Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Riches of Spurgeon

While the true greatness of a preacher will only be revealed at Christ's tribunal, I would join my opinion with those of many others who make the earthly judgment that Charles Spurgeon was the most effective and useful of preachers since the days of the Apostles. Yes, as highly as I regard Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Whitefield, Edwards, and many other pulpit giants of the past, I become more convinced with every reading of a Spurgeon sermon that this English Baptist preacher of the 18th century is the preeminent model for one who would be a herald of the Word of God and the Christ of that Word.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, Essex in 1834. His father and grandfather were both Independent pastors, with roots in both the Dutch and English Dissenting traditions. Like Timothy, from infancy Charles Spurgeon had known the Holy Scriptures: It would not be easy for some of us to recall the hour when we first heard the name of Jesus, wrote Spurgeon, obviously including himself in this beautiful description of a covenant home. In very infancy that sweet sound was as familiar to our ear as the hush of a lullaby. Our earliest recollections are associated with the house of God, the family altar, the Holy Bible, the sacred song, and the fervent prayer. Spurgeon, who was destined to become Britains most illustrious preacher of the century, was converted on a snowy Sunday morning in early 1850 as a result of the less than illustrious preaching of a layman in a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Colchester, Essex. Under a brief and very personally applied development of the text Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth, Spurgeons heart was changed by sovereign grace. Look! What a charming word it seemed to me! Oh, I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the precious blood of Christ and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. That joy in almighty saving grace, and that experimental conviction of full, free justification by faith alone in Christ alone would leave an indelible mark on every part of the ministry that was soon to be his.

Spurgeons eminent speaking abilities wedded to his vast knowledge of the Scriptures were almost immediately put to use. Less than two years after his conversion, when Spurgeon was but 17 years of age, he was called to serve as pastor of Waterbeach Baptist Chapel. In 1854 he was called to serve as pastor of New Park Street Baptist Chapel, Southwark, London. Soon that building was filled to overflowing, necessitating the building of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1859. Apart from periodic bouts with illness which kept him from his pulpit ministry, Spurgeon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle until June 7, 1891, when he preached his last sermon. He died the following January at Mentone, S. France. During his 38 years of ministry in London, 14,692 members were added to the church (Spurgeon interviewed most of them personally!). In addition to his pulpit labors, he began a Pastors College to train men evidently called to preach the Gospel, helped to found the London Baptist Association, established an orphanage (known as Spurgeons Homes), and gave his assistance for the establishment of various other charitable and religious organizations. The Metropolitan Tabernacle, under Spurgeons remarkable leadership, became a veritable beehive of evangelistic and philanthropic activity in London and its environs.

Spurgeon was unashamedly committed to evangelical Calvinism. He fought battles against hyper-Calvinism (considered in detail in Iain Murrays volume Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism, published by the Banner of Truth Trust) and Arminianism. He also stood firmly against the depreciation of the authority of Holy Scripture in what came to be called The Downgrade Controversy. (The amazingly contemporary nature of these controversies is developed in Iain Murrays work The Forgotten Spurgeon, also published by The Banner of Truth Trust. Both of these volumes by Murray are highly recommended.)

Yet Spurgeon is known best as The Prince of Preachers. Not only did Spurgeon preach to thousands each week, attracting the largest congregations of any minister in the British Isles, but his printed sermons (known as the penny pulpit), issued each week and then appearing in annual volumes for over 40 years, have had the greatest circulation of any printed sermons in history. These sermons, totaling 3,561, fill 63 volumes, some of which extend to 700 pages! They are rightly said to comprise a Body of Divinity within themselves. F. B. Meyer reflects the assessment of many a minister whose preaching tutelage has come by reading these sermons: I can never tell my indebtedness to them. As I read them week by week in my young manhood, they gave me a grip of the Gospel that I can never lose, and gave me an ideal of its presentation in nervous, transparent, and forcible language which has coloured (sic) my entire ministry.

Self-evidently, the 19th century Spurgeon did not possess the many fine insights of philological, hermeneutical, and biblical-theological studies that have been done in the 20th century. Geerhardus Vos was but 29 years of age at the time of Spurgeons death! Spurgeon is not a model of consecutive expository preaching such as that done by Calvin, and revived in our own day by the late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. (Indeed, Charles Spurgeon rarely preached sermon series of any sort. He is the exemplar par excellence of topical preaching.) Nor is Spurgeon always the best model of grammatical-historical exegesis that is scrupulous about dealing with a text in its context. (One cringes at what Spurgeon does with a text like Genesis 15:11, And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away, under the sermon title: Abram and the Ravenous Birds!). And, as a Baptist, Spurgeons views of Gods covenant and His covenantal dealings with families as the basic unit of the church differ from our own (although there are many blessed inconsistencies that are obvious in volumes such as Come Ye Children: A Book for Parents and Teachers on the Christian Training of Children, published by Pilgrim Publications). Nevertheless, as models of thoroughly doctrinal, Bible-enriched, pastoral preaching that exalts Jesus Christ and freely offers Him to listener and reader alike, Spurgeon is unmatched. With good reason many a minister has urged fellow ministers and men preparing for the ministry to read at least one sermon by Spurgeon a week.

Over the course of the next few articles we will delve into some of the aspects of Spurgeons preaching that have made it so powerful and useful, both as it was originally delivered and as Spurgeon though dead still speaks by his printed sermons. There is no single discipline that has helped me keep my preaching fresh and Christ-centered from week to week (except perhaps listening to tapes of fine sermons preached in our own day) than the discipline of letting the great Mr. Spurgeon preach to me as I read selections from the volumes of his sermons. I trust that these articles will whet your appetite for the feast that awaits you in the works of this unique man of God who had an intuitive knowledge of the ways of God and of the needs of the human heart, and in all his preaching his one object was to commend God to men (William Robertson Nicoll, editor of the Expositers Bible).

Continued Here

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Spurgeon, the Forgotten Calvinist - Godwell Andrew Chan

"Calvinism IS the Gospel, and nothing else."

(C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. I: The Early Years)

"The longer I live, the clearer does it appear that John Calvin’s system is the nearest to perfection."

(The Forgotten Spurgeon, by Iain Murray)

"Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin."

(C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. II: The Full Harvest)

These three quotations should be sufficient to establish incontrovertibly that Spurgeon was a Calvinist. Unfortunately, there have been many attempts to sweep this fact under the rug. For example, the Kelvedon edition of Spurgeon's sermons removed all his criticism of Arminianism with no warning to the reader of any abridgement.1 The result of such censorship is that today, while many know Spurgeon to be the "Prince of Preachers," few know that he was a staunch Calvinist. Let us, therefore, hear Spurgeon's own testimony-from his own autobiography-and from his biographer and historian, Iain Murray, what his convictions were.


