Here’s a beautiful post pointing to Christ by my friend over at The Domain for Truth.
Last evening we watched Logic on Fire – A documentary film about Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Just incredible! It showed very powerfully what is lacking today. If you haven’t you seen it, you need to see it! Especially if you are a preacher. It was a privilege and a blessing to watch it. I need to watch it again.
(Watch trailer below)
Almost everything that was said is antithetical to the direction of the Church today. I dread where it will be in 20 years. It always seems to be looking for something new, something relevant that will be attractive to people today. When will we understand that people are DEAD in trespasses and sins. Nothing, NOTHING but the power of God can give a sinner life. That is message that is reiterated over and over and over again in the Documentary and is what Dr Lloyd-Jones emphasised through his ministry because it is the message of the Bible itself.
We (my wife and I) came to faith on the coat-tails of that period. MLJ was still alive when I became a believer and his influence was still very powerful in the Church. In fact the Church I attended was heavily influenced by him. One of the founding members and his wife were personal friends of The Dr. I think he preached the opening sermon. The first minister of the Church (REFC) was Rev Kenneth Howard (more of him another time) and came highly recommended by Dr Lloyd-Jones. And I believe Peter Jeffery was also recommended or at least known by him – one of ‘Lloyd-Jones boys’ (will check facts for this).
There are some great contributions by many that knew him. And it was encouraging to see younger preachers being blessed and encouraged through his life and ministry.
If you have never heard him preach go to The MLJ Trust and download some of his sermons. They are timeless because The Gospel is timeless and still very powerful. I listened to one of the sermons recently and it could have been preached today even though it was preached 50 years ago.
The Belgic Confession – Article 23: About Our Justification, by Which We Stand Fast in God’s Presence.
“Certainly it is proper that if we were to stand in the presence of God, relying ever so little upon ourselves or any other creature, it is certain that we would be instantly engulfed in wrath. For this reason, it is preferable for each of us, in turn, to call out with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servant, because any living thing will not be justified in your gaze.” (Extract)
Where it says ‘ever so little’ is a quaint way – that I quite like – of saying we cannot trust in anything at all, nothing, no good works, no secret small island of our own righteousness, not our church (however good and faithful it is) or our attendance, even our praying or our Bible reading, but we stand solely on the righteousness of Christ Alone for our Justification. Trusting to any of these other things will engulf us in the Wrath of God.
I’m slowly reading through some of the historic confessions. Very profitable – I recommend it.
I can’t believe this has sat in my ‘Drafts’ box for almost a year. It’s true. So with a few edits and additions it should still make sense as this year I aim to hit the deadline!
July 8th is the anniversary of the most famous – or infamous – sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards at Enfield, Connecticut July 8, 1741 on the text ‘Their foot shall slide in due time’ Deut. 32:35 with the title; ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’.
On July 7th (2014) I was talking to a Christian work colleague about this sermon though completely unaware of the date. They had never heard of it. The very next day I discovered ‘Issues etc’ had reviewed the sermon on July 7th (2014) in ‘celebration’ of the following historic day. I related this the following day at work. Then on that Sunday evening (2014) it was mentioned again (unaware of the date I think) as part of the introduction to the ministry at our Church. So as the sermon is ‘still’ on my mind I’ll get to it..
It’s been some while since reading the sermon and because I suspect a good number of people will be completely unaware of the sermon by Edwards I mention it here. Before saying much I needed to re-read the sermon. The sermon text is formatted very well for reading or printing HERE.
You will find the sermon text appearing in anthologies in many University departments, and not just in Departments of Religion but in English & History departments and will probably find it in Psychology as well. Check out your University Library catalogue. It will mostly be an object of wonder and incredulity that such a great mind was able to produce something so utterly horrific – so would say the secular mind and sadly I suspect many Christians. The fact that Edwards was one of the greatest minds America has ever produced was a source of amazement to Perry Miller. Miller thought Edwards religion ‘a waste of an intellect’. I think this quote is in Millers’s volume on Edwards. Funny how it didn’t stop Miller spending most of his life studying him and The Puritans though!
I was surprised to find Issues etc both critiquing and criticising the sermon, especially for its lack of Gospel content. It was an eye opener for me (my naivety) regarding Lutheranism – at least that section of it. I completely disagree. Set in the context of Edwards target parishioners, the sermon and the fact that it wasn’t his regular topic should make us cautious in analysing the sermon. Back in Edwards day there was an acceptance that God hates and judges sin. I also disagree as to its Gospel content or application. It blazes out against the backdrop of God’s wrath. The context of the sermon is that in the midst of a ‘Revival’ where many sinners are turning to Christ for salvation the people in Enfield are careless about the things of God, careless for their souls and are not embracing the Saviour by responding to the Gracious invitation of The Gospel. This is stated in the very first sentence of the sermon – ‘…. God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as in verse 28) void of counsel, having no understanding in them’.
