter 1:10-11
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We need to worry about believing on the Son of God. The way to test our faith is by our works. Thus, Jesus said:

Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Why? Because the fruits show the person’s nature.

J) “So the only “salvation” in calvinism is ultimately not without works on the part of the recipient of God’s grace.”

A saved person will not be without works, but it is not those works that save them. Works show us that faith is real and living. Thus, James explains:

James 2:17-24
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

K) “While I know that Calvinists vehemently deny this conclusion, I haven’t seen anyone clearing up what the significant difference between a “true conversion” and a “counterfeit conversion” is supposed to be.”

I am sorry that no one has explained it to you before. Hopefully this explanation is helping. A counterfeit conversion is when someone is not truly changed in their heart, by God. It is when someone does not have true faith in the Son of God. A person with a counterfeit conversion has dead faith: his life does not bear fruit of the work of the Spirit. Such a person should be afraid for their soul – they should turn to God in repentance and cast themselves on the mercy of God in faith, trusting in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

L) “Folks like Washer do not contribute any more clarity here but promote the idea of salvation by works more and more in the reformed minds.”

I certainly haven’t heard absolutely everything that Washer has preached, but I haven’t seen any evidence from the videos I have seen to think that this claim about him is true. Perhaps some more explanation in certain areas would be helpful, and clarity is always a good thing. Nevertheless, I am comfortable that what I have heard Washer preach is the testimony of Jesus himself and of his apostles: Paul, Peter, and James. It is the doctrine of Scripture and the faith of Abraham.


The Nature and Excellency of Gospel Purity (Part IX)

September 7, 2008
Gospel Purity.
(by Ralph Erskine)
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” — PROV. xxx. 12.

IT is a sad sentence when God passes it upon any, “He which is filthy, let him be filthy still:” “he that is unjust, let him be unjust still:” Rev. xxii. 11. “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone,” Hos. ix. 17. O how sad is it when God says, concerning such a person, Let him alone! Ministers and ordinances, Let him alone; Word and Spirit, Let him alone: let no word that is preached do him good; let no threatening of the word awaken him; let no promise of the word allure him; let no precept of the word draw him: let him continue hardened against all that can be said from the word; Let him alone; let him live and die under the power and guilt of sin, under the wrath and curse of God: he is a filthy man, and she is a filthy woman, and let them be filthy still. Oh! dreadful sentence! And yet it seems to be passed against the generality of people in our day; and yet few or none are touched with it: let us think on it in sad earnest; for, as my text saith, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

1st, Let us improve this doctrine for information. Is it so, as has been said, That purity is an excellent thing, and of absolute necessity to denominate a true saint? Then,

1. Hence see the difference between justification and sanctification. Sanctification, or purity, is necessary and excellent, in all the respects that I have formerly named: but yet it is not necessary for justification, so as to be the ground thereof. It is necessary to be the evidence of justification; but not the ground thereof: the ground of justification is only Christ’s righteousness. Many are utterly bemisted in this point; they confound justification with sanctification. Though, indeed, they be as inseparable as head and body to a living man, yet there can be nothing more different. They are most distinct. ( 1. ) Justification comes from the merit of Christ; sanctification comes from the Spirit of Christ. ( 2. ) Justification makes a relative change, by bringing us from enemies to friends, from condemnation to absolution; sanctification makes a real change, by healing our inward maladies and plagues. ( 3. ) Justification gives us a title to heaven; sauctification gives us a meetness for heaven. ( 4. ) Justification takes away the guilt of sin; sanctification takes away the filth, and power, and pollution of sin. ( 5. ) Justification is by a righteousness without us; sanctification is by a righteousness within us. ( 6. ) In justification there is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and sanctification; but in sanctification there is the implantation of grace, and something subjectively imparted; not imputed to us, but wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. ( 7. ) Justification is but one act and once acted; sanctification is a continual action, or a progressive work. ( 8. ) Justification is perfect and absolute; sanctification is imperfect, and but begun. And hence, ( 9. ) Justification is equal, and alike in all believers; no man is more justified than another: sanctification is unequal, in some more, in some less, according to the measure of the gift of Christ: justification is perfect the first moment; sanctification is never perfect till a man die. ( 10. ) In justification we are passive, and do nothing; but in sanctification we are active; for, being acted, we act; being moved, we move and do work, being set on work by the Spirit of God: is there any thing more distinct than these two? ( 11. ) Justification answers the law, as a covenant; sanctification answers it as a rule. ( 12. ) Justification makes a man accepted; sanctification makes a man acceptable.

2. Hence see, that there is no justification by the deeds of the law. Why? because, though this purity and conformity to the law, be thus necessary and excellent for denominating a saint, and evidencing of justification; yet it is imperfect in time, and so cannot be the matter and ground of justification: no righteousness, but a perfect one, can justify us before God. Do any of the saints reckon their purity and piety to be their righteousness before God? No, by no means: David trembles at the thoughts of this; and he deprecates it with abhorrence: O Lord, “enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” Psal. cxliii. 2. Purity may justify us before men; but we cannot appear before an infinitely holy God, without a perfect holiness; nor before an infinitely just God, without a complete satisfaction: and these are only to be had in Christ. For, when our purity and righteousness is laid in the balance of God’s holy law, MENE TEKEL is written on it; it is found wanting: we are but unprofitable servants; and our righteousness is as filthy rags. If any poor deluded soul be expecting that God will justify him, and accept of him, and shew favour to him, because he does as well as he can, and because he performeth this and the other good duty, and hath a good heart to God, meaneth well, and the like; it is evident the man knoweth not himself, that he knoweth not the purity of God’s holy law, and the impurity of his own heart, otherwise he would fear to think of standing upon that ground before God.

