Posts Tagged ‘sermon’

God So Loved the World, Part 1.

God So Loved the World, Part 2.

This Is the Judgment: Light Has Come into the World.

A Classical Analysis of Puritan Preaching
ARTICLE BY JOSEPH STEELE AUGUST 2010
INTRODUCTION

Reformed Christians are indebted to the Puritans for a variety of reasons, not the least of which for their contribution to preaching. In many ways, Puritan preaching was the very heartbeat of the Puritan movement. It would be no exaggeration to say that without Puritan preaching there would have been no Puritans. To quote Irvonwy Morgan, “Puritanism in the last resort must be assessed in terms of the pulpit.”[1]

But what exactly is Puritan preaching? How may it be properly distinguished from other forms of preaching? Why has its influence been so palatably felt by succeeding generations? In answering such questions the author will invoke a somewhat atypical method of inquiry. To the author’s knowledge, no such inquiry has hitherto been attempted.

Most readers will be familiar with the trivium or three-fold classical approach to learning. As a means of conveying information to the student, the classical method employed three distinct, yet progressive stages: (1) grammar; (2) dialectic; and (3) rhetoric. According to this classical schematic, the initial phase of learning any subject necessarily involved learning the basic facts about the particular subject, otherwise known as its grammar. The next phase of learning required the student to master the principles or inter-relatedness among those basic facts, thus arriving at a “whole” picture of the individual, basic parts. This second phase is known as the dialectic phase. Lastly, the student was expected to be able to express, either vocally or literarily, the totality of what he had learned in the first two phases. This final expressive phase is known as the rhetoric phase.

We may illustrate a contemporary use of the trivium via the following example: Consider how a mother might teach her four-year old son how to read. Most would agree that she should begin by having the child learn the foundational facts about our language. This will involve memorizing the alphabet and its corresponding sounds. Over time the child will eventually learn the identification and usage of verbs, nouns, and adjectives. In short, the child will learn the grammar of our language. But grammar alone is not sufficient for knowing how to read and write. The child must eventually learn the proper relationships between nouns and verbs, between sentences and paragraphs, between words and books. In short, the child will learn the dialectics of language. But what good is knowledge of language if one is ill-equipped to convey such knowledge to others? Not much. Therefore the child must learn how to express what he has learned. He must learn how to write and speak for himself. In short, the child must eventually learn the art of rhetoric.

How may this author best convey the characteristics and importance of Puritan preaching?–perhaps by explaining them in the classical pattern of the trivium. This paper will therefore chart the foundational facts of Puritan preaching (i.e., its grammar), the principles or inter-relatedness among those facts within Puritan preaching (i.e., its dialectic), as well as the art of expressing the sum total of that knowledge (i.e., its rhetoric).[2] Ultimately, it is the author’s goal that this brief synopsis of Puritan preaching will be useful to the reader (and by extension the church) by engendering better preachers and better listeners of a most lovely gospel.

PART ONE: THE GRAMMAR OF PURITAN PREACHING

~God’s Word as Grammar~

“Think in every line you read that God is speaking to you.”
–Thomas Watson

Just as essential as phonics is for teaching a child how to read, so too the Bible was the sine qua non of Puritan preaching. The Puritans were not just Theo-centric, they were Word-centric. The full-orbed implications of the Reformation maxim sola scriptura were writ large upon the face of Puritan preaching. The lives of the Puritans were uniformly shaped by the revealed will of the Triune God contained in sixty-six books which they believed were divinely preserved for the good of God’s people. Accordingly, the Puritans “loved, lived, and breathed Scripture, relishing the power of the Spirit that accompanied the Word. They viewed Scripture as God speaking to them as their Father, giving them the truth they could trust for all eternity.” [3]

The main concern of Puritan preaching was to transmit God’s infallible word to His people. Puritan preaching was marked by an unadulterated concern to search the Scriptures, collate their findings, and apply them to all areas of life. [4] For the Puritans, all theological language was ultimately God’s language (provided it is true). To that end, how could a preacher possibly endeavor to employ God’s Word from the pulpit without making strident and vigorous effort to understand it not just generally, but particularly? The Puritans aimed simultaneously for telescopic knowledge of the Scriptures as well as for microscopic knowledge; their sermons exhibit appreciation for the texture of both systematic and biblical theology. Indeed, this is hardly surprising because, “Puritan preachers received the Bible as a coherent unit rather than a random collection of unconnected fragments.” [5]

The puritan conviction about the centrality of the Bible in preaching was reinforced by the practice of largely or exclusively limiting the details of the sermon to biblical material. [6] Puritan preaching was expository in nature, meaning that the entire sermon was to be inextricably tied to the text. The mere establishment of a connection between the sermon and the text was not sufficient for Puritan preachers. Quite the contrary, for, according to the Puritans, “The sermon is not just hinged to Scripture; it quite literally exists inside the Word of God; the text is not in the sermon, but the sermon in the text….Put summarily, listening to a sermon is being in the Bible.” [7]

~Christ as Grammar~

“Exhibit as much as you can of a glorious Christ. Yea, let the motto upon your whole ministry be: Christ is all. Let others develop the pulpit fads that come and go. Let us specialize in preaching our Lord Jesus Christ.”
–Cotton Mather

To be Word-centered is to be necessarily Christ-centered. The Puritans understood this architectonic principle and their preaching reflected it. According to Beeke, Puritan preaching “focuses on God’s written Word, the Bible, and His living Word, Jesus Christ.” [8] In accordance with scriptural data such as Luke 24:44-45 [9] and John 5:39 [10] the Puritans read their Bibles through rose-colored lenses tinted by the blood of a crucified savior and risen Lord. It was their goal in every text to solidify that the “great theme and controlling contour of experiential preaching is Jesus Christ, for he is the supreme focus, prism, and goal of God’s revelation.” [11] Hence William Perkins, the great Puritan homiletician, writes that the heart of all preaching is “to preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.” [12]

This twin focus upon God’s Word and the agent of that Word, namely Christ, was the essence of Puritan preaching. Every nuance and detail of their sermons was a mere reflection and out-working of those twin principles. Christ and His Word were the most basic facts of Puritan preaching–indeed they were the grammar of Puritan preaching.