Charles Haddon Spurgeon began his ministry at the age of nineteen. Right from the start, he was a staunch Calvinist. In a letter to his friend, Charles Spiller, a fellow Baptist minister, he described his chief task as a preacher as follows: "[M]y daily labour is to revive the old doctrines of Gill, Owen, Calvin, Augustine and Christ."2 He equated Calvinism with historical and Biblical theology: "The doctrine which I preach is that of the Puritans: it is the doctrine of Calvin, the doctrine of Augustine, the doctrine of Paul, the doctrine of the Holy Ghost."3

One critic of Spurgeon's was Silas Henn. In his book, Spurgeon's Calvinism Examined and Refuted (1858), Henn said: "[C]omparatively few in these times, amid such enlightened views of Christianity, dare to proclaim, openly and without disguise, the peculiar tenets of John Calvin. Even in many professedly Calvinistic pulpits, the doctrines are greatly modified, and genuine Calvinism is kept back. But there are some who hold it forth in all its length and breadth, and among these, the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, the notorious preacher at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens, is the most prominent."4

Spurgeon's convictions brought along plenty of enemies and critics, even from within the church. He lamented, "We are cried down as hypers; we are reckoned the scum of creation; scarcely a minister looks on us or speaks favourably of us, because we hold strong views upon the divine sovereignty of God, and his divine electings and special love towards his own people."5 John Anderson of Helensburgh, a friend of Spurgeon, said of him, "Mr. Spurgeon is a Calvinist, which few of the dissenting ministers in London now are. He preaches salvation, not of man's free will, but of God's good will, which few in London, it is to be feared, now do."6

Were these the convictions of an immature preacher of nineteen who would later renege? In 1877, during a picnic at the Pastor's College at which Dr. A. A. Hodge was present, Spurgeon said, "The longer I live, the clearer does it appear that John Calvin's system is the nearest to perfection."7 In his mature years, in fact, near the end of his life, he testified, "In theology, I stand where I did when I began preaching, and I stand almost alone."8 Of the articles of faith of the church he founded, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, he said, "As for our faith, as a church, you have heard about that already. We believe in the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic. . . . Against all comers, especially against all lovers of Arminianism, we defend and maintain pure gospel truth."9

During a vacation to Geneva, Switzerland, to recover from bad health, Spurgeon visited the various sites associated with the great Genevan Reformer. Afterward he wrote a moving eulogy to Calvin in his journal:

Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin; no age before him ever produced his equal, and no age afterwards has seen his rival. In theology, he stands alone, shining like a bright fixed star, while other leaders and teachers can only circle round him, at a great distance-as comets go streaming through space-with nothing like his glory or his permanence. Calvin's fame is eternal because of the truth he proclaimed; and even in heaven, although we shall lose the name of the system of doctrine which he taught, it shall be that truth which shall make us strike our golden harps, and sing. . . . For the essence of Calvinism is that we are born again, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13, emphasis added).10

Testimonies from Spurgeon himself, and from friends and foes alike all agreed: Spurgeon was indeed a true, full-blooded five-point Calvinist. It takes extreme ignorance to overlook, and extreme prejudice to cover up, this fact.

Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism

As Spurgeon himself has lamented, hyper-Calvinism is a label gummed to Calvinists like the scarlet letter, regardless of whether they actually were or not. This misrepresentation is to a large extent due to an ignorance of what hyper-Calvinism actually means. What is hyper-Calvinism? Gordon Clark, quoting from Donald Dunkerley's article, "Hyper-Calvinism Today," defines the term as follows:

"the view of Calvinism which holds that "there is no world-wide call to Christ sent out to all sinners, neither are all men bidden to take him as their Savior." Hyper-Calvinists . . . maintain that Christ should be held forth or offered as Savior to those only whom God effectually calls.11

The hyper-Calvinist makes the blunder in logic that since faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) and not of man's free will (true premises), therefore, there should be no evangelism, calling, and commanding men to believe (false conclusion). The fallacy of the Arminian is that since men are indeed commanded to believe (true premise), therefore, faith cannot be a gift of God but must be from man's free will (false conclusions). Spurgeon refuted the hyper-Calvinist and said: "They have said, 'God has a purpose which is certain to be fulfilled, therefore, we will not budge an inch. All power is in the hands of Christ, therefore, we will sit still'; but that is not Christ's way of reading the passage. It is, 'All power is given unto me, therefore go ye, and do something.' "12

The Arminians misquote these statements of Spurgeon's to attempt to oppose him to Calvinism. But it is hyper-Calvinism, not Calvinism, which Spurgeon opposed. It is a slander, or just plain stupidity, to call a Calvinist a "hyper-Calvinist" and vice versa. No Calvinists believe that the doctrine of eternal election in any way hinders evangelism. Hyper-Calvinism and Calvinism are two different theologies.

Two Extreme Sides of the Same Truth?

The modern theological cliche is that while Calvinism upholds the sovereignty of God, Arminianism upholds the responsibility of man; these are but two sides of the same Biblical truth. You hear this repeated so often that after a while, like a hypnotic suggestion, you begin to believe it. But nothing can be further from the truth. It is a blatant caricature to view Calvinism as upholding the truth of the sovereignty of God while neglecting the responsibility of man. Calvinism upholds both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Arminianism upholds neither.

Spurgeon recognized that the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is not one of "balance." Spurgeon himself preached the doctrine of the responsibility of man vigorously, as only a Calvinist can do. Murray puts it succinctly: "The error of Arminianism is not that it holds the Biblical doctrine of responsibility, but that it equates this doctrine with an un-Biblical doctrine of ‘free-will’ and preaches the two things as if they were synonymous." The doctrine of free will is a foundational tenet in Arminianism. Murray further contends: "That man must be able to believe and repent in order to be responsible for unbelief and impenitency is a philosophical conception nowhere found in Scripture; in fact, it is directly contrary to Scripture."13

Calvinism and Arminianism are not two sides of the same truth. The difference between them is not one of balance or emphasis. The difference between them is one of truth and heresy. William Tyndale condemned the free will doctrine of the Arminians: "[T]hey go and set up free will with the heathen philosophers, and say that man's free will is the cause why God chooseth one and not the other, contrary unto all of Scripture."14 Because Arminianism is a heresy, condemned as such by the Synod of Dort, 1619, there can be no middle ground, no compromise, between them. Listen to what Spurgeon said: "The Word of God says they [sinners] cannot come, yet the Arminian says they can."15 "When some of us preach Calvinism, and some Arminianism, we cannot both be right; it is of no use trying to think we can be-'Yes,' and 'No,' cannot both be true. . . . [Spurgeon is applying the law of contradiction.] Truth does not vacillate like a pendulum which shakes backwards and forwards. . . . One must be right; the other wrong."16 In a sermon titled "Free Will-A Slave," Spurgeon preached that "Free will has carried many souls to hell, but never a soul to heaven yet." In the same sermon, Spurgeon quoted Martin Luther: "If any man doth ascribe aught of salvation, even the very least, to the free-will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright."

In a sermon titled "All of Grace," published a few years before his death, Spurgeon said: "The man believes, but that belief is only one result among many of the implantation of divine life within the man's soul by God Himself. Even the very will thus to be saved by grace is not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God."17 In Arminianism, this Scriptural order is reversed, placing the man's decision before the divine act. Preaching to the unconverted in another sermon, Spurgeon said: "Sinner, unconverted sinner, I warn thee: thou canst never cause thyself to be born again, and though the new birth is absolutely necessary, it is absolutely impossible to thee, unless God the Spirit shall do it."18 That is the point of John 3. Nicodemus saw clearly that it was impossible to be born again. Jesus does not answer and say, "Oh, I was talking about spiritual rebirth, which can be done, and not physical rebirth, which cannot be done." Jesus says the new birth is by the Spirit, and the Spirit gives it to whomever He wants, just like the wind blows to wherever it wants. Regeneration is in the hands of the Spirit, not under the control of the will of man.

For Evangelism or for Mature Audiences Only?

There is a prevalent opinion that says that Calvinism should be, if it is discussed at all, reserved for more mature Christians, not taught to new converts, and certainly never ever preached to the unbelievers in an evangelistic message. This is one result of the idea that Calvinism is somehow incompatible with evangelism. From the several sermons quoted, it is obvious that Spurgeon did not believe that Calvinism should be hidden from the unconverted nor the new believer. Why? Because Calvinism is the Gospel:

[T]here is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called . . . , after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.19

Those who preach a gospel devoid of the five points commonly called Calvinism are not preaching the Gospel at all, but a false gospel.