For more on this sermon see George Marsden’s book ‘Jonathan Edwards: A Life‘ pages 219 – 226. Note page 224:
‘When Isaac Watts received the printed version of the sermon he wrote on his copy: “A most terrible sermon, which should have had a word of Gospel at the end [of] it, though I think ’tis all true”. Edwards had offered this one brief Gospel word, but if one had taken this sermon as characteristic of his preaching, it would have been dreadfully out of balance. Edwards could take it for granted, however, that a New England audience knew well that Gospel remedy. The problem was to get them to seek it.’
Also see Iain Murray’s book ‘Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography’ page 169 ff.
The sermon is mentioned on page 87 in ‘America: A Narrative History’ by George Brown Tindall & David Emory Still (1997, 4th Edition) as ‘his most famous sermon’. ‘America’ was a course textbook for A History of America course that I took while studying for a BA at Warwick University.
The sermon was preached by Edwards several times, at least twice anyway. According to Harry S. Stout it was preached at Edwards church in Northampton with little effect (The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, Hart, Lucas, Nichols, Eds. p.43). But when it was preached at Enfield ‘the effects were extraordinary’. An eye-witness account by the Reverend Stephen Williams tells that, ‘before ye sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying out throughout ye whole House. What shall I do to be saved-oh I am going to Hell-oh what shall I do for a christ etc. etc.-so that ye minister was obliged to desist. [The] shrieks and crys were piercing and Amazing. (p.43)’. It seems then, Edwards was unable to finish the sermon due to cries of the affected people crying out for mercy.
I’ll just make a few observations with appropriate quotes from the sermon. Followed by a closing application.
Before moving on however, let’s note the title. Three words that do not sit well with our modern world – Sinners, Angry & God.
Once the meaning is grasped and even if it isn’t, people do not like the idea of being called a ‘sinner’. Never have, and never will. Why do people take umbrage and think there is something special about them that entitles a free pass? It’s our pride that is offended; though there is nothing to be proud of before Almighty God. We are all in the same boat. The Bible plainly tells us ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God’. Apart from the Grace of God we are all condemned. It’s a great leveler.
Being angry these days is not an option. Anybody that is angry is in danger of receiving at the very least a bad press or even the sack. But we should be very careful and never think that God’s anger is like ours. God’s anger is always a Righteous & Holy anger. The object of His anger is anything that doesn’t conform to His Glorious character – that’s us. We are rebel sinners, shaking our fists at God – either consciously or unconsciously. And we don’t like anyone pointing that out to us. Frankly, if we had any sense and were in our right mind, this sermon should scare the pants off us and drive us to Christ in repentance and faith.
Note Edwards God (The God of The Bible) is not the modern manifestation of God – a whimsical fluffy deity able to be manipulated by His creatures. Typically, recent discussions in the CofE and the ‘Gay’ marriage debate vision a God that moves with the times without a care for what He has said in His Word (The Bible).
Note the following passages that should disabuse sinful pretentious men of a fluffy view of The Almighty in their rebellion against God:
‘The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this.
“There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell,
but the mere pleasure of God.” By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his
sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation…’
Edwards moves on setting out several ‘considerations’ that back up this truth about God:
‘…. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.-He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. ….’
God stands as the Potter. We are but clay. Rebellious clay at that. These are terrible truths. In the last paragraph of the section where he lays out our plight before God, he writes:
‘…. thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, ….’
Edwards moves into his application and tells us again the purpose of the message. ‘The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.’ Sometimes we hear sermons and it can be difficult to know just who the preacher is addressing. Not so with Edwards. It’s those people in the congregation that are rejecting the Gospel and yet still presume come the day of wrath God will welcome them into heaven. This is a sermon of compassion, of love for the people and love for the honour of God and His truth as found in the Gospel of Christ.
To hear sermons on this topic today are relatively rare. Are they rare because as people, including preachers, we are not so conscious or aware of God’s Holiness and His burning purity or hatred of sin. That’s a bad thing. The fault is in us, not with Edwards. And yet probably like you I’ve sat under so-called Hell-Fire’ preaching where the people are completely unmoved. Some years ago I had the opportunity of preaching to a congregation of elderly people. This meeting would happen once a month. As you stand at the end and they file past to have their cup of tea they say something along the lines of ‘lovely sermon’. You have just preached to them the dreadful consequences of being lost, of not repenting, of rejecting Christ and they say ‘lovely sermon’. They are unmoved – at least outwardly. O how we need the Spirit of God to move in the hearts of the unregenerate, to awaken them (maybe you) to their need. I do not criticised these things, but it’s not our polished delivery, it’s not our pulpit eloquence or our deep learning that raises the dead – it’s the Spirit of God.