PART TWO: THE DIALECTIC OF PURITAN PREACHING

We have argued that the grammar (most basic and foundational component) of Puritan preaching is the Christo-centric Word of God. This Christ-centric Word was to Puritan preaching what phonics is to the four-year old boy learning to read–it’s everything. And yet, at the same time it’s not everything. Knowing what God said in a particular text is not alone sufficient for transformative, God-exalting preaching. If God’s word, together with proper exegetical and hermeneutical principles, forms the “parts” of preaching, what may we say about the “whole” of preaching? How are preachers to bring their exegetical spade-work to bear upon an audience that, according to God’s word, is totally depraved and spiritually rent asunder by sin? It is in response to that question that our concept of dialectic becomes important. We said earlier that the dialectic addresses the inter-relatedness of foundational facts, and it is precisely within this inter-relatedness that several important dialectics emerge in Puritan preaching. These dialectics are evidential of specific ways in which the foundational facts of Puritan preaching are crystallized and brought to bear upon the parishioner’s mind.

~Organizational Dialectic~

“The receiving of the word consists of two parts: attention of mind and intention of will.”
–William Ames

The very essence of the dialectic in the trivium schematic is the organization it provides for the individual parts. Organization gives a global perspective to what would otherwise be isolated localities. Sentences and paragraphs are to the student of reading what sermon outlines are to the preacher. We might put it this way: just as Greek philosophers were expected to learn the laws of logic, so too Puritan preachers were expected to learn the laws of sermon organization. Puritan sermons were slaves (in a good sense) to methodology and organization. Puritan sermons were intentionally logical, they were–to borrow a phrase from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones–logic on fire. The Puritans were deeply concerned (perhaps too much) about form and structure within their sermons. As contemporary preachers of the gospel, we would be wise to mirror their concern.

William Perkins’ suggested preaching format that appears at the end of his The Art of Prophesying is a cogent example of the logical progression and systematic organization that marked Puritan sermons. Perkins advocates that preachers ought to:
1. Read the text distinctly out of the canonical scriptures.
2. Give the sense and understanding of it being read, by the scripture itself.
3. Collect a few and profitable points of doctrine out of the natural sense.
4. To apply, if he have the gift, the doctrines rightly collected to the life and manners of men in a simple and plain speech. [13]

Because of their deep and reverential commitment to the scriptures, the Puritans often belabored certain points of doctrine with seemingly excessive detail and scriptural proofs. They did this not because they particularly enjoyed prolixity of speech but because they “felt constrained to proceed to buttress each doctrine with the examples and testimonies of Scripture […] to ensure that the doctrine adduced from a specific text had the whole weight of Scripture behind it.” [14]

Ryken provides two very helpful windows into the organizational framework of a puritan sermon:

The Puritan sermon was planned and organized. It may have been long and detailed, but it did not ramble. It was controlled by a discernible strategy and it progressed toward a final goal. The methodology ensured that the content would be tied to Scripture, that the sermon would involve an intellectual grasp of the truth, and that theological doctrine would be applied to everyday living. [15]

The Puritan sermon quotes the text and “opens” it as briefly as possible, expounding circumstances and context, explaining its grammatical meanings, reducing its tropes and schemata to prose, and setting forth its logical implications; the sermon then proclaims in a flat, indicative sentence the “doctrine” contained in the text or logically deduced from it, and proceeds to the first reason or proof. Reason follows reason, with no other transition than a period and a number; after the last proof is stated there follow the uses or applications, also in numbered sequence, and the sermon ends when there is nothing more to be said. [16]

The Puritans stressed organization because they believed in the primacy of the intellect. They believed that grace enters the heart through the mind. According to Packer, “God does not move men to action by mere physical violence, but addresses their minds by his word, and calls for the response of deliberate consent and intelligent obedience. It follows that every man’s first duty in relation to the word of God is to understand it; and every preacher’s first duty is to explain it.” [17] It is the preacher’s job to explain the Bible in a clear, organized manner so that the sheep may approach it and feed upon it.

~Applicatory Dialectic~

“It would grieve one to the heart to hear what excellent doctrine some ministers have in hand, while yet they let it die in their hands for want of close and lively application.”
–Richard Baxter

Church pews are full of people who “know” the central tenants of the Christian faith and yet sadly remain unchanged by them. There are also people in the pews that sincerely love the doctrines of the Christian faith but remain perpetually unsure of their practical relation to daily life. The Puritans were keenly aware of both of these phenomenons. Consequently, the Puritans labored to bring the text of scripture to bear upon the individual consciences of each and every listener. Puritan preachers worked hard to be practical, for they realized that “doctrine is lifeless unless a person can ‘build bridges’ from biblical truth to everyday living.” [18] Thus Thomas Hooker can write, “When we read only of doctrines these may reach the understanding, but when we read or hear of examples, human affection doth as it were represent to us the case as our own.” [19] The puritans achieved practicality in preaching predominantly through the use of application. [20]

The breadth of Puritan application was anything but narrow. Ryken summarizes William Perkins’ seven categories of application from the Art of Prophesying, depending on the individual conditions of the listeners:

I. Unbelievers who are both ignorant and unteachable….II. Some are teachable, but yet ignorant….III. Some have knowledge, but are not as yet humbled….IV. Some are humbled….V. Some do believe….VI. Some are fallen….VII. There is a mingled people…. [21]

Perkins’ application matrix did not stop here for he devised six types of application to all seven types of listeners in any one sermon. Taken to its full extent, every doctrinal statement of the sermon would require forty-two distinct applications in order to make application to every class of listener. This was, of course, not possible. But according to Packer,

[…] anyone making an inventory of puritan sermons will soon find examples of all forty-two specific applications, often developed with very great rhetorical and moral force. Strength of application was, from one standpoint, the most striking feature of Puritan preaching, and it is arguable that the theory of discriminating application is the most valuable legacy that Puritan preachers have left to those who would preach the Bible and its gospel effectively today. [22]

It is clear that Puritan preachers were not content with the bare relaying of facts and information. Instead, their preaching was oriented toward specific goals and the best way to accomplish this, in their mind, was to strike at the center of the listener’s conscience. What better way to accomplish this than through personal application of the text? According to Beeke, “Applicatory preaching is the process of riveting truth so powerfully in people that they cannot help but see how they must change and how they can be empowered to do so.” [23] This type of preaching, as one might expect, was inherently confrontational without being cruel. Applicatory preaching is not “safe” preaching, for it involves meddling with the minds and wills of men. Beeke illustrates it well,

[…] applicatory preaching is often costly preaching. As has often been said, when John the Baptist preached generally, Herod heard him gladly. But when John applied his preaching particularly, he lost his head. Both internally in a preacher’s own conscience, as well as in the consciences of his people, a fearless application of God’s truth will cost a price. [24]

God, we suspect, would have it no other way.