3. Hence see the necessity of a law-work, in some measure and degree. No man will run to the Surety, till, by the law, he hath the knowledge of his being quite insolvent, and a bankrupt. What man will run to the fountain for cleansing, if he does not see that he is defiled and polluted. If purity be so necessary, then a law-work, discovering our impurity, is necessary also; that knowing the malady, we may apply to the remedy.

4. Hence see the reason why God treats mankind as he doth, both with judgment and mercy. Why, the world is polluted; and God hath a mind to purify it. Why doth the Lord shine upon you with the sun of a kindly providence? It is even to melt you, that you may part with sin, and that his goodness may lead you to repentance. Why doth he cast you into a furnace of affliction? It is to purge away dross; and that you may come forth as gold tried in the fire. Why was the whole earth washed with a deluge? Why, it was polluted, and needed to be cleansed. And why will he again melt it with fire? Because it must be purified before it be a new earth.

5. Hence see the necessity of the open fountain for sin and uncleanness. The blood of the Lamb is a fountain: it is not a rivulet, or a stream, that quickly dries up; no, no: it is a fountain, a never failing fountain. It is not a fountain sealed: anciently, in these hot countries, when they got a fountain, they reckoned it a precious treasure, and sealed it; people had not promiscuous access to it. Yea, but here is a fountain open; every man, every woman is welcome to come and purify themselves at it, and bathe in it, to wash till they be whiter than the driven snow. It is not only open for the house of David, for the royal family; but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: it is tendered to the whole visible church. And it is open for sin and uncleanness; for all pollution whatever. 0 what need of this fountain among such poor polluted sinners!

6. Hence see the reason of what is a paradox to many in the world, and yet what is the experience of the saints: it lets us see, I say, why some folk long so passionately for death sometimes; yea, would choose rather to die than to live: why, the children of God know there is no perfect purification, but by death; and that death will purify them more than all the sermons ever they heard, than all the providences with which they were ever tried, than all the prayers they ever put up, and all the tears ever they shed. It is a mad fancy of the church of Rome, and it was an ignorant fancy of some mistaken divines, and Greek fathers, that there is a state of purgation between this and heaven: but we see from the Bible, that in a moment the soul, separated from the body, is made pure. The thief upon the cross, the same day that he is converted, he is glorified; “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” O how will the believer, when groaning under a sense of sin, long for the day of dissolution, saying, When shall the day break, and the shadows flee away, when there shall be no more sin, no more pollution?

2dly, This doctrine may be applied for lamentation, that there is such a scarcity of this necessary and excellent thing, purity; and such a plenitude of the contrary evil, even of all manner of impurity. Oh! may we not lament that there is such a famine of piety and purity, and such a fullness of impiety and profanity? I might here tell you, 1. Somewhat of the evils of impurity, that we should lament over. 2. Some of the evidences of it.

[ 1. ] We are to acquaint you of some of the evils of impurity. It is a lamentable thing, that there should be so little purity, and so much impurity. For,

1. This impurity mars all our excellency. We lose our excellency by sin and impiety. It takes away the peace of a good conscience, which should be a continual feast: There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked, It takes away God from us; Your iniquities have separated Between you and your God. Is not this one of the reasons why God is so far from this generation? It is a filthy generation. And if our pollution take away God from us, should it not trouble us? Let a carnal man lose that which he makes his god, and see how he will be troubled for it: his heart will even die within him, as Nabal’s did; and he will be much perplexed. Oh! how heavy should it be to us, that our impurity and defilement doth us such a mischief as this!

2. It clouds all our profession. Men may profess what they will; but if they remain defiled and impure, and if they do not tight against it, wrestle against it, profess against it, their profession is but a screen to their atheism; “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate,” Tit. i. 16.

3. It brings on the wrath of God, if it be not removed; “God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword,” Psalm, vii. 11, 12. O Sirs, if God begin to fire against a sinner, or a sinful and impure people, his wrath will be insupportable. It is true, God stays long before he come forth with all his indignation against a polluted people: but then it is the worse, and there is the less hope of mercy when he begins to destroy; for then he will strike them dead with the next blow, and make a full end. Is not the Lord threatening to do so with this generation, whether we see it or not? When the cup of iniquity is full to the brim, be sure that the cup of wrath is full also; full of the vials of dreadful vengeance. But death, and hell, and wrath, are matters of jest and mockery to a filthy and impure generation, whose very mind and conscience are defiled: but though their consciences be seared, and their souls be sleeping in security, yet their damnation slumbereth not; for the abominable shall have “part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,” Rev. xxi. 8. Oh! is not this matter of lamentation, that we are in such danger, by reason of the defilement and impurity of the day we live in.