Edwards in the final sections of the sermon urges his hearers;
‘And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?’
‘And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now harken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence’.
‘Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation: Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”‘
Observations & Comments
It’s true, it is a terrifying sermon. And yet, it will continue to be dissected, critiqued and criticised. It will also be ignored. Did they not do this with Jesus too when upon the earth.
Even many Christians have never heard of it. Are we embarrassed by it? By its plainness of speech. Does not Edwards accurately describe our condition before a Holy God. Does not Edwards rightly expose us all to the God of the Bible? This is no whimsical deity that can be manipulated by our supposed good deeds. There is only one remedy for our hopeless estate – the blood of Christ!
An Application for Today
Just as Edwards people were not embracing the Gospel, we in the West take for granted the love of God and are just as careless for the things of the true and living God. There’s a lot of talk about God’s love today, but not a lot of talk about it being a Holy & Righteous love. It’s spoken of as if we somehow are doing God a favour by allowing Him to love us. The attitude is that God will love us anyway no matter how much we reject and twist His Word. We re-define marriage, we murder children in the womb, we abuse His good gifts of male & female and yet expect Him to just roll over, ignore His Word and love us anyway. We expect to Him love us with no repentance and without The Gospel. Politicians – like David Cameron & Barrack Obama – speak loosely of ‘The Christian Faith’ or of the love of God but utterly reject His Word and treat The Lord Christ as if He was just one option out a plethora of religions. There are no options. They are presumptuous, in many ways the worst kind of sinner. Christ is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life. To reject Him is to reject God’s way, God’s truth and God’s life as offered in the Gospel. The are only two options – it’s either repent & believe the Gospel or expect to be cast into hell. The sermon by Edwards is criticised, rejected as abhorrent, as Politically Incorrect, as divisive, as Hate Speech, but is it loving to tell people, sinners, that all will be well when the truth is their Christ rejecting ideologies will sweep them into Hell & Judgement. I say no.
Those of us that by the grace of God have been brought to repentance faith – we know our hearts are wicked and depraved and without the grace of God would be swept into hell. Our hearts too are ‘idol factories’ and are no better than the worst of sinners. Like Paul we know in some measure the terror of the Lord and so persuade men to repent and believe the Gospel of the grace of God.
We perhaps work with people or have family members that have heard ‘the joyful sound that Jesus saves’ but say it isn’t for them. They assume all will be well – whatever that means. But all will not be well. The judgement upon those that have been surrounded by Christians will be truly awful. It isn’t just a case of passing over Christianity in preference for another religion, or even no religion, but they have in fact rejected the grace of God. They are in the world but without hope. They will be lost to the torments of hell.
May we as God’s people be challenged to consider just how gracious and merciful God has been to us. Will you, O lost sinner not see your danger and flee to Christ.
The next lecture in our Church History Lectures will be Andrew Davies on
George Whitefield & the Evangelical Revival
Date: 23rd Mar 2015
Place: Bulkington Congregational Church, Bulkington.
If you can make it, it would be great to see you. Andrew lectured for many years on Church History at London Theological Seminary. He has Pastored several Churches here in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Though retired, he now has a much appreciated itinerant ministry.
On my way to work I stopped to take this picture of a field of potatoes. It made me think of an Autobiography I read years ago by William Jay of Bath. There are only three things I can remember about the book.
1. He ministered in Bath (an old Roman town)
2. It was an unusually long ministry of 60 + years.
And finally, and this is the point of the field of potatoes. William Jay said this,
‘people that put their trust in relatives are like potatoes – the best part is underground’.
What he meant was that when people say ‘my Father or Grandfather was a Christian, or my Mother or Grandmother was a Christian and so on, they see no need to personally have faith in Christ by repenting and believing the Gospel.
We have three excellent lectures lined up for 2015. To whet your appetites here are the details.
16th February 2015
‘The Legacy of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’
23rd March 2015
‘George Whitfield and the Evangelical Revival’
20th April 2015
‘How Pure is the Church? – Augustine and the Donatists’
Geoff Thomas is Pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth.
Andrew Davies is a retired Pastor with an itinerant ministry and was also a Lecturer in Church History at London Theological Seminary.
Austin Walker is Pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, Sussex.
All lectures are on a Monday evening at Bulkington Congregational Church and start at 7.30.
I’ve been a bit remiss and neglected to post a link to the last lecture of 2014. Austin Walker was unable to give his lecture (see next post) but Dr Lesley Rowe ably stepped into the breach with her excellent lecture on Arthur Hildersham & the Plague Summer of 1625.
The parallels between then and our own day shouldn’t be lost on the hearer. Here’s the link – enjoy!