~Discriminatory Dialectic~

“There is not a sermon which is heard, but it sets us nearer heaven or hell.”
–John Preston

When children are learning to spell errors are legion. One soon discovers that the discriminatory use of a dictionary is quite necessary. The discriminatory function of the gospel is similar to the discriminatory use of a dictionary–they both divide truth from error. Once all the data of scripture has been assembled for a particular text, the Puritan preacher was aware that the conclusion of that data would necessarily provoke distinctions among his audience. Truth by definition is exclusive and therefore any pulpit proclamation of the truth would divide the hearers in some way. This division in the Puritan mind was both unavoidable and absolutely necessary.

The purpose of Puritan preaching was never peripheral. Rather, it was preeminently bent toward the producing and sustaining of the new birth. Such a purpose obviously presupposed that some men were yet spiritually dead. A common theme in Puritan preaching, therefore, was the elucidation of a dividing line between the saved and the lost. If what the Bible says is true (and the Puritans believed it was) then preachers were under necessary compulsion to draw such a line in nearly every sermon. [25] And not just draw the line, but know how to influence those on either side of the line. The Puritan Joseph Hall put it this way, “The minister must discern between his sheep and wolves; in his sheep, between the sound and the unsound; in the unsound, between the weak and the tainted; in the tainted, between the nature, qualities, and degrees of the disease and infection; and to all these he must know to administer a word in season.” [26]

Discriminatory preaching, says Beeke, “clearly defines the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, opening the kingdom of heaven to one and closing it against the other.” [27]

The Puritan preachers did not follow this discriminatory model of preaching because it was faddish to do so. They followed it because they saw it in the Bible. In the Puritan mind, Jesus was the greatest of the discriminatory preachers. His sermon on the mount was the magnum opus of pulpit discrimination. Puritan preachers understood well that granting a false security to spiritual hypocrites was the most destructive of spiritual medicines.

PART THREE: THE RHETORIC OF PURITAN PREACHING

We have discussed at length both the foundational facts of Puritan preaching, namely its reliance of the Christo-centric Word of God, as well as various dialectical devices that the Puritans employed to bring those foundational facts of Scripture to bear upon the minds of men. We are now prepared to discuss various factors that shaped the actual delivery of Puritan sermons. It is not our goal to investigate the technical components of such delivery (i.e., its length, volume, syntax, etc.) as much as it is the man behind the delivery. Puritan preachers did not ascend their pulpits as mere voice boxes. They went instead as whole men, bearing the full integration of flesh, personality, and spirit. They did in fact bear a common allegiance in the science of rhetoric, but their rhetoric was not a naked science. Their proclamation of the Word of God–as heralds of Christ–gives evidence of spiritual vitality in fullest measure.

~Sanctified Rhetoricians~

“If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly,
more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.”
–John Owen

Puritan preachers understood well the danger of pulpit hypocrisy. Since preaching was an inherently spiritual activity, it was therefore impossible to proclaim the importance of spiritual life via a life that was itself spiritually malnourished. Both Puritan preachers and their congregations placed a high premium upon the importance of having “godly” ministers of the gospel. The Puritans understood that the relationship between the pastor and his congregation was symbiotic. If the pastor was spiritually stagnant how could the congregation expect a living flow from his mouth? William Perkins stated it well, “He [the pastor] must first be godly affected himself who would stir up godly affections in other men.” [28] The record of Perkins’ life confirms this for he was greatly loved by his congregation for his purity of life. It is said of Perkins, “He lived sermons, and as his preaching was a comment on his text, so his practice was a comment on his preaching.” [29]

Acute knowledge of the cause-and-effect relationship between the preacher’s personal character and his fruitfulness as a pastor led the Puritans in the constant pursuit of a sanctified life. They knew that their ministries depended upon it. Indeed,

A minister’s work is usually blessed in proportion to the sanctification of his heart before God. Ministers must therefore seek grace to build the house of God with sound experiential preaching and doctrine as well as with a sanctified life. Our preaching must shape our life, and our life must adorn our preaching. [30]

The Puritan David Dickson is famous for charging a minister at his ordination to study two books together: the Bible, and his own heart. [31] Packer notes, “Their strenuous exercise in meditation and prayer, their sensitiveness to sin, their utter humility, their passion for holiness, and their glowing devotion to Christ equipped them to be master-physicians of the soul. And deep called to deep when they preached, for they spoke of the black depths and high peaks of Christian experience first-hand.” [32] The Puritan John Boys summarized it timelessly, “He doth preach most who doth live best.” [33]

~Spiritual Rhetoric~

“Ministers knock at the door of men’s hearts, the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door.”
–Thomas Watson

The Puritan preachers were men of robust intellect and disciplined study. History shows us that they prepared their sermons carefully with painstaking and meticulous detail. [34] Their appreciation for sound logic and intellectually stimulating argument is largely lacking for parallels in the history of humanity. The Puritans were not, however, foolish enough to depend upon their intellect and study for the gathering of souls and the perfecting of the church. They knew fundamentally that preaching, though highly dependent upon the intellect, was reaching for a goal that the intellect could not definitively move, namely a dead soul.

They prayed. In fervent prayer they sought the Spirit to accompany their work in the pulpit. Anyone who envisions Puritan preaching as devoid of spirituality and anchored in a logical quagmire has yet to understand it. Baxter writes, “Prayer must carry on our work as well as preaching; he preacheth not heartily to his people, that prayeth not earnestly for them. If we prevail not with God to give them faith and repentance, we shall never prevail with them to believe and repent.” [35] John Bunyan picks up the refrain, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed….Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.” [36]

In short, the Puritans believed in the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit when it came to conversion. They understood that the ultimate success of gospel preaching was not left to the man in the pulpit. Packer speaks for the Puritans when he says, “Man’s task is simply to be faithful in teaching the word; it is God’s work to convince of its truth and write it in the heart. The Puritans would have criticized the modern evangelistic appeal, with its wheeling for ‘decisions,’ as an unfortunate attempt by man to intrude into the Holy Spirit’s province. It is for God, not man, to fix the time of conversion.” [37]

~Simple Rhetoric~

“It is a by-word among us: It was a very plain sermon: And I say again, the plainer, the better.”
–William Perkins

Despite the proclivity of words that dominated the speech patterns of their day, Puritan preaching was aimed endlessly at simplicity. “Plain speech” was their consummate goal. It bears saying that our present culture’s love for verbal paucity and childish grammatical construction may make us the least qualified to evaluate the actual impact of such an aim. Our present culture seems ignorant of the fact that one can speak long and yet be simple.