But, say you, how do you prove the charge? This leads to the next particular, which was,

[ 2. ] To mention some of the evidences of impurity: they, indeed, are many. May not he that runs read innumerable grounds of lamentation? What means the abominable whoredom, adultery, uncleanness, drunkenness, and all manner of wickedness; swearing, lying, cheating, stealing, Sabbath-breaking, contempt of the word and ordinances, that take place? Do not they all manifest, that the generation is not washed from their filthiness? Is not profanity, impiety, and immorality, become open, avowed, and professed, and shameless? — But I shall close at this time, by offering only these three general evidences of want of purity, that we may see matter of lamentation here.

1. The first evidence is in the impurity of our affections. Are they not carnal and impure? Surely where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also. What are your morning thoughts, and daily meditations? Whether are they conversant about earthly or heavenly things? It is indeed matter of exercise to a child of God, that he finds his affections carnal, and earthly, and vain: but the impure man lets the devil, and the world, and a thousand lusts, run away with his affections all the day, and all the week, and all the year; and he hath never a sore and grieved heart for it.

2. Another evidence is, the impurity of our speeches, which are the fruits of the affections: for, “Out of the abundance of the heart the month speaketh,” saith Christ: and, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things,” Matt. xii. 34, 35. When the heart is full of any thing, it will be ready to utter itself: as if you jog a full vessel it will run over; so the heart that is full of the world, will run over the lips, and be always speaking of that; or, if an impure man play the hypocrite, and vent his hypocrisy in some good speech, yet be is out of his element; it is not his natural dialect, or easy to him to employ his tongue for God. It is true, the godly may sometimes have their tongue tacked, as it were, to the roof of their mouth; but it is not always so.

3. The next evidence is the impurity of our actions. How do you act towards earthly things, and heavenly things? What pains are you at about earthly things? And how little pains are you at about heavenly and spiritual things? Is not that an evidence of carnality and impurity? — How do you act with reference to sin and duty? How little care do you take to avoid sin yourselves, or reprove it in others? And how little care do you take to perform the duties of religion, whether secret or social? — How do you act with regard to God and yourselves? How much time do you take for yourselves and your own things? And how little time do you allot for God and the things of God? Doth not this evidence your impurity? — How do you act towards the world and religion, when they come into competition? The world saith, there is a business must be done; God saith, there is a business must be done: they interfere; the one of them must be neglected; well, the man lets God go, lets religion go, rather than his dear worldly affairs. This discovers impurity. — How do you act with reference to the word? The impure heart doth not relish the purity of the word, or the things that are of God: for, he that is of the flesh, savours the things of the flesh; but he that is of the Spirit, savours the things of the Spirit. Now, when you hear the word, do you savour nothing but earthly and carnal things? Why, the vain man will pick out the vanity in a sermon: if he can catch at any word, that will feed his vain mind, he lays hold upon that: the curious man will notice the curiosity that is in it, and relish that; he that is learned will observe the learning in it, and applaud that: but he that is spiritual, will find out the things that are spiritual, is well pleased with, and feeds upon them. See 1 Cor. ii. 6. — In a word, how do you act with respect to conscience and interest? When the keeping of a good conscience and worldly interest come to be in competition, by our way of acting then, we may know who is our master, God or the world; for, till then, we know not who is our master: but when conscience commands one thing, and the world another, so that now the world and religion go not hand in hand, here is the trial of a pure heart. As a dog follows two men so long as they go together, and you know not who is the dog’s master, of them two: but let them come to a parting road, and one go one way, and another go another way, then shall we know which of them owns the dog. Why, Sirs, sometimes religion and the world go hand in hand: while a man may have the world, and a religious profession too; while it is so we cannot know who is the man’s master, whether God or the world: but stay till the man come to a parting road; God calls him this way, and the world calls him that way: why, if God be his master he follows religion, and lets the world go; if the world be his master, then he follows the world, and the lusts thereof, and lets God, and conscience, and religion go.

Oh is it not very lamentable that there are so many evidences of want of purity, that necessary excellent thing! And even among the children of God, O how little purity! Are they not fallen from their first love? Fallen from the heaven that sometimes they have been in, to the very centre of the earth? How far art thou grown earthly minded? How doth this declining come upon you by degrees, or ever you are aware? Like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, whose head was of gold, the arms and breast of silver, the thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet of clay; so it is with many declining Christians in our day; they have had a golden head, and begun with a golden age, but now they are come down to the clay feet. How heavenly-minded have you once been? but now, how earthly-minded art thou? How pleasant were duties and ordinances formerly, perhaps? But now, how tedious, wearisome, and irksome? How zealous have you been for God’s glory, and against all sin? But now, how cold and lukewarm? — O sinner, see the necessity of more purification, and deliverance from that consumption of grace, and decay of purity, that was, and is taking place in you: and cry to God to send the Holy Ghost, whose office and function it is to sanctify, wash, and cleanse you. — Lament the impurity of the day, and your own impurity; and lay your soul at the side of the purifying fountain, and in the way of purifying means, looking to the Lord to bless the means to you.