If Calvinism is appropriate for the unconverted, certainly it is fitting for all Christians. Condemning the preachers who want to censor Calvinism, Spurgeon said: "There has sprung up in the Church of Christ an idea that there are many things taught in the Bible which are not essential . . . that provided we are right in the fundamentals, the other things are of no concern. . . . It becomes an awful thing . . . for men to leave a single mandate unstudied, lest we shall lead others astray, while we ourselves are acting in disobedience to God. . . ."20 Spurgeon said: "It were better for me that I had never been born than that I preach to these people carelessly, or keep back any part of my Master's truth. Better to have been a devil than a preacher playing fast and loose with God’s Word, and by such means working ruin of the souls of men. . . . It will be the height of my ambition to be clear of the blood of all men."21 He was, of course, referring to Acts 20:26-27, where Paul, in a farewell address to the Ephesian elders, says he was cleared of the blood of all men because he has not kept back any doctrines in his evangelism and preaching. Those who avoid the doctrines of predestination and the inability of man's will, and who censor others from teaching them, have blood on their hands.

Separation, Not Schism

Did Paul not condemn following any human system? Is Calvinism not a divisive human system in the order of the Corinthian slogans, "I follow Paul" or "I follow Apollos"? Well, if Calvinism were indeed merely a human system, then there might be some merit to the charge of being divisive. But Calvinism, as we have seen already, is not a human system.

Truth is by nature controversial. Jesus says he came not to bring peace, but a sword. Jesus and his disciples were not persecuted because they were non-controversial. Spurgeon saw as much. He declared, "Controversy for the truth against the errors of the age is, we feel more than ever convinced, the peculiar duty of the preacher."22 Therefore he was not at all surprised by the enmity toward his proclamation of Calvinism, or the doctrines of grace, as he sometimes called it. The reason, he said, is this: "The fact that conversion and salvation are of God is an humbling truth. It is because of its humbling character that men do not like it."23 And because they do not like it, they controvert it.

As for unity, Spurgeon said, "I am quite sure that the best way to promote union is to promote truth. It will not do for us to be all united together by yielding to one another's mistakes."24 Spurgeon said something that would not sit well with modern day churches: "I glory in that which at the present day is so much spoken against-sectarianism. . . . Success to sectarianism; let it live and flourish. . . . When we cease, each of us, to maintain our own views of truth, and maintain those views firmly and strenuously, then truth shall fly out of the land, and error alone shall reign."25 What Spurgeon meant was that once debates are censored and hushed up, error alone will reign. But if everyone would maintain their views of truth strenuously, there will be debates, and truth will always triumph in any conflict. Error thrives in the environment of "No controversy" and "Don't talk about it."

Spurgeon eventually broke away from the Baptist Union at the height of the Down-Grade Controversy, October 28, 1887. Murray says, "The Union was preferring denominational peace to the duty of dealing with error and thus, by tolerating sin, they made the withdrawal of Christians unavoidable."26 False rumors and "What is said of us is nothing; but shall truth be sold to keep up a wider fellowship?" "Long ago I ceased to count heads; truth is usually in the minority." As for disunity, Spurgeon, in his magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, 1888, wrote, "As to a breach of unity, nothing has ever more largely promoted the union of the true than the break with the false." In another article titled "Separation, not Schism," Spurgeon wrote, "Separation from such as connive at fundamental error . . . is not schism, but only what truth, conscience, and God require of all who would be found faithful."

No Compromise

Spurgeon withdrew from the Baptist Union precisely because he would never compromise the truth. The Down-Grade Controversy was not about Calvinism in particular, but about the equivocation of terms. This naturally brought in Calvinism, since Calvinism insists on precise definition of terms. Spurgeon wrote of the Baptist Council, "Whatever the Council does, let it above all things avoid the use of language which could legitimately have two meanings contrary to each other. Let us be plain and outspoken. . . . Right is safe, and compromise by the use of double meanings can never in the long run be wise."27

One example of equivocation is on the doctrine of justification by faith. Spurgeon charged Arminianism of leading to legalism by their doctrine of free will. He said, "Do you not see that this is legality-that this is hanging our salvation upon our work-that this is making our eternal life to depend on something we do? Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by the Arminians, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works, after all; for he always thinks faith is a work of the creature, and a condition of acceptance. It is as false to say that man is saved by faith as a work, as that he is saved by the deeds of the Law. We are saved by faith as the gift of God. . . ."28 To Spurgeon, to equivocate is to compromise. To agree to ambiguous terms is to compromise. Therefore, he made a stand and broke away. Of the one who compromises, Spurgeon said, "[H]e has, in truth, gone over to the enemy."29 Like the weeping prophet Spurgeon prophesied, "We are going down hill at breakneck speed." And like a voice calling in the wilderness, Spurgeon cried and warned: "Let all who love the Lord, and hate evil, come out of this more and more apostatising church, lest they be partakers of the plague which will come upon her in the day of her visitation."30


The Calvinism of Spurgeon brought him nothing but success in his evangelism, seeing his congregation grew from less than twenty to over six thousand. At the same time, it brought him nothing but controversy. Slanders and false reports dogged him all his life long. Through it all Spurgeon never gave way. He stood his ground despite suffering the mental agony from theological antagonism, which was, no doubt, aggravated by physical pain from his chronic illness of gout. To those who are going through the same struggles, Spurgeon gives his consolation: "We need not be ashamed of our pedigree, although Calvinists are now considered to be heterodox." The situation is the same today, if not worse, as in Spurgeon’s day. Calvinism is labeled as "extreme," and worse, "heterodox," while the real heresy, Arminianism, is hailed as orthodoxy. In Spurgeon's bedroom, Mrs. Spurgeon hung the text, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in Heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). It is an indication of how pressed Spurgeon was from all sides to have to be constantly reminded by that verse every night before he went to bed. He was faithful to the Gospel until death.

Let all who would be true to the Gospel declare with Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

If all men that live or ever shall live should throw up the old Calvinism, there remains one that will hold it, for the reason-that he could not hold any other. I must be crushed out of existence before my convictions of the truth of the doctrines of grace in the old-fashioned form can ever be taken from me.31

1. Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon, 52.
2. Murray, 58.
3. The Early Years, 364.
4. Murray, 54.
5. Murray, 59.
6. The Early Years, 339.
7. The Early Years, 79.
8. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. II: The Full Harvest, 393.
9. The Full Harvest, 12.
10. The Full Harvest, 29.
11. Gordon Clark, The Atonement, 136.
12. Murray, 49, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 42.
13. Murray, 61-62.
14. Murray, 9.
15. Murray, 90, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 53.
16. Murray, 57.
17. Murray, 84.
18. Murray, 87, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 3.
19. The Early Years, 168.
20. Murray, 56, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 6.
21. Murray, 39, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vols. 19 & 27
22. Murray, 13.
23. Murray, 60, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 6.
24. Murray, 65, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 6.
25. Murray, 66.
26. Murray, 144.
27. Murray, 147, quoting from The Sword and the Trowel, 1888.
28. Murray, 81, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 9.
29. Murray, 161-162.
30. Murray, 133, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 15.
31. Murray, 168, quoting from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 30.

Are You Born Again? J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

Are you born again? This is one of life's most important questions. Jesus Christ said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

It is not enough to reply, "I belong to the church; I suppose I'm a Christian." Thousands of nominal Christians show none of the signs of being born again which the Scriptures have given us--many listed in the First Epistle of John.

First of all, John wrote: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin" (I John 3:9). "Whosoever is born of God sinneth not" (5:18).

