Sermon Sunday – Samuel Davies – The Contrast of the Spiritually Sick/Healthy

September 25, 2011 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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The Characters of the Healthy and Sick, in a
Spiritual Sense, Considered and Contrasted

by Samuel Davies

“It is not the healthy who need a physician—but those who are sick.” Matthew 9:12

There is no article of faith more certain than that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient and most willing Savior, “able to save to the uttermost, all who come unto God through him,” and that “all who come unto him—he will never cast out.” Those who entrust their souls in his hands he keeps, and none of them is lost. It is also certain that all the guilty sons of Adam stand in the most absolute need of him: in vain do they look for salvation in any other. Without him, they are undone forever: and without him, their very existence becomes a curse, and their immortality but the duration of their misery. The disease of sin has so deeply infected their souls, that none but this divine Physician can heal them.

Since this is the case, who would not expect that Jesus would be universally the darling of mankind? Who would not expect that as many as are wounded, and just perishing of their wounds—would all earnestly apply to this Physician, and seek relief from him upon any terms? Who would suspect there should be so much as one heart cold and disaffected towards him? Must not all love and desire him, since all need him so extremely, and since he is so completely qualified to be their deliverer?

But, alas! notwithstanding such favorable presumptions from the nature of the thing, it is a most notorious fact that this divine Physician is but little regarded in our dying world. This all-sufficient and willing Savior is generally neglected by perishing sinners. There are thousands among us who have no affectionate thoughts of him, no eager longings after him, they exert no vigorous endeavors to obtain a saving interest in him, nor are they tenderly solicitous about it. They indeed profess his religion, and call themselves Christians after his name: they pay him the compliment of a bended knee, and now and then perform the external duties of religion, and thus have high hopes they shall be saved through him. But as to their hearts and affections, he has no share there: these are reserved for the world, which, in practical estimation, they prefer to him, whatever they profess.

Now whence is this strange and shocking phenomenon in the rational world? Whence is it, that the dying are careless about a Physician? That a Deliverer is neglected by those who are perishing? The true reason we may find in my text, “It is not the healthy who need a physician—but those who are sick.” That is, “those who imagine themselves well, however disordered they are in reality, do not feel their need of a physician, and therefore will not apply to him; but those who feel themselves sick, will eagerly apply to him, and put themselves under his care.”

This is the answer of Christ to the proud caviling Pharisees, who censured his free conversation with publicans and sinners, at an entertainment which Matthew had prepared for him. The publicans were a sort of tax collectors among the Jews, appointed by the Romans, whose tributaries they then were, to collect the levies or duties imposed by the government. They were generally people of bad morals, and particularly given to rapine and extortion in raising the taxes. On this account they were particularly hated by the Jews, especially by the strict sect of Pharisees. Their very office would have rendered them odious, even though they had behaved well in it; for it was a public badge of the slavery of the Jews to the Romans; which, to a people so proud and so fond of liberty as the Jews, was a mortification they could not patiently bear. The publicans, therefore, were objects of general contempt and abhorrence, as an abandoned sort of men; and the Jews, particularly the rigid and haughty Pharisees, held no conversation with them—but kept them at a distance, as though they had been excommunicated. Hence, says Christ, concerning one excommunicated by the church for incorrigible wickedness, “Let him be to you as an heathen man, and a publican,” Matt, 18:17, that is, have no fellowship with him—but treat him as the Jews do the publicans.

The condescending Jesus, who “came to seek and save that which was lost,” did not conduct himself towards those poor outcasts, upon the rigid principles of the Pharisees. They held them in such contempt, that they did not labor to instruct and reform them. But Jesus preached to them, conversed with them freely, treated them most condescending and affable, and ingratiating measures to reform them, and called some of them to the honor of being his disciples. Of this number was Matthew, the author of this history; once an abandoned publican, afterwards a disciple, an apostle, and one of the four evangelists, whose immortal writings have diffused the vital savor of the name of Jesus through all ages and countries.