There are two things relating to this subject that the generality of people are very great strangers to. The one is the sin of their nature; and the other is, the nature of their sin; and yet these two things should be much laid to heart by us all; namely, the sin of our nature, that we carry a dead corpse, and a body of sin and death about with us; and the nature of our sin; that it is a transgression of, and disconformity to the law of God. Though it be a misery to have a sinful heart, yet it is a mercy to see it to be so: For, conviction is the first step to conversion. And though there be many, as to their state, vile and filthy enough to be damned; yet there are few, as to their sense and conviction, vile and filthy enough to be saved: nay, they are vile in God’s eye; and yet pure in their own. “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

3[rdly]. The next use we make of the doctrine, shall be for reproof and conviction. This doctrine reproves all manner of impurity, impiety, and unholiness, that stands opposite to this purity and holiness, whereof I have shewed the necessity and excellency. It reproves all that filthiness that is opposed to this cleanness. And here is a large field, a vast theme: we know not well where to begin, or where to end; there are so many pollutions, and so much filthiness of flesh and Spirit to be reproved. We might here go through all the ten commands, and show how mainfold sins and impurities are reprovable, in opposition to every one of them. Oh! that God himself would fasten a reproof and conviction of sin upon our hearts and consciences, for carrying home this use the more closely, both upon the wicked, that are under the power, and upon the godly, that may be under the prevalency of sin and impurity. I shall, on this topic, 1. Produce some kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. 2. Produce some witnesses for proving either the total or partial want of purity and holiness; that the crime being proven, we may take with it, and condemn ourselves.

[1. ] I would tell you some sorts and kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. There are especially these three sorts. 1. The impurity and sin of our nature. 2. The impurity and filthiness of our hearts and thoughts. 3. The impurity and filthiness of our life and practice, especially living under the gospel.

(1. ) As for the pollution of our nature. This, it is evident, many never thought of, never were convinced of, never challenged themselves for; and yet it is a great predominate root-sin: and if it be not removed we are filthy still. Now, in order to fasten a conviction of the greatness pf this pollution of our nature, consider the greatness of it in these particulars.

1. That when the leprosy and contagion is universal and overspreading, then it must be great: but so it is here; the pollution, and defilement, and sin of our nature, is an universal leprosy, it overspreads all our faculties; our understanding, will, affections, reason, conscience, memory, and all are defiled; become altogether filthy: we, being conceived in sin, and brough forth in iniquity, are nothing by nature, but a body of sin and death.

2. When the leprosy and contagion is so great, in an house, that nothing will help against it, but the pulling down of the house; then the leprosy must be very great: but so it is here, the sin of our nature is such, that nothing will cure it, but the pulling down of the house. Some think to mend the house by education: but all the lime and mortar of acquired parts and accomplishments will not do, unless the nature be renewed by regeneration: and even after regenerated, his leprosy breaking out, nothing will wholly remove it but death’s pulling down the house entirely.

3. Consider, that sin which is most unwearied, and which a man is most unwearied in the pursuit of, that must needs be very great: but such is the sin of our nature, it is most unwearied, as the fountain is unwearied in sending up water. A man may be wearied in drawing up water out of the fountain; but the fountain is not wearied in bubbling up water: so, a man may be wearied in sinful actions; but sinful nature is never weary. A man may be wearied with looking to some particular object; but his eye is never wearied readily with seeing and looking; because it is natural for the eye to see: so, a man may be wearied with some particular sin; but the natural man is never weary with sinning, because, it is so natural for him to sin.

4. Consider, that this sin that is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, must needs be very great. Now, what is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, after all our repentance and reformation? Even our nature, or the sin of our nature. Suppose water be heated and warmed, it cools again; heat it again, and it cools again; why? Because coldness is its nature: and so, why do men return again and again to sin, after all their repentance and reformation? why? It is their nature.

5. That sin that is least lamented, and whereby our other sins are most excused, must be a great sin. Now, of all sins, the sin of our nature is least lamented; and thereby our other sins are most excused. Bear with me, for it is my nature; I am passionate, but it is my nature; I am so and so disposed, but it is my nature: men excuse themselves by it; and hence it is not lamented, it is not mourned over.

6. That pollution that is most predominant, must be a great pollution: now, the sin of the nature is the pollution that is most predominant. Many marks have been assigned of the predominant sin; and some actual sin may reign above other sins. But the sin of the nature is the predominant sin: it is the sin that reigns unto death, Rom. v. 21 — O then take home the conviction of this sin: and seek to have it broken in the power of it.

(2. ) The impurity and pollution of our hearts and thoughts is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. Alas! how little is the impurity of the heart bewailed! Many think their thoughts are free: but before God they are not free; but bound to obedience to his law, who searches the heart and tries the reins, to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings; and even according to the doing of his heart: for the thoughts are the deeds of the heart; and it is, indeed, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. xvii. 9, 10. Now, the sin and pollution of the heart is great, if you consider these following particulars.

1. The sin that is most incurable, is a great sin: but the sin of the heart is a most incurable sin. As a secret, hidden wound within the body, or a disease within the bowels, is the most incurable: And such are the sins of our thoughts, and the plagues of our hearts. We need, therefore, to know the plague of our hearts and to be convinced of it.

2. The sin that is a parent to other sins, must needs be very great: now, sinful thoughts are the parents of sinful actions, both in the godly and ungodly. — In the godly: as in the case of Abraham, Gen. xx. 11, 12. “I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place;” and therefore I said, “She is my sister.” She was indeed his sister, and he lied not in saying so: but he dissembled, and hid the truth, using an unworthy shift for his preservation. And where began this evil, but in a sinful thought? I THOUGHT that the fear of God had not been in this place. — In the ungodly, it is so likewise; Psal. 1. 21; “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” The wicked steal and lie, and get drunk, and commit adultery, and deceive, and slander others. And how are they led into this, but by thoughts? “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.”