A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him.

If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying (I John 1:8). But he can say that he hates sin and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts from entering his mind, or shortcomings, omissions, and defects from appealing in both his words and his actions. He knows that "in many things we offend all" (James 3:2). But he can truly say, in the sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow and that his whole nature does not consent to them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Second, John wrote: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (I John 5:1).

A man who is born again, or regenerated, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour who can pardon his soul, that He is the divine person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and beside Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness. But he has full confidence in Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that, because he has accepted Christ's finished work and death on the cross, he is considered righteous in God's sight, and he may look forward to death and judgment without alarm.

He may have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, and see what he will say. Ask him if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness, his own works, his prayers, his minister, or his church, and listen to his reply. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Third, John wrote: "Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (I John 2:29).

The man who is born again, or regenerated, is a holy man. He endeavors to live according to God's will, to do the things that please God and to avoid the things that God hates. He wishes to continually look to Christ as his example as well as his Saviour and to prove himself to be Christ's friend by doing whatever He commands. He knows he is not perfect. He is painfully aware of his indwelling corruption. He finds an evil principle within himself that is constantly warring against grace and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence.

Though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether or not he is a Christian at all, he will be able to say with John Newton, "I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am." What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Fourth, John wrote: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (I John 3:14).

A man who is born again has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who share his faith in Christ. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company.

He feels they are all members of the same family. They are his fellow soldiers, fighting against the same enemy. They are his fellow travelers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. They may be very different from himself in many ways--in rank, in station and in wealth. But that does not matter. They are his Father's sons and daughters and he cannot help loving them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Fifth, John wrote: "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world" (I John 5:4).

A man who is born again does not use the world's opinion as his standard of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the world's ways, ideas and customs. What men think or say no longer concerns him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which seem to bring happiness to most people. To him they seem foolish and unworthy of an immortal being.

He loves God's praise more than man's praise. He fears offending God more than offending man. It is unimportant to him whether he is blamed or praised; his first aim is to please God. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Sixth, John wrote: "He that is begotten of God keepeth himself' (I John 5:18).

A man who is born again is careful of his own soul. He tries not only to avoid sin but also to avoid everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He knows that evil communications corrupt the heart and that evil is more catching than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the use of his time; his chief desire is to spend it profitable.

He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy country--to wear his armor continually and to be prepared for temptation. He is diligent to be watchful, humble, prayerful man. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

These are the six great marks of a born again Christian.

There is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks in different people. In some they are faint and hardly noticeable. In others they are bold, plain and unmistakable, so anyone may read them. Some of these marks are more visible than others in each individual. Seldom are all equally evident in any one person.

But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God.

How should we react to these things? We can logically come to only one conclusion--only those who are born again have these six characteristics, and those who do not have these marks are not born again. This seems to be the conclusion to which the apostle intended us to come. Do you have these characteristics? Are you born again?

Human Depravity - R. C. Sproul

As we said in the previous chapter, a common point of debate among theologians focuses on the question, are human beings basically good or basically evil? The hinge upon which the argument turns is the word "basically." It is a virtual universal consensus that nobody is perfect. We accept the maxim: "To err is human."

The Bible says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Despite this verdict on human shortcomings, the idea persists in our humanistically dominated culture that sin is something peripheral or tangential to our nature. Indeed, we are flawed by sin. Our moral records exhibit blemishes. But somehow we think that our evil deeds reside at the rim or edge of our character and never penetrate to the core. Basically, it is assumed, people are inherently good.

After being rescued from captivity in Iraq and experiencing firsthand the corrupt methods of Saddam Hussein, one American hostage remarked, "Despite all that I endured I never lost my confidence in the basic goodness of people." Perhaps this view rests in part on a sliding scale of the relative goodness or wickedness of people. Obviously some people are far more wicked than others. Next to Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler the ordinary run-of-the-mill sinner looks like a saint. But if we lift our gaze to the ultimate standard of goodness - the holy character of God - we realize that what appears to be a basic goodness on an earthly level is corrupt to the core..

The Bible teaches the total depravity of the human race. Total depravity means radical corruption. We must be careful to note the difference between total depravity and "utter" depravity. To be utterly depraved is to be as wicked as one could possibly be. Hitler was extremely depraved, but he could have been worse than he was. I am sinner. Yet I could sin more often and more severely than I actually do. I am not utterly depraved, but I am totally depraved. For total depravity means that I and everyone else aredepraved or corrupt in the totality of our being. There is no part of us that is left untouched by sin. Our minds, our wills, and our bodies are affected by evil. We speak sinful words, do sinful deeds, have impure thoughts. Our very bodies suffer from the ravages of sin.

Perhaps "radical corruption" is a better term to describe our fallen condition than "total depravity." I am using the word "radical" not so much to mean "extreme," but to lean more heavily on its original meaning. "Radical" comes from the Latin word for "root" or "core." Our problem with sin is that it is rooted in the core of our being. It permeates our hearts. It is because sin is at our core and not merely at the exterior of our lives that the Bible says: "There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." Romans 3:10-12

It is because of this condition that the verdict of Scripture is heard: we are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1); we are "sold under sin" (Romans 7:14); we are in "captivity to the law of sin" (Romans 7:23); and "by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Only by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit may we be brought out of this state of spiritual death. It is God who makes us alive as we become His craftsmanship (Ephesians 2:1-10).


1. Humanism sees sin at the edge or periphery of human life. It considershuman beings to be basically good.

2. Biblical Christianity teaches that sin permeates the core of our life.

3. Total depravity is not utter depravity. We are not as wicked as wepossibly could be.

4. Radical corruption points to the core sinfulness of our hearts.

Biblical passages for reflection:Jeremiah 17:9Romans 8:1-11Ephesians 2:1-3Ephesians 4:17-191 John 1:8-10Excerpt from Essential Truths Of The Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul pages 147-149

Friday, January 27, 2006

Southern Baptist Ghosts

This is an interesting article concerning Southern Baptist History

During the past twenty years America's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has undergone a major upheaval and reorientation, a time of turmoil and schism known to many of its participants simply as The Controversy. At the national denominational level, The Controversy is over for all practical purposes. The conservatives have won and the moderates have largely accepted that fact, most with resignation, some with resistance. The resisters have formed in protest new infra–denominational networks, the success of which has been relatively modest thus far. But the roots of The Controversy, how it came about, what was at stake, and how this relates to the theological heritage both sides still claim--all this remains up for grabs.

The partisans on both sides, of course, have simple answers to these questions. The moderates, called "liberals" by their opponents, see the conservative resurgence as an ecclesiastical coup d'état, a great power grab engineered by ruthless church politicians who neither understood nor cared about the great watchword of the Baptist tradition: freedom. For their part, the conservatives, called "fundamentalists" by their opponents, claim that The Controversy was, to quote the title of a best–selling book of the 1970s, "The Battle for the Bible." The watchword for such conservatives was biblical inerrancy, and this became the dominant theme in their successful effort to transform the theological seminaries and mission agencies of the denomination. What to the moderates seemed an obvious take over, the conservatives saw as a much–needed turnaround.

Both of these popular explanations are too simple. Some historians have traced the roots of The Controversy to the early 1960s, when conflict over historical-critical study of the Bible produced a major crisis in the SBC leading to the dismissal of Ralph Elliott, a professor of Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. Others have looked back to the Fundamentalist-Modernist debates of the 1920s and 1930s, which resulted in debilitating splits among Baptists and Presbyterians in the North. Still others have blamed the persistent racism of Southern religion, the cultural captivity of Southern regionalism, the eschatological pessimism of premillennialist ideology, right-wing conspiracy theories, and so forth: There is no shortage of explanations.