Oh, the condescension, the freeness, the efficacy of the grace of Christ! It can make a publican into an apostle! It can make an abhorred outcast into the favorite of heaven, and the companion of angels! What abundant encouragement does this give to the most abandoned sinner among you to turn unto the Lord! Let publicans and sinners despair of mercy and salvation if they continue in their present condition; but if they arise and follow Jesus at his call, and become his humble, teachable disciples, they need not despair; nay, they may rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and be assured they shall be admitted into the kingdom of God—when the self-righteous and religious are shut out.

When Matthew had embraced the call, he made a feast for his new Master, that he might show his respect and gratitude to him, and that he might let his fellow publicans and old companions have an opportunity of conversing with him, and receiving his instructions. How natural is it for a sinner, just brought to love Jesus, to use means to allure others to him, especially his former companions! Having seen his own guilt and danger, he is deeply affected with theirs, and would willingly lead them to that Savior who has given him so gracious a reception. Indeed his sincere endeavors of this kind, though the most substantial and unselfish evidences of friendship, often excite the contempt and ridicule of his former companions; and the more so, as they are generally attended with the imprudent but well-meant blunders of inexperience, and an honest zeal mingled with wild-fire. But at times such a convert is made the instrument of bringing those to be his companions in the way to heaven, who had walked with him in the ways of sin: and this is sufficient encouragement to such of you as have been called, like Matthew, to use your best endeavors with our fellow-sinners. Who knows but we may “save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins?” And what a noble, beneficent exploit is this!

The blessed Jesus, who was always ready to embrace every opportunity of doing good, whatever popular odium it might expose him to, cheerfully complies with Matthew’s invitation, and mingles with a crowd of publicans at his table. Like a physician—he employs himself in an hospital, among the sick and dying, and not among the healthy and mirthful. The conversation of sinners could not be agreeable to him for itself; but as it gave him opportunity of doing them good, it afforded him a sincere pleasure. To converse with his Father and the holy angels in his native heaven, would have been more pleasing in itself to his holy soul; but if by conversing with sinners in our guilty world, he can but save the perishing creatures, he cheerfully submits to self-denial, and even rejoices in it; just as a compassionate physician, though he has no pleasure in the melancholy haunts of sickness—yet frequents them, that he may relieve the distressed.

The Pharisees now thought they had a good handle to raise popular clamor against Christ, and therefore cavil at these freedoms, as though they had been profane and inconsistent with the character of the Messiah, or even of a prophet. If he claimed this character, they thought it much more befitting in him to keep company with them—than with profligate publicans. Hence to stumble and perplex his disciples, they come to them, and ask, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” The disciples were not as yet endowed with that mouth and wisdom which all their enemies could not withstand; and therefore Jesus answers them, and takes upon himself his own defense. “It is not the healthy who need a physician—but those who are sick.”

Some suppose, that by the healthy, Christ means those who were really healthy, or who were not so infected with the disease of sin, as to stand in need of him as a physician. And when such people can be found among the sons of men, this exposition will appear more plausible. But since we know that all have sinned, and stand in need of Christ as a Savior, it is much more reasonable, I think, to suppose that, by the healthy, Christ means those who imagined themselves to be healthy, though really languishing with the deadly disease of sin. It seems to me that he here answers the Pharisees upon their own principles, and proves his conduct to be justifiable, even supposing their high opinion of themselves, and their contemptuous idea of the publicans, to be true; as if he had said, “I come into the world under the character of a physician for sick souls. Such, you will grant, these despised publicans are; and therefore, you must also grant, that these are the people I have to deal with, and these are the most likely to make application to me. But as for yourselves, you think that you are righteous; you think you are not so far gone with the disease of sin as to need a physician sent down from heaven to heal you. Now I will not determine at present, whether this high opinion you have of yourselves is just or not. Be it right or wrong, it is certain, that while you entertain it, you cannot consistently find fault with my conduct. If you are such, I have no business with you, as a physician. I must, therefore, rather choose to converse with these sinners, who now begin to see themselves such, and to be sensible of their need of a physician.”