Going to Woodstock. No, not the Woodstock of festival fame, but the Historic small town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, England. There’s shop there that sells specialist paints and renovation products for older houses – Oldhouse.
It’s about an hours drive away. This was our second visit but haven’t had the time so far for a good look round. It was the first visit when I found another entrance to Blenheim Palace is actually in the town. I discovered it completely by accident looking for somewhere to park – a busy place on a Saturday morning.
Just a couple of pictures. Above is a pub just down from the The Old House Store. And below, judging from this entrance, is an old Coaching Inn, The Feathers.
A picture looking down the street over the road from The Feathers.
Behind me and down the street is the entrance to Blenheim Palace – picture next visit!
I was asked in a recent comment ‘What is Christianity?’ To be more accurate, I was asked; ‘Perhaps you would be able to explain what you take Christianity to be?’ The same person also commented ‘… isn’t the purpose of Christianity, the end goal, to get into heaven? You accomplish this via doing good etc.’ We will see from the Bible verses that follow: we do not become Christians by doing good.
Without being evasive it’s important to preface my reply with this; It isn’t ‘what I take’ Christianity to be that counts. It’s what God says through His Word that counts. What the Bible teaches is quite plain so anyone can check what I’m saying with the Bible text itself. In fact, please don’t take my word for it – check it out and read it for yourself! So ‘what I take Christianity to be’ is what the Bible plainly teaches and says it is. But yes, it is ‘my take’, the same take that has consistently been taught by the Historic Christian Church for the last 2000 years. I’m not saying anything new. To ask ‘What is Christianity’ is to ask What is a Christian? and What is a Church? And further it’s to ask What is the Gospel? These are THE most fundamental questions to ask. I’m not addressing the concept of a ‘Christian’ culture, or some form of social Christianity or of a National consciousness. And for the record, the UK is NOT a Christian nation. Being born in the UK has NEVER made a person a Christian, any more than being born in a bakery will make a person a loaf of bread (choose your own metaphor).
If you are still with me I’m going to quote some verses from the Bible that show plainly and beyond doubt that a person does not become a Christian by being good or doing good things. It depends solely on what someone else has done. Namely, it’s what Jesus Christ has done that counts.
Jesus is speaking in Luke 18:9-14
Luk 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
Luk 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Luk 18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
Luk 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
Luk 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!‘
Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Apostle Paul writing to the Romans 3:10-28
Rom 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Rom 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
Rom 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Rom 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
And Romans 5:1-12
Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Writing to the Galatians 3:1-13
Gal 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Gal 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
To the Ephesians 2:1-10
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Eph 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
And writing to Titus 3:3-7
Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Tit 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Tit 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
I’ll leave it at that, but the Bible teaches clearly and plainly that Salvation is not earned, it is a gift. A gift that is received through faith. Not airy fairy faith, but faith in a person – The Lord Jesus Christ. And what that person has done for sinners like me.
What exactly then has Jesus done that we couldn’t do for ourselves? How appropriate the timing of this post. What is Good about ‘Good Friday’ is that Jesus has paid the price of my Redemption in full by dying in place of the sinner. The charge against us as sinners is that we have not kept God’s law perfectly in every part. But Jesus has. We have not loved God with all our hearts & soul, but Jesus has. We need someone who can do it for us – Jesus has done this. And so the command of the Gospel is to Repent & Believe. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). In the light of all this John 3:16 makes perfect sense. Our response should be in the light of what God in Christ has done is to cry ‘Have mercy on me a sinner’.
This will all be quite shocking to anyone that’s never come across this before. But it’s what Christianity is all about. There’s something in us that wants to add something, or do something, to work our way into heaven. The Gospel message is incredibly radical: there’s nothing like it. We are called upon to simply trust in the work of another. And this Jesus didn’t just die, but rose from the dead having paid the price of Redemption in full. ‘It is finished’ Jesus cried from the Cross.to die no more. (John 19:30)
Verses 2 & 3 from the Hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ sum it up beautifully:
2. Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.
3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
‘Rock of Ages’ Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778
Finally, just because someone by the Grace of God becomes a Christian, a Saint, a believer, that doesn’t make them perfect. But it does make them forgiven, Justified & Righteous because they have been given (not earned or even deserved – Romans 6:23) the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus lived the perfect sinless life required by the law of God (Hebrews 4:15). And historically this is what the Reformation was about and still is about. A sinner is saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, by Christ Alone and to the Glory of God Alone.
Now, dear reader, you may not like this, but it’s what the Bible teaches. There is no hope outside of The Lord Jesus Christ. It is His work Alone to save. And if you are a believer, thank God for His Salvation wrought upon the Cross and now raised from the dead to die no more (Hebrews 7:25).
Repent therefore and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).