The Controversy should be seen, though, in the context of even more remote Baptist battles. We are still feeling the effects of three great populist movements that ripped through Southern Baptist life in the early and middle decades of the nineteenth century: Campbellism, Landmarkism, and hyper-Calvinism. For more than a century, the forces released by these schisms have simmered beneath the surface of Southern Baptist consciousness, and they continue to frame current debates within the denomination dubbed by one historian as "God's last and only hope."

Those who lived through these theological firestorms did not underestimate their destructive effect. R. B. C. Howell (1801–1868) was one of the founders of the SBC in 1845. He served four terms as president of the Convention and was also pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville. Near the end of his ministry, he reviewed the history of Baptists in Tennessee and described the devastation wrought by these three movements:

Now for the third time within forty years, the desolation of Baptist churches in Tennessee was complete. They were first rent, overthrown, and destroyed by the violence of the controversy on the doctrine of predestination; they were secondly crushed and scattered by the "Reformation" of Mr. Campbell; they were thirdly severed and prostrated by the Landmark controversy. Scarcely had they begun to recover from one calamitous division when they fell into another. Will the Baptists of Tennessee ever be united, and labor together continuously in the cause of Christ?

The movements Howell mentioned were all led by powerful personalities, but they also dealt with basic issues of Baptist identity and Christian faith: namely, the balance of Scripture and tradition as norms of belief and practice (Campbellism); the nature of the true church and its identity markers (Landmarkism); and the reality of divine grace in the plan of salvation (hyper–Calvinism). The putative resolution of these issues in the nineteenth century has not prevented their resurfacing at the end of the twentieth.
Alexander Campbell was born in Ireland, educated in Scotland, and emigrated to Pennsylvania with his father, Thomas Campbell, where both were immersed as believers and affiliated with the Baptist denomination in 1812. The Campbells were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians by background, but after Alexander's wife, Dorothy, gave birth to their first child, they rejected infant baptism. Campbell was a popular speaker at Baptist gatherings and disseminated his ideas through a widely circulated paper he edited called the Christian Baptist.

The Campbell movement (the word "Campbellite" was a nickname coined in 1832) began as an effort to counteract the disunity of Christendom. Campbell's reforming movement was part of the larger restorationist impulse in American Protestantism. Campbell wanted to bring visible unity among all Christians and hence "restore" the true church by returning to the New Testament, which, he believed, contained a precise blueprint for church order and belief. Building on the earlier restorationist call of Barton W. Stone, Campbell led many erstwhile Baptists to leave their congregations and affiliate with his newly formed Churches of Christ.

The results of this schism are with us still; it is not uncommon to find Baptist and "Christian" churches still facing one another across town squares and village lanes throughout Tennessee and Kentucky, just as New England Congregationalists divided into Old Lights and New Lights in the eighteenth century. Why did Campbell leave the Baptists after seventeen years of ministry among them? For one thing, Campbell's stark biblical literalism led to disagreements over many aspects of church life and ministerial order. Campbell opposed, for instance, the use of instrumental music in worship and refused to call ministers by officious-sounding titles such as "Reverend" or "Doctor."

Campbell also had serious soteriological differences with the Baptists. He taught a doctrine that sounded very much like baptismal regeneration, denying the direct agency of the Holy Spirit in conversion. Indeed, Campbell would often poke fun at Baptists who talked about "getting religion" or being convicted of sin and drawn to Christ by the work of the Spirit. For Baptist awakeners in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Wesleys, this smacked of heresy or even blasphemy, ruling out what the Baptists called "an immediate work of God's grace in the heart."

Continued Here

Timothy George is Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, and Senior Editor at Christianity Today. This essay is adapted from a lecture presented to the St. George Tucker Society at Emory University.

New Search Engine

Here is a new Google Search Engine ... it is called Google Scholar.

Total Depravity - John Piper

When we speak of man's depravity we mean man's natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.

There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his "virtue" is evil in the sight of God.

Romans 14:23 says, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." This is a radical indictment of all natural "virtue" that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God's grace.

The terrible condition of man's heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity.

Man's depravity is total in at least four senses.

(1) Our rebellion against God is total. Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God.

Of course totally depraved men can be very religious and very philanthropic. They can pray and give alms and fast, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:1-18). But their very religion is rebellion against the rights of their Creator, if it does not come from a childlike heart of trust in the free grace of God. Religion is one of the chief ways that man conceals his unwillingness to forsake self-reliance and bank all his hopes on the unmerited mercy of God (Luke 18:9-14; Colossians 2:20-23).

The totality of our rebellion is seen in Romans 3:9-10 and 18. "I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one seeks for God....There is no fear of God before their eyes."

It is a myth that man in his natural state is genuinely seeking God. Men do seek God. But they do not seek him for who he is. They seek him in a pinch as one who might preserve them from death or enhance their worldly enjoyments. Apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God.

Some do come to the light. But listen to what John 3:20-21 says about them. "Every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."

Yes there are those who come to the light -- namely those whose deeds are the work of God. "Wrought in God" means worked by God. Apart from this gracious work of God all men hate the light of God and will not come to him lest their evil be exposed -- this is total rebellion. "No one seeks for God...There is no fear of God before their eyes!"

(2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

In Romans 14:23 Paul says, "Whatever is not from faith is sin." Therefore, if all men are in total rebellion, everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion. If a king teaches his subjects how to fight well and then those subjects rebel against their king and use the very skill he taught them to resist him, then even those skills become evil.

Thus man does many things which he can only do because he is created in the image of God and which in the service of God could be praised. But in the service of man's self-justifying rebellion, these very things are sinful.

In Romans 7:18 Paul says, "I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." This is a radical confession of the truth that in our rebellion nothing we think or feel is good. It is all part of our rebellion. The fact that Paul qualifies his depravity with the words, "that is, in my flesh," shows that he is willing to affirm the good of anything that the Spirit of God produces in him (Romans 15:18). "Flesh" refers to man in his natural state apart from the work of God's Spirit. So what Paul is saying in Romans 7:18 is that apart from the work of God's Spirit all we think and feel and do is not good.

NOTE: We recognize that the word "good" has a broad range of meanings. We will have to use it in a restricted sense to refer to many actions of fallen people which in relation are in fact not good.

For example we will have to say that it is good that most unbelievers do not kill and that some unbelievers perform acts of benevolence. What we mean when we call such actions good is that they more or less conform to the external pattern of life that God has commanded in Scripture.

However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteousness in relation to God. It is not done out of reliance on him or for his glory. He is not trusted for the resources, though he gives them all. Nor is his honor exalted, even though that's his will in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Therefore even these "good" acts are part of our rebellion and are not "good" in the sense that really counts in the end -- in relation to God.

(3) Man's inability to submit to God and do good is total.

Picking up on the term "flesh" above (man apart from the grace of God) we find Paul declaring it to be totally enslaved to rebellion. Romans 8:7-8 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

The "mind of the flesh" is the mind of man apart from the indwelling Spirit of God ("You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you," Romans 8:9). So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.

Ephesians 2:1 says that we Christians were all once "dead in trespasses and sins." The point of deadness is that we were incapable of any life with God. Our hearts were like a stone toward God (Ephesians 4:18; Ezekiel 36:26). Our hearts were blind and incapable of seeing the glory of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). We were totally unable to reform ourselves.

(4) Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.
Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that in our deadness we were "children of wrath." That is, we were under God's wrath because of the corruption of our hearts that made us as good as dead before God.

