A Great Day in Aberystwyth

Pastor Geoff Thomas

In complete contrast to the ridiculous idea of having a donkey in a service of worship we were treated to the unadulterated Gospel at Alfred Place Baptist Church yesterday. Here Christ and His cross were at the centre, not donkeys, drums, entertainment and all manner of man-centred trivia. It was great to be in Aber and to hear Geoff Thomas again in his own inimitable way.

In the morning we were in Luke 19:45-48 ‘The Cleansing of the Temple’. In the evening it was Romans 8:11 ‘Christ Raised by the Spirit, and we are to be Raised Also’.

His sermons are available on Sermon Audio. Go here for MP3 Alfred Place for links.

I saw Geoff again this afternoon as he passed in his car. To my surprise he pulled over and we chatted for a while about apologetics and I asked about Greg Bahnsen. He did know him, and at one time Geoff had to stand in for him at an apologetics conference.

We continued to chat about apologetics, I thanked him for the Sunday ministry and in typical Geoff fashion he was back in his car and away.

Pilgrims Progress – Mason’s Notes 8 (The Gospel Minister)

This latest note from Mason is especially weighted towards ministers of the Gospel of Christ. The following note from Mason should make it clear that not every minister is a Minister of Christ.

Mason wisely quotes from Mark 4:24. You may be sure that if a minister speaks more of himself than of Christ, does not point poor lost sinners (that’s all of us) to Christ as the only hope, whose preaching does not consist in glorifying Christ, does not often name The Lord Jesus Christ, and does not preach the Cross of Christ then that minister is not a minister of Christ – avoid such a one no matter how sweet his words. Anyway, on to the text of Pilgrims Progress.

Interpreter: Then said Interpreter, Come in; I will show thee that which will be profitable to thee. So he commanded his man to light the candle, and bid Christian follow him; so he had him into a private room, and bid his man open a door; the which when he had done, Christian saw the picture a very grave person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it: It had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon its lips, the world was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.

Christian: Then said Christian, What means this?

Interpreter: The man whose picture this is, is one of a thousand: he can beget children, (1 Cor 4:15) travail in birth with children, (Gal 4:19) and nurse them himself when they are born. And whereas thou seest him with his eyes lift up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, and the law of truth writ on his lips: it is to show thee, that his work is to know, and unfold dark things to sinners; even as also thou seest him stand as if he pleaded with men. And whereas thou seest the world as cast behind him, and that a crown hangs over his head; that is to show thee, that slighting and despising the things that are present, for the love that he hath to his Master’s service, he is sure in the world that comes next, to have glory for his reward. Now, said the Interpreter, I have showed thee this picture first, because the man whose picture this is, is the only man whom the Lord of the place whither thou art going hath authorized to be thy guide in all difficult places thou mayest meet with in the way: wherefore take good heed to what I have showed thee, and bear well in thy mind what thou hast seen, lest in thy journey thou meet with some that pretend to lead thee right, but their way goes down to death (e).

Mason’s Note (e) page 36 of my edition.

This is the true picture of a gospel minister; one whom the Lord the Spirit has called and qualified for preaching the everlasting gospel. He is one who despises the world, is dead to it’s pleasures and joys; his chief aim is to exalt and glorify the Lord Jesus, his atoning blood, justifying righteousness, and finished salvation; and his greatest glory is to bring sinners to Christ, to point him out as the one way to heaven, and to edify and build up saints in him.

But here are many who profess to do this, but turn poor sinners out of the way, and point them to a righteousness of their own for justification in whole or in part. Of these the Spirit teaches us to beware: the former he leads and directs souls to love, and esteem highly, for their labours and faith in the Lord, and zeal for his honour and glory, and for the salvation of souls. “Take heed what you hear.” – Mark 4:24.

(My end note) Be very sure of this then; it is Satan’s work to keep poor souls away from Christ. And if he has to do that through the poison of false ministers or through the poison of religious observance he will.

Pilgrims Progress – Mason’s Notes 7

Christian: But, said Christian, are there no turnings nor windings, by which a stranger may lose his way?

Goodwill: Yes, there are many ways butt down upon this, and they are crooked and wide: but thus thou mayest distinguish the right from the wrong, the right only being strait and narrow (Matthew 7:14).