3. By sinful thoughts our formerly committed sins, that were dead, are revived again, and have a resurrection by our bosom ones; by our contemplating the same with delight. As the witch at Endor called up Samuel that was dead; so, a delightful thought calls up a sinful action, that was dead before. Hereby our sins, that were in a manner dead before, are revived, and have a resurrection.

4. By sinful thoughts a man may sin that sin, in effect, which he never did commit in act; and so the Lord may punish him for it. As the Lord said to David in another case; Because it was in thine heart to build me an house, I will build thy house. So saith God to a man, in a way of punishment; because it was in thine heart to do this evil, though thou didst it not, I will punish thee for it. By the sins of our hearts and thoughts, a man may sin that sin, in effect, which he never did commit in act. Christ reckons the adulterous thought, adultery; the malicious thought, murder. Alas! how will the day of judgment give other views of sin than now we have, when the whorish thought will be judged whoredom; and the adulterous intention, adultery; and the malicious thoughts, murder, though it was never actually committed!

5. By sinful thoughts, a man doth repent of his repentance. A man sins, and afterwards is sorrowful for and repents thereof; and then after his repentance, he thinks on his sin with delight. What is this but to repent of his repentance? As by your repentance, you are sorrowful for your sin; so, by musing on your sin, with delight, you repent of your repentance: now, is it not a great evil for a man to repent that he repented?

6. That filthy mud, that cannot be searched to the bottom; that deep mystery of iniquity, that cannot be sounded, it is so deep, must be be very great: and so it is with the sin of the heart; It “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. xvii. 9. In a word, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,” etc. Matt. xv. 18, 19.

(3. ) The impurity and pollution of our lives and practices, especially, under the gospel, is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. And sins under the gospel, are great sins. Why?

1. Sins under the gospel, are sins against the remedy: and of all sins, sins against the remedy are the greatest. The great remedy against sin, is the gospel of the grace of God; the good news of a crucified Christ, a Saviour, whose name is Jesus, because he saves his people from their sin. The promises are the remedy also: and therefore, to sin under the gospel, is to sin against the remedy; yea, it is a sinning against the greatest obligations of mercy and grace that are offered: and so, by our sinning against these, we engage the very mercy and grace of God, our greatest friends, to become our greatest adversaries.

2. The more repugnancy there is between the sin and the sinner, the greater is the sin: even as it is worse for a judge to be unjust, than another man. Now, there is here a great repugnancy between the gospel, and the man that sinncth under the gospel; for he professes the contrary.

3. Sin under the gospel, is the most hurtful and mischievous, both to ourselves and others. To ourselves: as poison that is taken in wine, or something that is warm, is the most venomous; so, sin under the gospel is the deadliest poison: why? because it is warmed with gospel heat. And to others it is hurtful; because they are the more hardened thereby.

4. Sin under the gospel is most deceitful, having specious pretences and defences; and so it is the worse. A man under the gospel hath readily many shifts for his sins; many distinctions to palliate his sin; much knowledge to cover his sin. And by this knowledge, perhaps, he is able to defend his sin, by many distinctions: as, that it is a sin of infirmity; it is an occasion for grace and mercy to abound; and many such ways may grace be abused to the encouraging of sin. Now, those bred under the gospel, are able to defend themselves by knowledge fetched from the gospel; therefore they are the worst.

5. Sins under the gospel throw contempt upon the great things of God: even the glory of God, the grace of God, offered in the gospel. And how great is that sin that casts contempt upon the greatest love, the richest mercy, the sweetest offers, and upon the great salvation!

6. Sin under the gospel is the most dangerous sin; and therefore it is great. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Heb. ii. 3. He that sinneth under the gospel, cannot sin at so cheap a rate as others though he sins the very same sins that others commit, who are not under the gospel. Why? He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. — O Sirs, be convinced of these sins, and the evil of them: the sin of your nature, the sin of your heart, and the sin of your way under the gospel; for they are great sins and impurities.

[ 2. ] I would produce some witnesses, for proving of the great want of purity, whether total or partial. Many witnesses may be brought in to prove the charge.

1. The first witness is the power and prevalence of sin. Where sin is up, holiness is down. Are sins and corruptions as many and as strong with you, as they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, notwithstanding of all the means you have enjoyed, and sermons you have heard, and engagements you have made? The power of sin doth witness and evidence either the want or weakness of purity.

[Copy of Sermon from which TurretinFan produced this (an 1860’s printing) omits the second witness.]

3. The third witness is the easy and frequent falling before temptation and motions to sin. When temptation touches, it takes. No sooner are you tempted than you are conquered. Does not this discover the want of purity; and that it is either wholly wanting, or at a low ebb? Those that were eminent in holiness, in scripture, were eminent in resisting temptation; as Joseph, Daniel, and others. When a man needs little, or has no temptation to lead him to sin, it witnesseth against him, that he is impure.

4. The fourth witness is fears and faintings in a day of adversity; “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small,” Prov. xxiv. 10. Do you fret under affliction, or faint under adversity? That is an evidence of the want of purity, and the weakness of grace.