The reality of hell is God's clear indictment of the infiniteness of our guilt. If our corruption were not deserving of an eternal punishment God would be unjust to threaten us with a punishment so severe as eternal torment. But the Scriptures teach that God is just in condemning unbelievers to eternal hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Matthew 5:29f; 10:28; 13:49f; 18:8f; 25:46; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10). Therefore, to the extent that hell is a total sentence of condemnation, to that extent must we think of ourselves as totally blameworthy apart from the saving grace of God.

In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad. If we think of ourselves as basically good or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective. But if we humble ourselves under this terrible truth of our total depravity, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God discussed in the next four points.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


It was 1987! At a lecture the other day they were playing an old news video of Lt.Col. Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings during the Reagan Administration.

There was Ollie in front of God and country getting the third degree, but what he said was stunning!

He was being drilled by a senator; "Did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?"

Ollie replied, "Yes, I did, Sir."

The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience, "Isn't that just a little excessive?"

"No, sir," continued Ollie.

"No? And why not?" the senator asked.

"Because the lives of my family and I were threatened, sir."

"Threatened? By whom?" the senator questioned.

"By a terrorist, sir" Ollie answered.

"Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you that much?"

"His name is Osama bin Laden, sir" Ollie replied.

At this point the senator tried to repeat the name, but couldn't pronounce it, which most people back then probably couldn't. A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued.

Why are you so afraid of this man?" the senator asked.

"Because, sir, he is the most evil person alive that I know of", Ollie answered.

"And what do you recommend we do about him?" asked the senator.

"Well, sir, if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth."

The senator disagreed with this approach, and that was all that was shown of the clip.

By the way, that senator was Al Gore!

Terrorist pilot Mohammad Atta blew up a bus in Israel in 1986. The Israelis captured, tried and imprisoned him. As part of the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians in

1993, Israel had to agree to release so-called "political prisoners."

However, the Israelis would not release any with blood on their hands, The American President at the time, Bill Clinton, and his Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, "insisted" that all prisoners be released.

Thus Mohammad Atta was freed and eventually thanked the US by flying an airplane into Tower One of the World Trade Center. This was reported by many of the American TV networks at the time that the terrorists were first identified.

It was censored in the US from all later reports.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Evil of Backbiting and Evil Speaking - Richard Baxter

1. It is forbidden of God among the heinous, damning sins, and made the character of a notorious wicked person, and the avoiding of it is made the mark of such as are accepted of God and shall be saved: Rom. 1:29, 30, it is made the mark of a reprobate mind, and joined with murder, and hating God, viz. "full of envy, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters." Psal. 15:1,3, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that backbites not with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbour, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbour." And when Paul describes those whom 'he must sharply rebuke and censure, he describes the factious sort of christians of our times. 2 Cor. 12:20, "For I fear lest when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults." Eph. 4:31, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind one to another, and tenderhearted,"

2. It is a sin which gratifies Satan, and serves his malice against our neighbour. He is malicious against all, and speaking evil, and doing hurt, are the works which are suitable to his malignity! And should a christian make his tongue the instrument of the accuser of the brethren, to do his work against each other?

3. It signifies want of christian love. For love speaks not evil, nor reveals men's faults without a cause, but covers infirmities; much less will it lie and slander others, and carry about uncertain reports against them. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: and how essential love is to true christianity, Christ himself has often told us.

4. It is a sin which directly serves to destroy the hearers' love, and consequently to destroy their souls. If the backbiter understood himself, he would confess that it is his very end to cause you to hate (or abate your love to) him whom he speaks evil of. He that speaks good of a man, represents him amiably; for amiableness and goodness are all one. And he that speaks evil of a man represents him hatefully or unlovely; for hatefulness, unloveliness, and evil are all one. And as it is not the natural way of winning love, to entreat and beg it, and say, I pray you love this person, or that thing; but to open the goodness of the thing or person, which will command love: so is it not the natural way to stir up hatred, by entreating men to hate this man or that; but to tell how bad they are, which will stir up hatred in them that do believe it. Therefore to speak evil of another, is more than to say to the hearers, I pray you hate this man, or abate your love to him. And that the killing of love is the killing or destroying of men's souls, the apostle John does frequently declare.

5. And it tends also to destroy the love, and consequently the soul of him that you speak evil of. For when it comes to his hearing, (as one way or other it may do,) the evil you have reported of him behind his back, it tends to make him hate you, and so to make him worse.

6. It is a great peace-breaker wherever it is practised. It tends to set people together by the ears. When it is told that such a one spoke evil of you in such a place, there are then heart-burnings, and rehearsals, and sidings, and such ensuing malice as the devil intended by this design.

7. They that speak evil of others behind their backs, it is ten to one will speak falsehoods of them when they do not know it. Fame is too ordinarily a liar, and they shall be liars who will be its messengers. How do you know whether the thing that you report is true? Is it only because a credible person spoke it? But how did that person know it to be true? Might he not take it upon trust as well as you? And might he not take a credible person to lie that is not? And how commonly does faction, or interest, or passion, or credulity, make that person incredible in one thing, who is credible in others, where he has no such temptation! If you know it is not true, or have not sufficient evidence to prove it, you are guilty of lying and slandering interpretatively though it should prove true; because it might have been a lie for all you knew.

8. It is gross injustice to talk of a man's faults, before you have heard him speak for himself. I know it is usual with such to say, O we have heard it from those as we are certain will not lie. But he is a foolish and unrighteous judge, that will be peremptory upon hearing one party speak, and knows not how ordinary it is for a man when he speaks for himself, to blow away the most confident and plausible accusations, and make the case appear to be quite another thing. You know not what another man has to say till you have heard him.

9. Backbiting teaches others to backbite. Your example invites them to do the like: and sins which are common, are easily swallowed, and hardly repented of: men think that the commonness justifies or extenuates the fault.

10. It encourages ungodly men to the odious sin of backbiting and slandering the most religious, righteous person. It is ordinary with the devil's family to make Christ's faithful servants their table talk, and the objects of their reproach and scorn, and the song of drunkards? What abundance of lies go current among such malignant persons, against the most innocent, which would all be ashamed, if they had first admitted them to speak for themselves. And such slanders and lies are the devil's common means to keep ungodly men from the love of godliness, and so from repentance and salvation. And backbiting professors of religion encourage men to this; for with what measure they mete, it shall be measured to them again. And they that are themselves evil spoken of, will think that they are warranted to requite the backbiters with the like.

11. It is a sin which commonly excludes true, profitable reproof and exhortation. They that speak most behind men's backs, do usually say least to the sinner's face, in any way which tends to his salvation. They will not go lovingly to him in private, and set home his sin upon his conscience, and exhort him to repentance; but any thing shall serve as a sufficient excuse against this duty; that they may make the sin of backbiting serve instead of it: and all is out of carnal self-saving; they fear men will be offended if they speak to their faces, and therefore they will whisper against them behind their backs.

12. It is at the least, but idle talk and a misuse of your time: what the better are the hearers for hearing of other men’s misdoings? And you know that it doesn't profit the person of whom you speak. A skillful, friendly admonition might do him good! But to neglect this, and talk of his faults unprofitably, behind his back, is but to aggravate the sin of your uncharitableness, as being not contented to refuse your help to a man in sin, but you must also injure him and do him hurt.


Rebuke backbiters, and do not encourage them by hearkening to their tales. Prov. 25:23, "The north wind drives away rain, so does an angry countenance a backbiting tongue." It may be they think themselves religious persons, and will take it for an injury to be driven away with an angry countenance: but God himself, who loves his servants better than we, is more offended at their sin; and that which offends him, must offend us. We must not hurt their souls, and displease God, by drawing upon us the guilt of their sins, for fear of displeasing them. Tell them how God hates backbiting, and advise them if they know any hurt done by others, to go to them privately, and tell them of it in a way that tends to their repentance.