It was specifically William Perkins’ The Art of Prophesying that forever changed the homiletical landscape of Puritan England. Perkins was primarily responsible for the universal adoption of the new Reformed method by the seventeenth-century Puritans, a method which was characterized by a plain style of preaching that delivered sermons in an easy to grasp progression of exegesis, doctrines, proofs, and uses. [38] Unfortunately, to be sure, this “plain” preaching was not always quite so plain. Nevertheless, Puritan preaching must be judged less by its supposed “plainness” and more by its results. According to Pipa, “In our day Puritan preaching is considered prolix and scholastic, yet in its time, Puritan preaching revolutionized England and paved the way for the Long Parliament and the Westminster Assembly.” [39]

It is the author’s conviction that current students of Puritan preaching often equate mistakenly the Puritan concept of “plainness” with lack of complexity. Puritan preachers like Perkins were aiming for simplicity of speech and unadorned logic, not necessarily brevity and anti-complexity. Their style may have been difficult as times, but its theological and practical fruit are undeniable even up to our present hour. At the end of the day we can only say that the proof is in the pudding. The plain style of preaching advocated by Perkins did not return void in Puritan England and left an indelible mark on the face of Christianity for enduring centuries.

According to Ryken, “Plain preaching was defined by what it lacked as well as by what it contained […]. What the Puritans did not want was a pastiche of quotations or an embellished style that called great attention to its own ostentatiousness.” [40] The Puritans understood the tendency for men in the pulpit to make preaching into a mere exercise of ego. Instead of rendering praise unto the Triune God, the congregations of such men would be tempted to render praise unto the medium and not the source. William Perkins was a staunch critic of such ego-centric preaching.

Contra Rome, Puritan preachers wanted the Word of God living in the minds of men and that meant communicating it in such a way so as to insure its lodging. Richard Sibbes claimed that “truth feareth nothing so much as concealment, and desireth nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all: when it is most naked, it is most lovely and powerful.” [41] Puritan preachers endeavored to reach all men with the gospel, both the learned and the unlearned. This meant writing sermons that common folk could imbibe and learned men could appreciate. William Perkins obviously understood this for it was said of his preaching, “His sermons were not so plain but that the piously learned did admire them, nor so learned but that the plain did understand them.” [42]

~Sincere Rhetoric~

“I preached, as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”
–Richard Baxter

All of the aforementioned culminated in what scholars often refer to as experiential or affective preaching. Beeke defines it as such,

preaching that seeks to explain in terms of biblical, Calvinistic truth how matters ought to go, how they do go, and the end goal of the Christian life […] it addresses the entire range of Christian living, focusing heavily on a believer’s well-being and maturity. With the Spirit’s blessing, the mission of such preaching is to transform the believer in all that he is and does to become more and more like the savior. [43]

All in all, experiential preaching characterized the Puritan preacher’s sincere desire to measure the experienced knowledge of himself and his congregation against the touchstone of Scripture. Experiential preaching was more than anything else an appeal to both the heart and minds of men, women, and children. It aimed to change them, not just land on them. Richard Baxter carries the meaning well when he says,

As man is not so prone to live according to the truth he knows except it do deeply affect him, so neither doth his soul enjoy its sweetness, except speculation do pass to affection. The understanding is not the whole soul, and therefore cannot do the whole work….The understanding must take in truths, and prepare them for the will, and it must receive them and commend them to the affections;…the affections are, as it were, the bottom of the soul. [45]

Puritan preaching was not lecturing; it was a desperate calling unto souls. It was a sincere plea to be right with God at the expense of all else. Because of its magisterial content, preaching ought to be a serious and sober engagement. According to Richard Baxter, “Of all the preaching in the world, I hate that preaching which tends to make the hearers laugh, or to move their minds with tickling levity and affect them as stage plays used to, instead of affecting them with a holy reverence for the name of God.” [46]

CONCLUSION

This paper has charted the foundational facts of Puritan preaching (i.e., its grammar), by which we refer to the Puritan’s extreme reverence for and submission to the Christo-centric Word of the Living God. We also observed three main principles of interrelation (i.e., its dialectic) which Puritan preaching used as a means of conveying the truth of that Christo-centric Word, namely organization, application, and discrimination. Lastly, we explored the Puritan art of expressing the sum total of its homiletical knowledge (i.e., its rhetoric) as seen in the spiritual character of the preachers themselves and the simple and sincere style of their preaching.

Hopefully the reader has gained a renewed appreciation for the significance of Puritan Preaching for the ultimate sake of preserving that which the modern church is far too prone to forget. If we are to avoid the eclipse of affective gospel preaching in our own day we must become students of the Puritans for they–perhaps more so than any other epoch of redemptive history since the Apostolic age–embodied the essence of biblical preaching. History has indeed validated the truthfulness of that statement because (to the author’s knowledge) preaching modeled after the Puritan method has never failed to benefit the church and thus give pleasure to Him who gave himself up for the church.

Husband to Elizabeth and father of four. Joe is a a student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. Joe served as an active duty officer in the Marine Corps for eleven years and is currently serving as an instructor pilot in the Marine Corps Reserves. An aspiring pastor, Joe travels to Europe this summer to investigate Reformed church planting amidst American military communities stationed abroad. http://www.reformation21.org/

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

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

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

I. First, then,

MAN’S INABILITY.
The text says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Wherein does this inability lie?

First, it does not lie in any physical defect. If in coming to Christ, moving the body or walking with the feet should be of any assistance, certainly man has all physical power to come to Christ in that sense. I remember to have heard a very foolish Antinomian declare, that he did not believe any man had the power to walk to the house of God unless the Father drew him. Now the man was plainly foolish, because he must have seen that as long as a man was alive and had legs, it was as easy for him to walk to the house of God as to the house of Satan. If coming to Christ includes the utterance of a prayer, man has no physical defect in that respect, if he be not dumb, he can say a prayer as easily as he can utter blasphemy. It is as easy for a man to sing one of the songs of Zion as to sing a profane and libidinous song. There is no lack of physical power in coming to Christ. All that can be wanted with regard to the bodily strength man most assuredly has, and any part of salvation which consists in that is totally and entirely in the power of man without any assistance from the Spirit of God.

Nor, again, does this inability lie in any mental lack. I can believe this Bible to be true just as easily as I can believe any other book to be true. So far as believing on Christ is an act of the mind, I am just as able to believe on Christ as I am able to believe on anybody else. Let his statement be but true, it is idle to tell me I cannot believe it. I can believe the statement that Christ makes as well as I can believe the statement of any other person. There is no deficiency of faculty in the mind: it is as capable of appreciating as a mere mental act the guilt of sin, as it is of appreciating the guilt of assassination. It is just as possible for me to exercise the mental idea of seeking God, as it is to exercise the thought of ambition. I have all the mental strength and power that can possibly be needed, so far as mental power is needed in salvation at all. Nay, there is not any man so ignorant that he can plead a lack of intellect as an excuse for rejecting the gospel. The defect, then, does not lie either in the body, or, what we are bound to call, speaking theologically, the mind. It is not any lack or deficiency there, although it is the vitiation of the mind, the corruption or the ruin of it, which, after all, is the very essence of man’s inability.