5. The next witness is barrenness and soul-leanness; Isa. xxiv. 16, “I said, My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me!” Look to them that have my grace, and see what poor and lean graces they have: how little faith, how little love, how little zeal, how little repentance, how little knowledge; how much unbelief, how much ignorance, how much untenderness in their walk, how much neglect of duty, how much of a legal spirit in duty, etc.; how much laxness of principle, and levity of spirit; how much pride of duty, how much pride of preaching, pride of praying; how much apostacy, unstedfastness, and unconstancy: the goodness of many is like the morning cloud, and early dew, that passeth away.

6. Another witness is indifferency. The great indifferency that is among many professed Christians, shews their want of purity: they are indifferent whom, and what they hear; indifferent whether they perform duty or not; whether they attend ordinances or not: Galio cared for none of these things. Surely, where there is much indifferency, there is little holiness, little purity.

7. The seventh witness is gross immorality. And here, will not the gross abominations of the day and generation, and of the congregation witness against them, that they are not washed from their filthiness? — Is the drunkard washed from his drunkenness? Is the whoremonger washed from his whoredom? Is the adulterer washed from his adulteries? Is the malicious man washed from his malice? — Are not many become shameless in sinning, when the Lord is calling for mourning? “And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And, behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die,” Isa. xxii. 12, 13. There were a pack that made a jest of dying, and made a mock of a future state: “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die:” if we must have a short life, let us have a merry one. Here is atheism rampant; denial of a future state lying at the root of their brutal sensuality. — Many discover their gross immorality by mock confession: like the French king that carried a crucifix in his hat; and when he had done any thing amiss he would kiss that, as a sufficient atonement. Many who call themselves Christians, when they have committed any gross sin, they confess it, with a God forgive me; returning with the dog to the vomit. — They evidence their immorality by their unreproveableness; as is manifest from their carriage to them that admonish them: do they count them their best friends? Nay, their heart rises and rages against them. How stand they affected towards the word, when it reproves them, and rubs upon their lusts, and crosses their delights? They count it enmity and folly. — They evidence their gross immorality by their filthy communications, and filthy conversations, Col. iii. 8. 2 Pet. ii. 7.

8. The eighth witness is carelessness about, and contempt of the means of purity. Doth the neglect of the means of purity witness against you? For example, prayer is a mean; secret prayer, social prayer, family prayer, fellowship prayer: do you live in the neglect of these? Yea: then doth not this witness your impurity? — The word is a mean; hearing the word attentively, reading the word diligently, hiding the word in your heart carefully, like David; Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. Now, what diligent use do you make of the word? Are you careless in hearing, especially on week-days, notwithstanding of covenient opportunity? Are you careless in reading the Bible from Sabbath to Sabbath? Why, the very dust of your Bibles will witness against you. I have read of one, that presented Antipater, the king of Macedon, with a book, that treated of happiness; he refused it, saying, I am not at leisure. Many have the book by them; yea, presented to them by Christ, that treats of everlasting happiness, but they slight the present: I am not at leisure, say they. They have opportunity of hearing the word opened on week-days, as well as Sabbath-days; but they are not at leisure. They have means of knowledge, diets of catechising, for clearing the same word; but they are not at leisure. They have many precious seasons of grace, seasons of prayer, seasons of duty; but they are not at leisure. They take leisure to their own work, their wordly work; yea, for idle conversation: but they have no leisure for God’s work, their soul’s work, eternal work.

What! are not these things so many witnesses against you, that you are impure? I might produce multitudes of more witnesses; but by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every truth shall be confirmed: and these witnesses that I have adduced at the time, are sufficient for proving the charge. O then, will you take with the reproof; and take home the conviction of your impurity and unholiness?

I shall close with two advices, in order to deliver you from this impurity that prevails.

Advice 1. Seek after the knowledge of Christ, and the things of Christ. Knowledge of Christ, in a saving way and manner, will strike at the root of all impurity: for, Beholding his glory, we are changed. And particularly, seek after the knowledge of this purity and sanctity, that I speak of, in its agreement with, and difference from justification: for, the confounding of these two, makes many legal dreams in the world. Wherein it agrees with justification, and wherein it differs, I have had occasion formerly to enlarge upon. They agree thus; 1. In their efficient; the God that justifies, is also the God that sanctifies. 2. In their end; they are both for the glory of God. 3. In their subject; the elect sinner believing : the man that is justified, is also the man that is sanctified. 4. In the instrument, namely, faith. Though in diverse respects we are justified by faith, and also sanctified by faith, or purified: yet, in justification, faith justifies as a passive instrument, as a vessel receiving the water; in sanctification, faith sanctifies and purifies as an active instrument, as a root and a spring bubbling up the water. — In justification, faith is a hand receiving, a receiving hand: in sanctification, it is a working hand. — Also, justification is first, in order of nature; sanctification is next: as the good tree is before the good fruit. — In justification a man is reckoned righteous; in sanctification, he is made righteous: in justification, he is declared righteous, by a judicial sentence; in sanctification, he is fashioned, and made righteous, and holy, by a spiritual change. — In justification, I have Christ for the Lord my righteousness; in sanctification, I have him for the Lord my strength. Our righteousness for justification is in him, as the author and worker of it: our strength for sanctification is in him, as the root and fountain of it, from whence it is communicated to us. — In justification, he works all our works for us, and we do nothing: in sanctification, he works all our work in us; and makes us do, while he worketh in us both to will and to do.