Quoted from Vol. 1, A Christian Directory Edited and updated in modern English

New Perspective on Paul

I have heard of The New Perspective on Paul .. but never took it seriously. I was recently informed the movement is growing. This is from Theopedia:

The New Perspective on Paul, also called New Perspectivism (hereafter NPP) is a system of thought in New Testament scholarship that seeks to reinterpret the Apostle Paul and his letters. In brief, the NPP is a reaction to the Lutheran Paul (i.e. the traditional interpretation of Paul). Proponents of the "Lutheran Paul" see him arguing against a legalistic Jewish culture that seeks to earn their salvation through works, however, supporters of the NPP argue that Paul has been misread. He was actually combating Jews who were boasting because they were God's people. Their "works", so to speak, were done to show they were God's covenant people and not to earn their salvation. The result is a Judaism that supposedly affirmed sola gratia (grace alone). Presently, its effects are seen in the academic world of New Testament scholars, particularly those who focus their attention on Pauline studies and the study of first century Judaism.

Here is an article written by Phil Johnson on the New Perspective

Quotation Corner - John Newton

"I am not what I ought to be.

I am not what I wish to be.

I am not even what I hope to be.

But, by the Cross of Christ,I am not what I was."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Spurgeon's Mother's Prayers Answered in an Unusual Way

Spurgeon's early years unfolded outside the Baptist tradition. After his conversion experience in the Primitive Methodist chapel, his Congregational parents and grandparents were startled that he should choose the Baptist way of expressing his Christian life and ministry. An interesting and rather humorous anecdote arose in this context. After he announced to his parents his determination to become a Baptist, his mother said to him, "Son, I have often prayed for your conversion, but I hever thought you would become a Baptist." Charles, with his usual quick wit replied, "Mother, that shows you that God has not only answered your prayers but has done exceeding abundantly above all you asked or thought."

Is there any difference between biblical counseling? MacArthur, John, F., Jr, Wayne A. Mack

At a superficial glance, it would appear that a biblical counselor and a psychotherapist who is a Christian do many of the same things. Both converse with people; both care about people; both get to know people; both are interested in motivation, thoughts, emotions, and behavior; both explore the various pressures in a person's situation; both give feedback; perhaps both talk about Jesus or a passage of Scripture. So how do they differ? To understand how Christianized psychotherapy differs from biblical counseling it is necessary to look closely at what each practices and teaches. Here are some of the distinctives of each. Perspective of the Bible and its contribution to counseling. Most Christian psychologists view the Bible as an inspirational resource, but their basic system of counseling, both theory and methods, is transferred unaltered from secular psychology. Most are frankly and self-consciously eclectic, picking and choosing theories and techniques according to personal preference. In contrast, biblical counselors follow the Bible's view of itself as the source of a comprehensive and detailed approach to understanding and counseling people (2 Tim. 3:15–17; 2 Pet. 1:4).Some Christian psychotherapists use few Scriptures; others use many. But frequency of citation is much less important than the way passages are used - - or misused - - and in the vast majority of cases the passages cited are completely misused. There is a dearth of contextualized exegesis (a critical interpretation of a text) and an abundance of eisegesis (interpreting a text by reading one's own ideas into it). Biblical counseling is committed to letting God speak for Himself through His Word, and to handling the Word of Truth rightly (2 Tim. 2:15). Perspective of God. There are many aspects of God that Christian psychologists routinely ignore. In particular, His sovereignty, holiness, justice, kingly authority, and power are virtually unmentioned. The fatherly love of God is the great theme of these psychotherapists, but detached from the entirety of who God is, this love becomes the unconditional positive regard of a great therapist in the sky, indistinguishable from classic liberal theology. Biblical counseling follows the Bible and seeks to minister the love of the true and living God, whose love deals with sin and produces obedience (1 John). Perspective of human nature and motivation. Almost every Christian psychologist espouses some variety of need theory. Needs for self-esteem, for love and acceptance, and for significance tend to dominate. If these needs are met, it is believed that people will be happy, kind and moral; if not met, people will be miserable, hateful, and immoral. Christian psychologists borrow their motivation theory directly from humanistic psychology. Scripture flatly opposes such need theories because it teaches that sinful human motivation roots in various cravings and lusts (Gal. 5:16–24, Eph. 2:3; James 1:14–16; 3:13–4:12). Scripture teaches that God changes our desires and that godly motivation is rooted in the desire for God and godliness. If people crave self-esteem, love, and significance, they will be happy if they get it and miserable if they don't, but they will remain self-centered in either case. On the other hand, if people desire God (Ps. 42:1f; 73:25), God's kingdom (Matt. 6:9-13; 6:33; 13:45f), godly wisdom (Prov. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:22), and resurrection glory (Rom. 8:18–25), they will be satisfied, joyous, obedient, and profitable servants of God. Perspective of the gospel. For most Christian psychologists, Jesus Christ is the meeter of built-in psychic needs and the healer of psychic wounds. The love of God at the cross simply portrays how valuable one is to God in order to boost self-esteem and to meet the need to be loved. But in the Bible, Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God crucified in the place of sinners. The love of God actually demolishes self-esteem and the lust for self-esteem. It produces, instead, a great and grateful esteem for the Son of God, who loved us and gave His life for us - - the Lamb of God who alone is worthy. The love of God does not meet our lust to be loved as we are. It demolishes that deluded craving in order to love us despite who we are and to teach us to love God and neighbor (1 John 4:7–5:3). Perspective of counseling. Christian psychologists tend to view counseling the same way secular psychologists view it: as a professional activity without any necessary connection to the Church of Jesus Christ. A client with a felt-need engages a professional for help in attaining goals of personal adjustment, emotional happiness, stability, self-fulfillment, and the like. But biblical counselors follow the Bible and view counseling as a pastoral activity. Their counseling aims at progressive sanctification and must communicate the true contents of Scripture. Biblical counseling connects logically and structurally to worship, discipleship, preaching, pastoral oversight, use of gifts, church discipline, and other aspects of life in the body of Christ. (David Powlison)

MacArthur, John, F., Jr, Wayne A. Mack, and Master's College. Introduction to Biblical Counseling : Basic Guide to the Principles and Practice of Counseling. Electronic ed., Page 362. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1997, c1994.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rahab's Lies by Prof. Herman Hanko

"By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace (Heb. 11:31)."

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (James 2:25).

A reader of the News asks, "Why [in these passages] is Rahab commended for lying about the Hebrew spies?"

This is an interesting question, which has generated a lot of debate. The debate centres in the question: Does Scripture approve of lying in some circumstances? Particularly, when the cause of God is being threatened?

The history of Rahab, briefly, is this. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the nation of Israel was poised to begin the conquest of Canaan. Jericho, just west of the Jordan, was the most difficult city in Canaan to capture, for it was a mighty fortress with thick walls and iron gates. It was the key to the whole land. If Israel could not capture Jericho, its efforts to conquer the land were futile. If Jericho fell to the Israelites, this would be a token from God that He fought for them and would presently give them the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In preparation for war against the city, Joshua sent two spies to enter Jericho and learn the state of the city, the strength of its walls, and anything else which would be of value for the Israelites in their proposed campaign.