Permit me to show you wherein this inability of man really does lie. It lies deep in his nature. Through the fall, and through our own sin, the nature of man has become so debased, and depraved, and corrupt, that it is impossible for him to come to Christ without the assistance of God the Holy Spirit. Now, in trying to exhibit how the nature of man thus renders him unable to come to Christ, you must allow me just to take this figure. You see a sheep; how willingly it feeds upon the herbage! You never knew a sheep sigh after carrion; it could not live on lion’s food. Now bring me a wolf; and you ask me whether a wolf cannot eat grass, whether it cannot be just as docile and as domesticated as the sheep. I answer, no; because its nature is contrary thereunto. You say, “Well, it has ears and legs; can it not hear the shepherd’s voice, and follow him whithersoever he leadeth it?” I answer, certainly; there is no physical cause why it cannot do so, but its nature forbids, and therefore I say it cannot do so. Can it not be tamed? Cannot its ferocity be removed? Probably it may so far be subdued that it may become apparently tame; but there will always be a marked distinction between it and the sheep, because there is a distinction in nature. Now, the reason why man cannot come to Christ, is not because he cannot come, so far as his body or his mere power of mind is concerned, but because his nature is so corrupt that he has neither the will nor the power to come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit.

But let me give you a better illustration. You see a mother with her babe in her arms. You put a knife into her hand, and tell her to stab that babe to the heart. She replies, and very truthfully, “I cannot.” Now, so far as her bodily power is concerned, she can, if she pleases; there is the knife, and there is the child. The child cannot resist, and she has quite sufficient strength in her hand immediately to stab it to its heart. But she is quite correct when she says she cannot do it. As a mere act of the mind, it is quite possible she might think of such a thing as killing the child, and yet she says she cannot think of such a thing; and she does not say falsely, for her nature as a mother forbids her doing a thing from which her soul revolts. Simply because she is that child’s parent she feels she cannot kill it. It is even so with a sinner. Coming to Christ is so obnoxious to human nature that, although, so far as physical and mental forces are concerned, (and these have but a very narrow sphere in salvation) men could come if they would: it is strictly correct to say that they cannot and will not unless the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them. Let us enter a little more deeply into the subject, and try to show you wherein this inability of man consists, in its more minute particulars.

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

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

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

4. Yet once more–conscience, too, has been overpowered by the fall. I believe there is no more egregious mistake made by divines, than when they tell people that conscience is the vicegerent of God within the soul, and that it is one of those powers which retains its ancient dignity, and stands erect amidst the fall of its compeers. My brethren, when man fell in the garden, manhood fell entirely; there was not one single pillar in the temple of manhood that stood erect. It is true, conscience was not destroyed. The pillar was not shattered; it fell, and it fell in one piece, and there it lies along, the mightiest remnant of God’s once perfect work in man. But that conscience is fallen, I am sure. Look at men. Who among them is the possessor of a “good conscience toward God,” but the regenerated man? Do you imagine that if men’s consciences always spoke loudly and clearly to them, they would live in the daily commission of acts, which are as opposed to the right as darkness to light? No, beloved; conscience can tell me that I am a sinner, but conscience cannot make me feel that I am one. Conscience may tell me that such-and-such a thing is wrong, but how wrong it is conscience itself does not know. Did any man s conscience, unenlightened by the Spirit, ever tell him that his sins deserved damnation? Or if conscience did do that, did it ever lead any man to feel an abhorrence of sin as sin? In fact, did conscience ever bring a man to such a self-renunciation, that he did totally abhor himself and all his works and come to Christ? No, conscience, although it is not dead, is ruined, its power is impaired, it hath not that clearness of eye and that strength of hand, and that thunder of voice, which it had before the fall; but hath ceased to a great degree, to exert its supremacy in the town of Mansoul. Then, beloved, it becomes necessary for this very reason, because conscience is depraved, that the Holy Spirit should step in, to show us our need of a Saviour, and draw us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Still,” says one, “as far as you have hitherto gone, it appears to me that you consider that the reason why men do not come to Christ is that they will not, rather than they cannot.” True, most true. I believe the greatest reason of man’s inability is the obstinacy of his will. That once overcome, I think the great stone is rolled away from the sepulchre, and the hardest part of the battle is already won. But allow me to go a little further. My text does not say, “No man will come,” but it says, “No man can come.” Now, many interpreters believe that the can here, is but a strong expression conveying no more meaning than the word will. I feel assured that this is not correct. There is in man, not only unwillingness to be saved, but there is a spiritual powerlessness to come to Christ; and this I will prove to every Christian at any rate. Beloved, I speak to you who have already been quickened by the divine grace, does not your experience teach you that there are times when you have a will to serve God, and yet have not the power? Have you not sometimes been obliged to say that you have wished to believe. but you have had to pray, Lord, help mine unbelief?” Because, although willing enough to receive God’s testimony, your own carnal nature was too strong for you, and you felt you needed supernatural help. Are you able to go into your room at any hour you choose, and to fall upon your knees and say, “Now, it is my will that I should be very earnest in prayer, and that I should draw near unto God ?” I ask, do you find your power equal to your will? You could say, even at the bar of God himself, that you are sure you are not mistaken in your willingness; you are willing to be wrapt up in devotion, it is your will that your soul should not wander from a pure contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but you find that you cannot do that, even when you are willing, without the help of the Spirit. Now, if the quickened child of God finds a spiritual inability, how much more the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin? If even the advanced Christian, after thirty or forty years, finds himself sometimes willing and yet powerless–if such be his experience,–does it not seem more than likely that the poor sinner who has not yet believed, should find a need of strength as well as a want of will?

But, again, there is another argument. If the sinner has strength to come to Christ, I should like to know how we are to understand those continual descriptions of the sinner’s state which we meet with in God’s holy Word? Now, a sinner is said to be dead in trespasses and sins. Will you affirm that death implies nothing more than the absence of a will? Surely a corpse is quite as unable as unwilling. Or again, do not all men see that there is a distinction between will and power: might not that corpse be sufficiently quickened to get a will, and yet be so powerless that it could not lift as much as its hand or foot? Have we never seen cases in which persons have been just sufficiently re-animated to give evidence of life, and have yet been so near death that they could not have performed the slightest action? Is there not a clear difference between the giving or the will and the giving of power? It is quite certain, however, that where the will is given, the power will follow. Make a man willing, and he shall be made powerful; for when God gives the will, he does not tantalize man by giving him to wish for that which he is unable to do; nevertheless he makes such a division between the will and the power, that it shall be seen that both things are quite distinct gifts of the Lord God.