Then I saw in my dream, that Christian asked him further, if he could not help him off with his burden that was upon his back. For as yet he had not got rid thereof; nor could he by any means get it off without help.

He told him, “As to thy burden, be content to bear it until thou comest to the place of deliverance (a); for there it will fall from thy back of itself.”

Mason’s Note (a)

There is no deliverance from the guilt and burden of sin, but by the death and blood of Christ. Here observe, that, though a sinner, at his first coming to Christ, finds some comfort and encouragement, yet, he may not have a clear sense of pardon, and assurance of the forgiveness of his sins, but he may still feel the burden of them.

Then Christian began to gird up his loins, and to address himself to his journey. So the other told him, that by that he was gone some distance from the gate, he would come to the house of the Interpreter (b), at whose door he should knock, and he would show him excellent things. Then Christian took his leave of his friend, and he again bid him God speed.

Then he went on till he came at the house of the Interpreter (b), where he knocked over and over. At last one came to the door, and asked who was there.

Mason’s Note (b)

Christian comes to the house of the Interpreter; which means the Lord, the Spirit, the teacher of his people.

Pilgrims Progress – Mason’s Notes 6

No 6 in a series of posts from Mason’s Notes on Pilgrim Progress.

Goodwill: That mountain (the Law) has been the death of many, and will be the death of many more: it is well you escaped being by it dashed in pieces.

Christian: Why truly I do not know what had become of me there, had not Evangelist happily met me again as I was musing in the midst of my dumps; but it was God’s mercy that he came to me again, for else I had never come hither. But now I am come, such a one as I am, more fit indeed for death by that mountain, than thus to stand talking with my Lord. But O, what a favour is this to me, that yet I am admitted entrance here! (y)

Mason’s Note (y)

It is a sure sign of a genuine work of grace, when the heart ascribes all to grace. Here is no talk of being faithful to grace; no ascribing any thing to his own free-will or power; but his escaping from destruction, and being yet in the way of salvation, are wholly resolved in the grace of the gospel, the mercy of God, and into his free favour and almighty power. It is sweet to converse with Jesus of his free grace to wretched and a unworthy sinners. Do you not find it so?

Goodwill: We make no objections against any, notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither; they in no wise are cast out. And therefore good Christian, come a little way with me, and I will teach thee about the way thou must go. Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go. It was cast up by the patriarchs, prophets, Christ, and his apostles, and it is as strait as a rule can make it; this is the way thou must go.

Christian: But, said Christian, (z) are there no turnings nor windings, by which a stranger may lose his way?

Mason’s Note (z)

Christian is afraid of losing his way; a blessed sign of a gracious heart when it possesses good jealousy.

Pilgrims Progress – Mason’s Notes 5

365 x3 Classics for Summer Reading
Image by David Masters via Flickr

For those that missed it, there’s some very brief info about Mason in a previous post.

These posts follow a sort of format: The text of Pilgrims Progress is followed by the relevant note by Mason and then some more text of PP text and another note and so on. The text of Pilgrims Progress is available from Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

PP Text: So when he was got in, the man of the Gate asked him who directed him thither.

Christian: Evangelist bid me come hither and knock, as I did: and he said, that you, sir, would tell me what I must do.

Goodwill: An open door is set before thee, and no man can shut it.

Christian: Now I begin to reap

the benefits of my hazards.

Goodwill: But how is it that you came alone?

Christian: Because none of my neighbors saw their danger as I saw mine.

Goodwill: Did any of them know of your coming?

Christian: Yes, my wife and children saw me at the first, and called after me to turn again: also, some of my neighbors stood crying and calling after me to return; but I put my fingers in my ears, and so came on my way.

Goodwill: But did none of them follow you, to persuade you to go back?

Christian: Yes, both Obstinate and Pliable; but when they saw that they could not prevail, Obstinate went railing back; but Pliable came with me a little way.

Goodwill: But why did he not come through?

Christian: We indeed came both together until we came to the Slough of Despond, into the which we also suddenly fell. And then was my neighbor Pliable discouraged, and would not venture farther (t). Wherefore, getting out again on the side next to his own house, he told me I should possess the brave country alone for him: so he went his way, and I came mine; he after Obstinate, and I to this gate.