Thus, as I observed, Jesus here vindicates his conduct even upon the principles of the Pharisees themselves. It was not now to his purpose to dispute the high opinion they had of themselves; even that opinion furnished him with a sufficient defense. But, when it was proper, he faithfully exposes their true character, as proud, self-righteous hypocrites, and denounces the most dreadful woes against them!

I might perhaps render the matter plainer by a familiar illustration. Suppose a man of learning in company with two people: the one really ignorant—but highly conceited of his knowledge, and consequently unteachable; the other ignorant too—but sensible of it, and therefore desirous of instruction: suppose he should turn from the self-conceited creature, and carry on conversation with the other, who was likely to profit by it; and suppose the former should resent it, and say, “If he were indeed a scholar, as he pretends to be—then he would not be fond of the society of such an ignorant dunce—but would rather choose me for a companion.” How properly might a teacher reply, “Oh! you are a wise man; and have no need of my instruction; and, therefore, as a teacher, I have no business with you; but this poor, ignorant creature is sensible of his lack of instruction; and, therefore, it is most fit I should converse with him.” Such a reply has a peculiar pungency and mortifying force in it; and such Jesus used in the case before us.

To give a fuller view of this text, and to adapt it to practical purposes, I intend to describe the CHARACTERS of those who are healthy—and of those who are sick, in the senses here intended:

There are none of the sons of men who are really HEALTHY. Their souls are all diseased; for all have sinned, and there are none righteous, no, not one! And perhaps there are none upon earth so proud, and so ignorant of themselves, as to affirm in so many words, that they are healthy; that is, “perfectly righteous.” Therefore, by the healthy, cannot be meant either those who are really free from all sin; or those who imagine themselves entirely free from it. It does not appear that even the proud Pharisees were capable of flattering themselves so far.

But by the healthy, are meant those who are indeed guilty, depraved sinners, and who are ready to make a superficial confession in words that they are sinners—but continue secure and impenitent, insensible of their guilt, their corruption, their danger, and their need of a Savior. That is, those who are really sick and dangerously ill—and yet are as easy, as unapprehensive of danger, as careless about applying to the physician, as if nothing ailed them. The disease is of a lethargic nature, and stupefies the unhappy creatures, so that they are not sensible of it. It renders them delirious, so that they think themselves well—when the symptoms of death are strong upon them.

What multitudes of such may we see in the world! The Word of God pronounces them dangerously ill; their friends may see the most deadly symptoms upon them—but alas! They are stupidly insensible of their own case. Jesus, the divine Physician, warns them of their danger, offers them his help, and prescribes to them the infallible means of recovery; but they disregard his warnings, neglect his gracious offer, and refuse to submit to his prescriptions. This is the general character of those who are healthy, in the sense of my text.

By the SICK, are meant those who, like the former, are really guilty, corrupt sinners, in extreme need of a Savior—and who readily confess they are such. But here lies the difference, they are not only such in reality, and they not only acknowledge that they are such—but they are deeply sensible of it, they are tenderly affected with their case! Their temper and conduct, their thoughts of themselves and of Jesus Christ, their designs and endeavors, are such as are natural to a soul sensibly sick of sin—and such as bear a resemblance to those of a person sick in body, and using all means for a recovery.

It is the characteristic of this class of sinners; not that they are less holy, or in more danger, than others; but that they are more sensible of their condition, and more solicitous and laborious about deliverance. They feel themselves disordered; they put themselves under the care of Jesus, the only Physician of souls; they submit to his prescriptions, and use all means for their recovery to soundness of mind, from the deadly disease of sin! This is the general character of the sick, in the sense of my text; but it is necessary I should descend to particulars.

The particular characters of the healthy and the sick, in contrast, are such as these:

1. He who is healthy has never had a clear affecting sight and sense of sin; but he who is sick is fully convicted, and deeply sensible of it.