Then I must ask one more question: if all that were needed to make a man willing, do you not at once degrade the Holy Spirit? Are we not in the habit of giving all the glory of salvation wrought in us to God the Spirit? But now, if all that God the Spirit does for me is to make me willing to do these things for myself, am I not in a great measure a sharer with the Holy Spirit in the glory? and may I not boldly stand up and say, “It is true the Spirit gave me the will to do it, but still I did it myself, and therein will I glory; for if I did these things myself without assistance from on high, I will not cast my crown at his feet; it is my own crown, I earned it, and I will keep it.” Inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is evermore in Scripture set forth as the person who worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure, we hold it to be a legitimate inference that he must do something more for us than the mere making of us willing, and that therefore there must be another thing besides want of will in a sinner–there must be absolute and actual want of power.

Now, before I leave this statement, let me address myself to you for a moment. I am often charged with preaching doctrines that may do a great deal of hurt. Well, I shall not deny the charge, for I am not careful to answer in this matter. I have my witnesses here present to prove that the things which I have preached have done a great deal of hurt, but they have not done hurt either to morality or to God’s Church; the hurt has been on the side of Satan. There are not ones or twos but many hundreds who this morning rejoice that they have been brought near to God; from having been profane Sabbath-breakers, drunkards, or worldly persons, they have been brought to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ; and if this be any hurt may God of his infinite mercy send us a thousand times as much. But further, what truth is there in the world which will not hurt a man who chooses to make hurt of it? You who preach general redemption, are very fond of proclaiming the great truth of God’s mercy to the last moment. But how dare you preach that? Many people make hurt of it by putting off the day of grace, and thinking that the last hour may do as well as the first. Why, if we never preached anything which man could misuse, and abuse, we must hold our tongues for ever.

Still says one, “Well then, if I cannot save myself, and cannot come to Christ, I must sit still and do nothing.” If men do say so, on their own heads shall be their doom. We have very plainly told you that there are many things you can do. To be found continually in the house of God is in your power; to study the Word of God with diligence is in your power; to renounce your outward sin, to forsake the vices in which you indulge, to make your life honest, sober, and righteous, is in your power. For this you need no help from the Holy Spirit; all this you can do yourself; but to come to Christ truly is not in your power, until you are renewed by the Holy Ghost. But mark you, your want of power is no excuse, seeing that you have no desire to come, and are living in wilful rebellion against God. Your want of power lies mainly in the obstinacy of nature. Suppose a liar says that it is not in his power to speak the truth, that he has been a liar so long, that he cannot leave it off; is that an excuse for him? Suppose a man who has long indulged in lust should tell you that he finds his lusts have so girt about him like a great iron net that he cannot get rid of them, would you take that as an excuse? Truly it is none at all. If a drunkard has become so foully a drunkard, that he finds it impossible to pass a public–house without stepping in, do you therefore excuse him? No, because his inability to reform, lies in his nature, which he has no desire to restrain or conquer. The thing that is done, and the thing that causes the thing that is done, being both from the root of sin, are two evils which cannot excuse each other, What though the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots? It is because you have learned to do evil that you cannot now learn to do well; and instead, therefore, of letting you sit down to excuse yourselves, let me put a thunderbolt beneath the seat of your sloth, that you may be startled by it and aroused. Remember, that to sit still is to be damned to all eternity. Oh! that God the Holy Spirit might make use of this truth in a very different manner! Before I have done I trust I shall be enabled to show you how it is that this truth, which apparently condemns men and shuts them out, is, after all, the great truth, which has been blessed to the conversion of men.

II. Our second point is

THE FATHER’S DRAWINGS.
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” How then does the Father draw men? Arminian divines generally say that God draws men by the preaching of the gospel. Very true; the preaching of the gospel is the instrument of drawing men, but there must be some thing more than this. Let me ask to whom did Christ address these words? Why, to the people of Capernaum, where he had often preached, where he had uttered mournfully and plaintively the woes of the law and the invitations of the gospel. In that city he had done many mighty works and worked many miracles. In fact, such teaching and such miraculous attestation had he given to them, that he declared that Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago in sack-cloth and ashes, if they had been blessed with such privileges. Now, if the preaching of Christ himself did not avail to the enabling these men to come to Christ, it cannot be possible that all that was intended by the drawing of the Father was simply preaching. No, brethren, you must note again, he does not say no man can come except the minister draw him, but except the Father draw him.

Now there is such a thing as being drawn by the gospel, and drawn by the minister, without being drawn by God. Clearly, it is a divine drawing that is meant, a drawing by the Most High God–the First Person of the most glorious Trinity sending out the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, to induce men to come to Christ. Another person turns round and says with a sneer, “Then do you think that Christ drags men to himself, seeing that they are unwilling!” I remember meeting once with a man who said to me, Sir, you preach that Christ takes people by the hair of their heads and drags them to himself” I asked him whether he could refer to the date of the sermon wherein I preached that extraordinary doctrine, for if he could, I should be very much obliged. However, he could not. But said I, while Christ does not drag people to himself by the hair of their heads, I believe that, he draws them by the heart quite as powerfully as your caricature would suggest. Mark that in the Father’s drawing there is no compulsion whatever; Christ never compelled any man to come to him against his will. If a man be unwilling to be saved, Christ does not save him against his will. How, then, does the Holy Spirit draw him? Why, by making him willing. It is true he does not use “moral suasion;” he knows a nearer method of reaching the heart. He goes to the secret fountain of the heart, and he knows how, by some mysterious operation, to turn the will in an opposite direction, so that, as Ralph Erskine paradoxically puts it, the man is saved “with full consent against his will;” that is, against his old will he is saved. But he is saved with full consent, for he is made willing in the day of God’s power. Do not imagine that any man will go to heaven kicking and struggling all the way against the hand that draws him. Do not conceive that any man will be plunged in the bath of a Saviour’s blood while he is striving to run away from the Saviour. Oh, no. It is quite true that first of all man is unwilling to be saved. When the Holy Spirit hath put his influence into the heart, the text is fulfilled–“draw me and I will run after thee.” We follow on while he draws us, glad to obey the voice which once we had despised. But the gist of the matter lies in the turning of the will. How that is done no flesh knoweth; it is one of those mysteries that is clearly perceived as a fact, but the cause of which no tongue can tell, and no heart can guess.