Mason’s Note (t)

A man may have company when he sets out for heaven, and yet go thither alone. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” – Matthew xx.16.

Goodwill: Then said Goodwill, Alas, poor man; is the celestial glory of so little esteem with him, that he counteth it not worth running the hazard of a few difficulties to obtain it?

Christian: Truly, said Christian, I have said the truth of Pliable; and if I should also say all the truth of myself, it will appear there is no betterment betwixt him and myself. It is true, he went back to his own house, but I also turned aside to go in the way of death, being persuaded thereto by the carnal arguments of one Mr. Worldly Wiseman (u).

Mason’s Note (u)

When there is true grace in the heart, it will take shame to itself, and give all the glory to God’s sovereign grace, for any difference there is between us and others. Free-grace kills free-will and pride, and lays the sinner low, while it exalts Christ, and causes sinners to triumph in His righteousness and salvation.

Goodwill: Oh, did he light upon you? What, he would have had you seek for ease at the hands of Mr. Legality! They are both of them a very cheat. But did you take his counsel?

Christian: Yes, as far as I durst. I went to find out Mr. Legality, until I thought that the mountain that stands by his house would have fallen upon my head; wherefore there I was forced to stop (x).

Mason’s Note (x)

Though Jesus knows what is in man, and all his ways, yet He will bring the soul to confession unto Him. See the loving heart of Christ to sinners, and the free communications he admits them to with himself. Oh! “ye his people, pour out your heart before him. God-Jesus is a refuge for us.” – Psalm lxii.8.

Pilgrim’s Progress – Mason’s Notes 4

In part 4 of this occasional series of posts on Mason’s Notes we find Pilgrim (Christian) arriving at the gate or door as he journeys towards the Celestial City.

‘Now Christian looked for nothing but death, and began to cry out lamentably; even cursing the time in which he met with Mr. Worldly Wiseman; still calling himself a thousand fools for hearkening to his counsel. He also was greatly ashamed to think that this gentleman’s arguments, flowing only from the flesh, should have the prevalency with him so far as to cause him to forsake the right way. This done, he applied himself again to Evangelist in words and sense as follows.

Christian: Sir, (o) what think you? Is there any hope? May I now go back, and go up to the wicket-gate? Shall I not be abandoned for this, and sent back from thence ashamed? I am sorry I have hearkened to this man’s counsel; but may my sin be forgiven?’

Mason’s Note (o)

Christian inquires if he may yet be happy. Legal hopes will bring on distress of soul, and despondency of spirit, as well as outward sins, there is no hope of a sinner’s being comforted by the Cross of Cross, till he is made sensible of this.

‘Evangelist: Then said Evangelist to him, Thy sin is very great, for by it thou hast committed two evils: thou hast forsaken the way that is good, to tread in forbidden paths. Yet will the man at the gate receive thee, for he has good-will for men; only, said he, take heed that thou turn not aside again, lest thou “perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.” (Psalm 2:12)

‘Then did Christian address himself to go back; and Evangelist, after he had kissed him, gave him one smile, and bid him God speed; (p) So he went on with haste, neither spake he to any man by the way; nor if any asked him, would he vouchsafe them an answer. He went like one that was all the while treading on forbidden ground, and could by no means think himself safe, till again he was got into the way which he had left to follow Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s counsel. So, in process of time, Christian got up to the gate. Now, over the gate there was written, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7)’

Mason’s Note (p)

Nothing but e gospel of Christ can direct our steps in the right way, and bring peace and comfort to our souls. It salutes us wit a cheering smile, a kiss of peace, and a blessing of consolation; and hence it wings our speed to Christ and holiness.

He knocked, therefore, more than once or twice, (q) saying,

“May I now enter here? Will he within
Open to sorry me, though I have been
An undeserving rebel? Then shall I
Not fail to sing his lasting praise on high.”

Mason’s Note (q)

This is praying and pleading in faith with God, for mercy and forgiveness of sin, through the blood of Christ Jesus.

At last there came a grave person to the gate, named Goodwill, who asked who was there, and whence he came, and what he would have.