The HEALTHY one has only a general, superficial, unaffecting conviction, that he is ‘a sinner’: that he has not been as good as he should have been; that his heart is somewhat disordered; and especially that he has been guilty of sundry bad actions. But, alas; he neither sees his sinfulness in its full extent, nor is suitably affected with that little of it which he sees. He does not clearly see the entire and universal corruption of his heart, and the numberless principles and seeds of sin that are there. He does not clearly see the blindness of his mind as to divine things. He does not clearly see the secret disaffection of his heart towards God and holiness. He does not clearly see the carnality of his mind, and his lukewarmness and formality in the duties of religion. He may have a transient glance, a superficial view of these things; but he has not a deep, settled conviction of them: nor is he suitably affected with what he knows of his own sinfulness.

It does not appear to him such a mighty matter to have such a disordered heart towards God, to have dropped a forbidden word now and then, or to have committed a few bad actions; few, I say, for so they appear to him, though repeated times and ways beyond number. SIN appears to him a trifling peccadillo, a small evil, and he has a thousand excuses to make for it. Hence he is as easy, as careless, as presumptuous in his hopes, as if he believed he did not really deserve punishment from a righteous God, and therefore was in no danger. Though the leprosy of sin spreads ever so wide, and breaks out into ever so many putrid and mortifying sores—yet he is easy and secure, and insensible of the disease! Thus, like a man in health, he is unconcerned, and neither apprehends himself sick, nor uses the least means for his recovery!

Oh! what multitudes of such are among us! They will confess themselves ‘sinners’, with as little concern as if they were quite free from sin, or as if they thought there was little or no danger in it.

But is it so with the poor SICK sinner! Oh! no! He sees, he feels that his whole head is sick, and his whole heart faint, and that from the crown of the head, even unto the sole of the foot, there are nothing but wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores! He feels the plague of a hard, senseless heart, and the secret springs of wickedness within him. He feels that sin has enfeebled all his powers, and that he is no more able to exert them in pious endeavors, than a sick man is to employ himself in active life. Oh! into what a consternation is the sinner struck, when he is awakened out of his lethargic security, and his eyes are opened to see himself in a just light! He had flattered himself that he had a good constitution of soul, and that little or nothing ailed him; but now he is surprised to see the strong symptoms of spiritual death upon himself!

Suppose some of you, who have come here today vigorous and healthy, should suddenly discover the spots of a plague broken out all over you, how would it strike you with surprise and horror! Such is the surprise and horror of the awakened sinner; thus is he alarmed and amazed! So clear are his views of his entire and universal depravity, and imminent danger—that he is utterly astonished he was so stupid as never to discover it before. Now, also, he has a deep sense of the evil of sin: he not only sees himself universally disordered—but he sees, he feels the disorder to be deadly! Sin now appears to him—to be the greatest evil upon earth, or even in hell. Oh! how worthy of the severest vengeance from a righteous God! Oh! how contrary to the divine purity! Oh! how base, how ungrateful a violation of the most strong and endearing obligations! Oh! how destructive to the soul, not only according to the penalty of the divine law—but in its own native tendency!

During the progress of the Christian life, he feels himself recovering a little, though very slowly, while he follows the prescriptions of his divine Physician, and receives healing influences from him. He feels his enfeebled soul gathering a little strength; his vitiated taste gradually corrected; and the welcome symptoms of returning health; but oh! he is sensibly sick still. The cure is not complete in this world; but the remains of his old disorder hang upon him all his life, and he is subject to many dangerous relapses, in which it gathers new strength—and he is afraid it is incurable!

2. Those who are healthy are generally easy and secure, and unapprehensive of danger; but the sick soul is alarmed and anxious—and cannot be easy, until it perceives some appearances of recovery. He who is healthy, is benumbed with a stupid insensibility; but he who is sick—is in pain from the disease of sin, which he sensibly feels. The one can walk about merry and thoughtless, with a hard, depraved heart within him; the other is perpetually uneasy, and, like a sick man, has no taste for anything while he feels such a heart within him. If the healthy one is anxious—it is with some worldly care; if the sick one is anxious—it is chiefly for the recovery of his dying soul.