The apparent way, however, in which the Holy Spirit operates, we can tell you. The first thing the Holy Spirit does when he comes into a man’s heart is this: he finds him with a very good opinion of himself: and there is nothing which prevents a man coming to Christ like a good opinion of himself. Why, says man, “I don’t want to come to Christ. I have as good a righteousness as anybody can desire. I feel I can walk into heaven on my own rights.” The Holy Spirit lays bare his heart, lets him see the loathsome cancer that is there eating away his life, uncovers to him all the blackness and defilement of that sink of hell, the human heart, and then the man stands aghast. “I never thought I was like this. Oh! those sins I thought were little, have swelled out to an immense stature. What I thought was a mole-hill has grown into a mountain; it was but the hyssop on the wall before, but now it has become a cedar of Lebanon. Oh,” saith the man within himself, “I will try and reform; I will do good deeds enough to wash these black deeds out.” Then comes the Holy Spirit and shows him that he cannot do this, takes away all his fancied power and strength, so that the man falls down on his knees in agony, and cries, “Oh! once I thought I could save myself by my good works, but now I find that

“Could my tears for ever flow,
Could my zeal no respite know
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and thou alone,
‘”Then the heart sinks, and the man is ready to despair. And saith he, “I never can be saved. Nothing can save me.” Then, comes the Holy Spirit and shows the sinner the cross of Christ, gives him eyes anointed with heavenly eye-salve, and says, “Look to yonder cross. that Man died to save sinners; you feel that you are a sinner; he died to save you.” And he enables the heart to believe, and to come to Christ. And when it comes to Christ, by this sweet drawing of the Spirit, it finds “a peace with God which passeth all understanding, which keeps his heart and mind through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now, you will plainly perceive that all this may be done without any compulsion. Man is as much drawn willingly, as if he were not drawn at all; and he comes to Christ with full consent, with as full a consent as if no secret influence had ever been exercised in his heart. But that influence must be exercised, or else there never has been and there never will be, any man who either can or will come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

III. And, now, we gather up our ends, and conclude by trying to make a practical application of the doctrine; and we trust a comfortable one. “Well,” says one, “if what this man preaches be true, what is to become of my religion? for do you know I have been a long while trying, and I do not like to hear you say a man cannot save himself. I believe he can, and I mean to persevere; but if I am to believe what you say, I must give it all up and begin again.” My dear friends, it will be a very happy thing if you do. Do not think that I shall be at all alarmed if you do so. Remember, what you are doing is building your house upon the sand, and it is but an act of charity if I can shake it a little for you. Let me assure you, in God’s name, if your religion has no better foundation than your own strength, it will not stand you at the bar of God. Nothing will last to eternity, but that which came from eternity. Unless the everlasting God has done a good work in your heart, all you may have done must be unravelled at the last day of account. It is all in vain for you to be a church-goer or chapel-goer, a good keeper of the Sabbath, an observer of your prayers: it is all in vain for you to be honest to your neighbours and reputable in your conversation; if you hope to be saved by these things, it is all in vain for you to trust in them. Go on; be as honest as you like, keep the Sabbath perpetually, be as holy as you can. I would not dissuade you from these things. God forbid; grow in them, but oh, do not trust in them, for if you rely upon these things you will find they will fail you when most you need them. And if there be anything else that you have found yourself able to do unassisted by divine grace, the sooner you can get rid of the hope that has been engendered by it the better for you, for it is a foul delusion to rely upon anything that flesh can do. A spiritual heaven must be inhabited by spiritual men, and preparation for it must be wrought by the Spirit of God.

“Well,” cries another, “I have been sitting under a ministry where I have been told that I could, at my own option, repent and believe, and the consequence is that I have been putting it off from day to day. I thought I could come one day as well as another; that I had only to say, “Lord, have mercy upon me,’ and believe, and then I should be saved. Now you have taken all this hope away for me, sir; I feel amazement and horror taking hold upon me.” Again, I say, “My dear friend, I am very glad of it. This was the effect which I hoped to produce. I pray that you may feel this a great deal more. When you have no hope of saving yourself, I shall have hope that God has begun to save you. As soon as you say “Oh, I cannot come to Christ. Lord, draw me, help me,’ I shall rejoice over you. He who has got a will, though he has not power, has grace begun in his heart, and God will not leave him until the work is finished.”

But, careless sinner, learn that thy salvation now hangs in God’s hand. Oh, remember thou art entirely in the hand of God. Thou hast sinned against him, and if he wills to damn thee, damned thou art. Thou canst not resist his will nor thwart his purpose. Thou hast deserved his wrath, and if he chooses to pour the full shower of that wrath upon thy head, thou canst do nothing to avert it. If, on the other hand, he chooses to save thee, he is able to save thee to the very uttermost. But thou liest as much in his hand as the summer’s moth beneath thine own finger. He is the God whom thou art grieving every day. Doth it not make thee tremble to think that thy eternal destiny now hangs upon the will of him whom thou hast angered and incensed? Dost not this make thy knees knock together, and thy blood curdle? If it does so I rejoice, inasmuch as this may be the first effect of the Spirit’s drawing in thy soul. Oh, tremble to think that the God whom thou hast angered, is the God upon whom thy salvation or thy condemnation entirely depends. Tremble and “kiss the Son lest he be angry and ye perish from the way while his wrath is kindled but a little.”

Now, the comfortable reflection is this:–Some of you this morning are conscious that you are coming to Christ. Have you not begun to weep the penitential tear? Did not your closet witness your prayerful preparation for the hearing of the Word of God? And during the service of this morning, has not your heart said within you, “Lord, save me, or I perish, for save myself I cannot?” And could you not now stand up in your seat, and sing.

“Oh, sovereign grace my heart subdue;
I would be led in triumph, too,
A willing captive of my Lord,
To sing the triumph of his Word.”
And have I not myself heard you say in your heart–“Jesus, Jesus, my whole trust Is in thee: I know that no righteousness of my own can save me, but only thou, O Christ–sink or swim, I cast myself on thee?” Oh, my brother, thou art drawn by the Father, for thou couldst not have come unless he had drawn thee. Sweet thought! And if he has drawn thee, dost thou know what is the delightful inference? Let me repeat one text, and may that comfort thee: “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Yes, my poor weeping brother, inasmuch as thou art now coming to Christ, God has drawn thee; and inasmuch as he has drawn thee, it is a proof that he has loved thee from before the foundation of the world. Let thy heart leap within thee, thou art one of his. Thy name was written on the Saviour’s hands when they were nailed to the accursed tree. Thy name glitters on the breast-plate of the great High Priest to-day; ay, and it was there before the day-star knew its place, or planets ran their round. Rejoice in the Lord ye that have come to Christ, and shout for joy all ye that have been drawn of the Father. For this is your proof, your solemn testimony, that you from among men have been chosen in eternal election, and that you shall be kept by the power of God, through faith, unto the salvation which is ready to be revealed.