Advice 2. Having thus been brought by the knowledge of Christ and his grace, to a renewed state, then, pursue your spiritual enemies and lusts, and be daily throwing stones at them, till they be killed. I allude to 1 Sam. xvii. 40, where David, in defeating Goliath, took five smooth stones out of the brook, and cast at him. In allusion to this, I will tell you of five stones that you should daily cast at your lusts. ( 1. ) The stone of instituted means, and appointed ordinances. Is prayer a means? Is the word a means? Use these means in the Lord’s strength. ( 2. ) The stone of scriptural arguments; such as Joseph’s argument; Shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? David’s argument; Shall I do so and so? Then would I offend the generation of the righteous. ( 3. ) The stone of gospel promises: such as that; I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit, &c. Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Plead the promises, and cry for the grace promised. ( 4. ) The stone of Christ’s mediation and prayer; John xvii. 15, 17, “Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth.” While they are in the world, keep them from the evil of it. Improve the intercession of Christ. ( 5. ) The stone of Christ’s death and passion. His crucifixion is that, in the virtue whereof sin is crucified. Improve his death, and look for virtue to come from thence. — Look to the Lord for grace and skill to cast these stones into the head of Goliath.

Active Progressive Sanctification

September 7, 2008

The next post (i.e. the post that is about to be published), is a sermon from Pastor Ralph Erskine. I found it to be a convicting sermon. I hope some of my readers (perhaps those stuck away from church this Lord’s Day) will find it edifying, though I recognize that it is rather longer than a typical blog post. There is a great need to live the Christian life. Having the right doctrines is great, but Orthodoxy must walk hand in hand with Orthopraxy. Pastor Erskine’s sermon convicts the reader of his duty especially with the respect to the latter.


Rocks Ahead!

June 16, 2008

Those of us who live inland are sometimes blissful unaware of the dangers of coastal navigation in boats. In old times, it would be routine for some sailors to make their living guiding out-of-town boats through the waters even of a harbor out to the ocean, assisting them in avoiding submerged rocks, and sandy shoals that could sink a ship, or cause it to become stuck. When such a pilot was not available, those operating the ship would have to keep their eyes peeled for clues as to the dangers at hand, and proceed cautiously. Thus, “Rocks Ahead” would be a call of alarm, much like the call “Iceberg Dead Ahead” became a chilling warning of impending doom in the cinematic portrayal of the Titanic’s demise.

So to, I’d like to try to help a bit in this regard. There are a few rocks that I’ve noticed, that I’d like to draw to your attention – rocks that are especially dangerous to young or new Christians, rocks that are especially dangerous to developing Christians, and rocks that are dangerous to mature Christians.

I. New Christians – Zeal and Love without Knowledge

Many who come to faith in Christ, whether young or old, come with great zeal and love of God. Usually, however, they have a rather minimal understanding of theology and the Bible. They are eager to serve God who they love, but they don’t always know how. This can pose a danger because their lack of knowledge can lead to gullibility or to misdirected zeal.

The solution, the way to avoid these rocks, is to study Scripture. Learn what God has to say in the Word. That is not to say that one must only study Scripture unassisted by human aids. When one uses human aids, even the aids of excellent commentators like Matthew Poole, Matthew Henry, or John Gill, one needs to be cautious carefully comparing what the commentator said to the Word of God, remembering that the commentator is a man, and that men sometimes make mistakes: even Godly men.

II. Developing Christians – Inadequate Methodology

Christians who have started studying sometimes seem to forget the rock summarized by the adage: “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” These are Christians who have found some useful tool or other for studying Scripture, have been delighted by the influx of knowledge they have gleaned from it, and have overlooked their own lack of experience in using it or (perhaps) lack of gifts in applying it.

The most frequent example of this sort of behavior that I have seen is the misuse of lexicons. These days one can find on-line dictionaries and, for Greek, parsing software, that can enable a person with very little training or actual linguistic or even grammatical skill to unearth some of the nuances of the Bible.

This sort of thing can have its place, certainly. Strong’s lexicon and concordance are an invaluable (that means “of enormous value”) resource. It is helpful to be able to learn sometimes that the Greek word for “suffer” in the verse “suffer the little children to come” means to permit, not to torture. Another example, is to look up the Greek word underlying “whosoever” in John 3:16 to discover that the Greek word means “all.”

A lexicon, though, has to be used carefully. Languages, especially ancient languages, are full of traps for the unwary. One typical example of such a trap is the use of paraphrastic constructions: ways of saying something in a roundabout or indirect manner. We sometimes do this in English, though much more rarely. For example, one might consider the expression “I am going to sell my house,” to be an example of an English paraphrastic way of saying, “I will sell my house.” Someone who did not know English, and who only had a lexicon and/or some parsing software might conclude, by looking up each word individually, that the person was trying to say that he was presently (“am”) moving (“going”) to a closing on the sale of a house. In fact, the person simply means that he will sell his house, and “am going to sell” is a round-about way to express that.

Another example of this sort of error can be found in the use of “word studies.” I have met many Christians who seem to live and die by word studies. Typically, these people will do the word studies in English in some English version (such as the KJV), but a few will do the same in Greek. Again, these studies can have value. For example, one might want to know the semantic range of a particular Biblical word, such as “Lord.” A word study is a way to discover (in English) that the word “Lord” is used of a variety of different referents, and not only about our Lord God.