The healthy one can give himself up to business, or pleasure, or idleness, as a man in health, and at ease; the SICK one is apprehensive that his soul is in great danger; and, like a sick man, gives up his eager pursuits, until he sees whether he is likely to recover. He is alarmed with the deadly consequences of sin, as it exposes him to the wrath of God, the loss of heaven, and all the miseries of the infernal world. But this is not all that distresses him; he considers sin, in itself, as a loathsome disease, and is pained with its present effects upon him. As a sick man is not only alarmed at the consequence of his disease, namely, death—but considers it as a present pain, and as depriving him of the present comforts of life; so the sick soul feels sin to be a loathsome, painful disease, which now deprives it of the exalted pleasures of religion, and renders it incapable of serving its God with vigor and life.

This indisposition of soul for the exercises of piety, is, in itself, a constant uneasiness to him who is spiritually sick. How strongly does Paul represent the case, when he cries out, “Oh! wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” Romans 7:24. The image seems to be that of a living man walking about with a rotten, nauseous carcass tied fast to him, which oppresses him, and he cannot, with all his efforts, cast it off; but it lies heavy upon him wherever he goes—which constrains him to cry out, “Oh! who shall deliver me from this dead body?” This is the character of the soul sick of sin.

But he who is HEALTHY has little or no uneasiness upon this account. If he is alarmed at all, it is with the consequence of sin; his slavish soul fears nothing but the punishment. As for the disease itself, it is so far from giving him uneasiness, that he is in love with it! It affords him sensations of pleasure, rather than of pain—and he rather dreads a recovery, than the continuance of the disorder! Sin has intoxicated him to such a degree, that holiness, which is the health of the soul—is disagreeable to him, and he would rather continue languishing, than recover!

My friends, you can easily distinguish between sickness and health of body; and you are very ready to do it. And will you not inquire what state your souls are in? whether they are sensible of their sickness, and in a way of recovery? or whether they are stupefied, or made delirious by the disorder, insensible of their danger, and unsolicitous about their recovery? I beg you to examine yourselves in these particulars.

3. Those who are healthy—are unwilling to apply to a physician, or to follow his prescriptions; but to the sick—a physician is most welcome, and they will submit to his directions, however self-denying and mortifying. This is the point my text has particularly in view, and therefore we must take particular notice of it.

They that are in HEALTH have no regard to a physician, as such; they neither send for him, nor will they accept of his help, even if offered gratis. They look upon the best of medicines with neglect, as of no use or importance to them: the prescriptions proper to the sick they hear with indifference, as not being their particular concern.

Thus it is with thousands, who imagine themselves to be healthy in soul. The Lord Jesus exhibits himself to men under the character of a physician; the gospel makes a free offer of his assistance to all sick souls who will freely accept it. And what reception does he generally meet with? Why, multitudes neglect him, as though they had no need of him. They may indeed pay him the compliment of professing his religion, because it happened to be the religion of their fathers and their country—but they have no eager desires after him; they are not in earnest and laborious to obtain his assistance; they do not invite him with the most affectionate entreaties to undertake their case; they do not beg and cry for relief from him, like blind Bartimeus, Mark 10:47, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”

In short, whatever regard they may profess for him, they are not deeply sensible of their absolute need of him! They are not feelingly affected towards him, as towards a being with whom they have the greatest personal concern, a concern of the utmost importance: and the reason is, they are healthy in their own apprehensions. Or if they feel some qualms of conscience, some fits of painful remorse, they soon “heal their own hurt slightly, crying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace!” They make a medicine of their own prayers, tears, repentance, and religious endeavors, and with this they hope to heal themselves! Thus Jesus is neglected; they give him the name of a Savior; but in reality—they look to themselves for a cure!