Charles Spurgeon, Human Inability

Here are few links to articles that captured my attention this week that I think are worth your time to check out as well……….

The Forgotten Sin-What Worldliness Looks Like–Phil Johnson

Depravity Biblically Defined–Josh Buice

Arminianism–J.I.Packer

John Piper’s Exposition From The Third Lausanne Congress

I wonder if anyone will hear a sermon like this today………..Sadly not enough.

 

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 2, 1855, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.F there were no other text in the sacred Word except this one, I think we should all be bound to receive and acknowledge the truthfulness of the great and glorious doctrine of God’s ancient choice of his family. But there seems to be an inveterate prejudice in the human mind against this doctrine; and although most other doctrines will be received by professing Christians, some with caution, others with pleasure, yet this one seems to be most frequently disregarded and discarded. In many of our pulpits it would be reckoned a high sin and treason to preach a sermon upon election, because they could not make it what they call a “practical” discourse. I believe they have erred from the truth therein. Whatever God has revealed, he has revealed for a purpose. There is nothing in Scripture which may not, under the influence of God’s Spirit, be turned into a practical discourse: for “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable” for some purpose of spiritual usefulness. It is true, it may not be turned into a free-will discourse—that we know right well—but it can be turned into a practical free-grace discourse: and free-grace practice is the best practice, when the true doctrines of God’s immutable love are brought to bear upon the hearts of saints and sinners. Now, I trust this morning some of you who are startled at the very sound of this word, will say, “I will give it a fair hearing; I will lay aside my prejudices; I will just hear what this man has to say.” Do not shut your ears and say at once, “It is high doctrine.” Who has authorized you to call it high or low? Why should you oppose yourself to God’s doctrine? Remember what became of the children who found fault with God’s prophet, and exclaimed, “Go up, thou bald-head; go up, thou bald-head.” Say nothing against God’s doctrines, lest haply some evil beast should come out of the forest and devour you also. There are other woes beside the open judgment of heaven— take heed that these fall not on your head. Lay aside your prejudices: listen calmly, listen dispassionately: hear what Scripture says; and when you receive the truth, if God should be pleased to reveal and manifest it to your souls, do not be ashamed to confess it. To confess you were wrong yesterday, is only to acknowledge that you are a little wiser to-day; and instead of being a reflection on yourself, it is an honour to your judgment, and shows that you are improving in the knowledge of the truth. Do not be ashamed to learn, and to cast aside your old doctrines and views, but to take up that which you may more plainly see to be in the Word of God. But if you do not see it to be here in the Bible, whatever I may say, or whatever authorities I may plead, I beseech you, as you love your souls, reject it; and if from this pulpit you ever hear things contrary to this Sacred Word, remember that the Bible must be the first, and God’s minister must lie underneath it. We must not stand on the Bible to preach, but we must preach with the Bible above our heads. After all we have preached, we are well aware that the mountain of truth is higher than our eyes can discern; clouds and darkness are round about its summit, and we cannot discern its topmost pinnacle; yet we will try to preach it as well as we can. But since we are mortal, and liable to err, exercise your judgment; “Try the spirits whether they are of God”; and if on mature reflection on your bended knees, you are led to disregard election—a thing which I consider to be utterly impossible—then forsake it; do not hear it preached, but believe and confess whatever you see to be God’s Word. I can say no more than that by way of exordium.
Now, first, I shall speak a little concerning the truthfulness of this doctrine: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” Secondly, I shall try to prove that this election is absolute: “He hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation,” not for sanctification, but “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Thirdly, this election is eternal, because the text says, “God hath from the beginning chosen you.” Fourthly, it is personal: “He hath chosen you.” Then we will look at the effects of the doctrine—see what it does; and lastly, as God may enable us, we will try and look at its tendencies, and see whether it is indeed a terrible and licentious doctrine. We will take the flower, and like true bees, see whether there be any honey whatever in it; whether any good can come of it, or whether it is an unmixed, undiluted evil.
I. First, I must try and prove that the doctrine is TRUE. And let me begin with an argumentum ad hominem; I will speak to you according to your different positions and stations. There are some of you who belong to the Church of England, and I am happy to see so many of you here. Though now and then I certainly say some very hard things about Church and State, yet I love the old Church, for she has in her communion many godly ministers and eminent saints. Now, I know you are great believers in what the Articles declare to be sound doctrine. I will give you a specimen of what they utter concerning election, so that if you believe them, you cannot avoid receiving election. I will read a portion of the 17th Article upon Predestination and Election:—
“Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hast continually decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.”
Now, I think any churchman, if he be a sincere and honest believer in Mother Church, must be a thorough believer in election. True, if he turns to certain other portions of the Prayer Book, he will find things contrary to the doctrines of free-grace, and altogether apart from scriptural teaching; but if he looks at the Articles, he must see that God hath chosen his people unto eternal life. I am not so desperately enamoured, however, of that book as you may be; and I have only used this Article to show you that if you belong to the Establishment of England you should at least offer no objection to this doctrine of predestination.
Another human authority whereby I would confirm the doctrine of election, is, the old Waldensian creed. If you read the creed of the old Waldenses, emanating from them in the midst of the burning heat of persecution, you will see that these renowned professors and confessors of the Christian faith did most firmly receive and embrace this doctrine, as being a portion of the truth of God. I have copied from an old book one of the Articles of their faith:—
“That God saves from corruption and damnation those whom he has chosen from the foundations of the world, not for any disposition, faith, or holiness that he foresaw in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ Jesus his Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of his own free-will and justice.”
It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, which are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me. Were I a Pelagian, or a believer in the doctrine of free-will, I should have to walk for centuries all alone. Here and there a heretic of no very honourable character might rise up and call me brother. But taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren—I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God’s own church.
I also give you an extract from the old Baptist Confession. We are Baptists in this congregation—the greater part of us at any rate—and we like to see what our own forefathers wrote. Some two hundred years ago the Baptists assembled together, and published their articles of faith, to put an end to certain reports against their orthodoxy which had gone forth to the world. I turn to this old book—which I have just published [The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)]— and I find the following as the
3rd Article: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto.”  Read The Rest Here