On the other hand, these word studies can (especially when performed only in English) be misleading and dangerous. For example, while it may be helpful to find out that some particular word is used 99% of the time in the context of judgment, that statistical analysis (at best) provides a default position for understanding the term in the context you are considering. Assuming that the Bible always uses words the same way is a sure way to lead to absurd results. Consider, for example, the problem with assuming that the words in “For God so loved the world,” and “If any man love the world,” are supposed to have precisely the same meaning.

Finally, a third example combines the last two techniques, in a way. In the third example, the person uses Strong’s number for the word (translated “X” in English) in question in verse A and finds out that the same word has been translated with meaning “Y” in one or several other verses. The person then concludes that since the word can mean “Y” in those other verses, it can mean “Y” in verse A. This sort of analysis overlooks the complexity of translation, and the importance of understanding a word’s semantic range as limited by the context in which the word is used. What one has to be especially cautious of, is finding a word in a verse that does not fit one’s theology, running to a lexicon, and finding a definition within the general semantic range of that word that does fit one’s theology, and then insisting that the word has been either poorly translated or mistranslated by others (especially when this means claiming that the verse has been wrongly translated by virtually all the previous translators).

The solution for each of these errors is to be cautious and cognizant of one’s own academic, linguistic, and grammatical abilities. Don’t assume that Strong’s Concordance makes you a Greek scholar, and be cautious about standing opposed to Greek scholars when it comes to translating Greek (or Hebrew for that matter, though fewer people seem to get hooked on trying to re-translate the Hebrew). If your translation of a verse doesn’t jive with either the traditional translation (KJV or the like) or the newer translations (ESV or NASB), consider whether perhaps you may have made a mistake, and try to learn why the other translators translated it the way they did. They may know something you do not. In fact, they may know plenty that you do not.

III. Mature Christians – Pride

Knowledge truly can puff up. It’s easy for mature Christians, having studied the Bible extensively, having learned theology in many nuances to become proud and think that have arrived at a full understanding or a methodology that does not need external correction. This is sometimes seen in the “Not Invented Here” (NIH) syndrome. NIH rejects ideas that one did not think of oneself. If someone tries to provide new light on an issue, a person suffering from NIH simply rejects it out of hand, “I never heard of that.”

This kind of stubbornness can be helpful in keeping the mature Christian from being buffeted by every wind of doctrine. On the other hand, this can stop the growth of the mature Christian. It is always important for the mature Christian to be ready to go back and reconsider his views in light of Scripture. That does not mean we hold views that have been demonstrated from Scripture without tenacity. Instead, it means that we are careful to remember that we two are merely men, and in need of the sharpening iron of our fellow Christians.

This kind of stubbornness can also lead to another problem: disrespect for God-given spiritual authorities. That is to say, Christian men can (aware of their own well-developed knowledge) become scornful of the elders that God has given them for their spiritual edification. It’s fairly common knowledge that in many households one of the main items at Sunday lunch is Roast Sermon, in which problems (real or perceived) in the sermon are dissected and amplified as though under a microscope. That is not to say that there is not a place for sermon criticism, simply that it is easy for people to forget that their elders have an important and God-ordained rule in providing teaching and spiritual rule. We can disagree Scripturally with them, but we must not allow ourselves to become disdainful of their gifts, while pretending to be under their leadership.

This problem extends beyond the man-elder relationship to the wife-husband relation and the child-parent relationship. While children normally would fall into one of the two previous categories, should a child by God’s grace develop a mature understanding of Scripture while still a child, he must still remember the place and purpose not only of his elders, but of his parents as well. Likewise, wives need to remember that their primary human authority in spiritual matters is their husband. This can be especially difficult for wives who are more well read in theological matters than their husbands. The solution there is partly for the wives to learn humility, but also for the husbands to study harder: study the Word so that your wife will not have to ask for your help, but will be eager to ask for your help when it comes to understanding what was preached in church, or what is taught in Scripture.

With these cautions, let us do our best to navigate (with the help of our brethren and that Pilot of our souls, the Holy Spirit) the sometimes rocky harbor of this life, until we reach at last the open sea of heaven, a sea where there will be no icebergs – but we will have the Light of the Lamb to guide and teach us.

Praise be to the Lord!


Bunyan on Sanctification

April 12, 2008

Hopefully, you’ve already read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. If not, I sincerely suggest you get off the Internet, go find a copy, and read it. Not an abridged version – the full thing. Once you have developed an appetite for his writings, read Christiana’s Journey as well, which is often bound together with it, and finally The Holy War.

But there are other good writings of Bunyan, as well as a few that are sub-par: after all, he was not an educated man, but simply a tinker with a Bible and time on his hands, thanks to religious persecution that forced him into jail. The following discussion of his regarding sanctification is well worth reading and taking to heart.

(link to Bunyan on Sanctification)

He is a simple man, with a simple message, let us all try to follow it:

Depart from Iniquity!


Predestination Briefly Explained

February 10, 2008

There’s an interesting explanation of the word Predestination over at Puritanism Today (link). It’s the seventh part of a series there. See the intro. The other Bible words discussed in the series include Redemption, Justification, Faith, Repentance, Sanctification, and Salvation.

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