Christian: Here is a poor burdened sinner. I come from the city of Destruction, but am going to Mount Zion, that I may be delivered from the wrath to come; I would therefore, sir, since I am informed that by this gate is the way thither, know if you are willing to let me in.

Goodwill: (r) I am willing with all my heart, said he; and with that he opened the gate.

Mason’s Note (r)

The gate will be opened to broken-hearted sinners. Here behold the love of Jesus, in freely and heartily recieveing every poor sinner who comes unto him. No matter how vile they have been, nor what sins they have committed: he love them freely, and recieves them graciously. For he has nothing but GOOD-WILL to them. Hence the heavenly host sang at his birth, Good-will towards men. (Luke 2:14)

‘So when Christian was stepping in, the other gave him a pull.’ (s)

Mason’s Note (s)

Every saved sinner is a brand plucked out of the fire by the loving arm of Christ. (Zechariah 3:2)

Pilgrim’s Progress – Mason’s Notes 3

It’s been a while but here’s number three in the occasional Mason’s Notes series. To get the details of what these notes are, and the little bit of who Mason was go to a previous post.

The picture on the left is of Christian (Bunyan calls him Christian though he still has his burden) out of the way that Evangelist had directed him. Having encountered Mr Worldly Wiseman Christian is encouraged to go another easier route to ease his burden. He is directed to the village of Morality ‘…there dwells a gentleman, whose name is Legality; a very judicious man, and a man of a very good name, that has skill to help men off with such burdens as thine from their shoulders; yea to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way; and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their burden.(c)

Mason’s Note on this (c)

Mr World Wiseman prefers Morality to Christ, the Straight Gate (to where Evangelist pointed him). This is the exact reasoning of the flesh. Carnal reason opposes spiritual truth. The notion of justification by our own obediance to God’s law, ever works in us, contrary to the law of justification by the obedience of Christ. Self-righteousness is as contrary to the faith of Christ as indulging the lusts of the flesh. The former is the white devil of pride, the latter the black devil of rebellion and disobedience. See the awful consequence of listening to the reasoning of the flesh.

The narrative continues with encouragements to go to the village of Morality ‘…where there are now houses standing empty, one of which thou mayest have at a reasonable rate; provision is there also cheap and good; and that which will make life more happy, is, to be sure that there thou shalt live by honest neighbours, in credit, and good fashion. In other words all will be well by living a good moral life.  Not that Bunyan would prefer us all to live immoral lives – but that our morality has no power to save or make us acceptable to a Holy Righteous God. Christian is pointed in the direction of the village which is by the way of ‘yonder high hill’. So Christian turned out of his way to go to Mr Legality’s house for help: (d) but behold, when he was got now hard by the hill, it seemed so high, and also that side of it  that was next the way-side did hang so much over, that Christian was afraid to venture farther, lest the hill should fall on his head; wherefore, there he stood still, and knew not what to do. Also, his burden now seemed heavier to him than while he was in his way. There came, also flashes of fire out of the hill, that made Christian afraid that he should be burned; here, therefore, he sweat, and did quake foe fear. And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr Worldly Wiseman’s counsel.

Mason’s Note (d)

And a sad turn it proved to him; for he turned from the work of Christ, for his salvation, to his works and obediaence; so did the Galations of old. Mark the consequence: Christian is afraid that Mount Sinai, all the dreadful curses of the law, would fall on his head.

Evangelist finds Christian and seeks to put him back on the right path.  Christian tells Evangelist that Mr Worldly Wiseman ‘looked like a gentleman… (f)‘. Here is Mason’s Note on this.

(f) Beware of taking men by their looks. They may look as gentle as lambs, while the poison of asps is under their tongues; whereby they infect many souls with pernicious errors and pestilent heresies, turning them from Christ, and the hope of justification, and of eternal life, through Him ONLY, to look and rely upon their own works, in whole or in part, for salvation.

The Bible is absolutely clear on this:

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 3:21  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–
Rom 3:22  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
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 3:25  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Rom 3:26  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

It cannot be plainer than the above statement by the Apostle Paul.  Yet, by nature we argue against our only hope or way of salvation. One should ask – why is this? THe answer is that by nature we are all rebellious sinners and apart from the grace of God in the Gospel of Christ not one would have hope. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.