The spies entered the city and made their way to the house of Rahab, a prostitute, who lived on the wall of the city. Their presence in the city and their entrance into Rahab's house were noticed, and the police were sent to capture them. Rahab admitted that they had been there, but that they had already left and were headed for the River Jordan, where, if soldiers were immediately sent, they could be captured. However, she had hidden the spies on the roof of her house under some flax. After sending the police away on a wild goose chase, she spoke with the spies and helped them escape from the city by letting them down the wall with a scarlet rope. Her reason for aiding the spies, and also for lying to the police was her determination to cast her lot with the people of Israel. (The entire narrative is found in Joshua 2.)

There are other instances of such lies in Scripture. David feigned madness when he was in the land of the Philistines during his flight from murderous Saul. He was brought before Achish, the king of Gath (I Sam. 21:10-15). David writes of this and God's deliverance from the hand of Achish in Psalm 56.

More familiar is the lie which the midwives in Egypt told Pharaoh's servants. Pharaoh had commanded that all the male children of the Israelites be killed. The midwives did not obey Pharaoh, for they feared God. When questioned about their failures, they lied by telling the police that the Hebrew women were not very long in labour and that the children were born before the midwives could get there. God dealt well with the midwives because they feared Him (Ex. 1).

In ordering the murder of all the male babies Pharaoh sought to destroy Israel as a separate people and force the nation to amalgamate with the Egyptians, for the daughters of Israel would be forced to marry Egyptian men. Behind that plot was the plot of Satan to destroy Christ, for Christ, Satan knew, was destined to be born of Israel.

These and other instances in Scripture have led some to conclude that under certain circumstances God permits His people to lie. Usually, so it is argued, such a lie is justified when the welfare of God's people is at stake. Such a concern for the cause of God led Rahab and the midwives to resort to lies to cover their deeds.

Many argue that in times of war, when a nation is threatened by an aggressor it is legitimate to tells lies to help defeat the conquering power. This argument was used, for example, during the Nazi occupation of mainland Europe. Downed aviators and Jews were hid by those who were willing to risk their lives to save others. If Gestapo agents came to the doors of such homes in which refugees were hidden, it was considered lawful to lie to them to save those they were hiding.

There is agreement among Christians that ordinarily lying is forbidden by the ninth commandment and by other injunctions in Scripture such as Ephesians 4:15. The question is: Are there circumstances in which Scripture permits lying?

While the questioner, quoted above, says that Scripture condones the lie of Rahab, this is not really true. Nowhere in Scripture does one find approval of any lying at all. Exodus 1 does not approve the lie of the midwives; it expresses approval of their fear of God (17, 20-21). Hebrews 11:31 does not express approval of Rahab's lie, but commends her faith by which she received the spies in peace. That is, because of her faith that God was with Israel and that Israel would ultimately prevail against Jericho, she cooperated with the spies rather than turning them over to the police. Nor does the narrative in Joshua 2 say one word of approval of Rahab’s lie.

The same is true of James 2. Rahab is said to be justified because she received the spies and sent them out another way. By this act she cast her lot with God's people in whom lived the hope of the coming of the Messiah.

I do not know of a single place in Scripture where a lie is condoned. In other words, that Scripture approves of the lie of Rahab (and the lie of the midwives) is an argument from silence. Scripture does not condemn her lie in so many words. Rather, Scripture speaks of her faith manifested in her works. From Scripture’s silence concerning the sin of the lie, one concludes that Scripture approves.

"Why is Rahab commended for lying about the Hebrew spies?" The fact is that, if one consults the passages and the narrative in Joshua 2, one can actually find no evidence of Scripture’s approval of Rahab's lie. Scripture approves Rahab's faith in hiding the spies, but does not approve of her lie.

The problem is that Scripture does not condemn the lie either. If one, therefore, argues that Rahab's lie was approved by God from the fact that no condemnation is mentioned, the argument rests on Scripture's silence. This is not a strong argument, simply because there may very well be other reasons why Scripture is silent on the question. And, indeed, this is the case.

It is not surprising that Scripture does not explicitly condemn Rahab's lie, if we consider that Scripture's purpose in narrating this history is to demonstrate the power of Rahab's working faith by which she clung to the promise God had given to Israel.

Rahab is listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Here faith is described as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (1). That is, faith is considered in this chapter as a powerful subjective assurance of the truth of God’s promise, the contents of which could not be seen, but were hoped for by all believing Israel. The contents of that promise were the coming of the seed of the woman and salvation from sin and death in Him.

Believing that promise, the faithful in Israel did things which seem on the surface to be inexcusably reckless. They left home to wander in a strange land which was nothing but a barren wilderness - - as Abraham did. They exchanged riches, honour and fame, for slavery - - as Moses did. They walked around a city fourteen times - - confident that in this way an impregnable fortress would be captured. They submitted to imprisonment, torture and death when they were forced to stand alone - - as Jeremiah did.

Rahab had that faith. She was a prostitute. She belonged to a city which was humanly impossible to capture. She was known throughout the city. But she cast her lot with a group of foreign invaders, a strange people of whom she knew almost nothing, and those who were a threat to her own city. The only reason she did this was because she believed that Jehovah God was with that people and that her salvation, also from her sin of prostitution, was with that people. This is an amazing faith. And out of this faith flowed the works of which James speaks, for faith is bold, confident, willing to pay any price, willing to suffer any loss; it is the work of God!

The account of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 is for our instruction: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:1-2)."

But Rahab lied! How like us! Her faith was strong and overcame almost impossible obstacles. But it was also weak. It clung to Christ, but it was not immune to fear. It trusted firmly in God, but it wavered at a critical moment.

Is that so strange? Are we unable to identify with Rahab? We who also have faith?

Rahab was confronted with a serious problem, and it was not difficult for her to justify the telling of a lie. If she told the truth, the spies would be captured and the plan of Joshua to learn as much as he could about the city would be frustrated. The easiest course of action, and one seemingly good for the cause of God, was to lie and hide the spies until she could help them escape. And, besides, if the spies were found in her house, she herself would surely be put to death as a traitor to the cause of her city.

Yet, it is not difficult to see that her lie demonstrated a weakness in her otherwise strong faith. Cannot the Lord prevent the police from discovering the spies? Supposing she would have told them the truth. Is the Lord unable to help her and the men to whom she showed hospitality? Of course, He could. He made the walls of Jericho fall!

There is no need for Scripture to make a special point of condemning Rahab's lie. Scripture is crystal clear on the whole question of lying. It simply enjoins the believer to tell the truth - - always! Scripture does not say: "Speak the truth, but if things get too dangerous it is all right to lie." Nothing of the kind. The three friends who were thrown into the fiery furnace could have lied to escape Nebuchadnezzar's threat. Daniel could have lied when he was kneeling in prayer by his window facing Jerusalem, and thus escape the lion's den. But they told the truth! And God saved them.

The point is this. We must always tell the truth. But telling the truth is more than admitting something. If Rahab had told the truth when the police came to her door, she would not merely have said: "Yes, I am hiding the spies from Israel." But she would also have said: "I am keeping the spies in my house, because they are sent from the people whose God is the Lord. He alone is God. Our gods are idols. We must forsake our sin, turn to the living God, and make peace with Israel." That was the truth.

That is what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did. And that is what Daniel did. And, more importantly, that is what Christ did before the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate.

That requires the courage of faith in great measure. Daniel's three friends did not know that God would save them from the fiery furnace. They told Nebuchadnezzar that even if they would be killed, they would not bow before the image which the king had made. To tell the truth is, under some circumstances, very dangerous for the child of God. But he must speak the truth anyway, for that is his calling.

God had given Rahab a remarkable faith. It was also weak. We are like she was in so many ways, although it is frequently doubtful whether our vacillating and frightened faith can rise to the levels of hers. Rather than question her faith, we do better to take courage from her in our own walk and calling in the world.