How is the gospel that makes the offer of relief from this heavenly Physician, generally received in the world? Alas! it is neglected, as the offer of superfluous help! It is heard with that indifference with which men in health attend to the prescriptions of a physician to the sick—in which they have no immediate concern. Friends, is this neglected gospel the only effectual mean for healing your dying souls? Then why this stupidity and inattention with which it is heard? Then why the general neglect with which it is treated? Oh! how sadly affecting is it to see a dying world rejecting the only restorative that can heal their disease, and preserve their lives! But alas! thus it is all around us!

Again, Jesus prescribes to men the only means of their recovery. Particularly, he enjoins them no more to drink poison! That is, no more to indulge themselves in SIN, which is, in its own nature, the most deadly poison to the soul! And what can be more reasonable than this? Yet this is what a stupid world principally objects against, and multitudes rather die than submit to it! A disordered, empoisoned constitution of soul—is to them the most agreeable!

This divine Physician likewise requires them to use the means of grace instituted in the gospel: to meditate upon their condition, and obtain a deep sense of their disorder; to read and hear the Word with solemn attention and self-application; to pray with frequency and importunity. These are his prescriptions to all who would recover under his hands. But how few observe them in earnest! What a general neglect of the means of grace prevails in our country, or what a careless attendance upon them! which is equally pernicious!

Christ also enjoins them to submit to him as their Physician, to no longer flatter themselves that they can heal themselves by means within their own power—but to apply his blood as the only healing balm to their wounded souls. But, alas! they disregard this grand prescription; they will not submit to him; but, like an obstinate patient—will have their own way, though eternal death should be the consequence!

But this is not the case of the sinner spiritually SICK: he will do anything, he will submit to anything, if it may but save him from the mortal disease of sin! How ardently does he long after Jesus! With what cheerfulness does he put himself under his care! With what joy and gratitude does he hear the offer of free salvation in the gospel! And how dear is the gospel to his heart on this account! With what eager, wishful eyes—does he look upon his Physician! How does he delight to feel himself under the operation of his hand! to feel him probe his wounds, and then apply the balm of his blood! With what anxiety does he observe the symptoms, and inquire whether he is upon the recovery or not!

And oh! with what pleasure does he discover the signs of returning health! to feel a little eager appetite for spiritual food! to feel a little spiritual life in pious exercises! to feel himself able to run in the way of God’s commandments! to feel the principles of sin weakened within him! How sweet is this!

How willingly does he submit to the prescriptions of his Physician, and attend upon the means of grace, however disagreeable to a carnal mind! He makes the Word of God the rule of his regimen, and would not indulge himself in anything which that sacred dispensatory forbids. He guards against relapses, and keeps out of the way of temptation, as far as possible, lest his frail constitution should be hurt. The society of sinners is like the company of people infected with a contagious disease which he is in danger of catching, and therefore he avoids it as cautiously as he can!

Let those who think their souls healthy and vigorous, boast of their strength, and what mighty things they can do in religion; but as for him—he feels his weakness; he feels he can do nothing aright—but just as he receives daily strength from Christ. He feels himself every day troubled with some disorder or another; yes, with a whole tangle of diseases! Therefore he is daily sensible of his need of the Physician, and makes daily application to him. He does not begrudge to take time from his other affairs, and, as it were, to keep his chamber a while, that he may use means for the recovery of his soul. For, oh! if he loses his soul—then what would the whole world profit him? In short, the sick sinner is a tender, delicate, frail creature, entirely subject to the prescriptions of Christ, and every day using Christ’s means; anxious for his recovery, and willing to submit to anything that may promote it. This is the man in our Christ-despising world, who gives Jesus a most willing and welcome reception, and embraces his gospel, as containing all his salvation and all his desire.

Oh! that there were many such in our world! for this man is in a hopeful way of recovery. This world is a vast hospital, full of dying souls! Jesus descends from heaven, and enters among them, offering them health and eternal life, if they will but submit to his directions, which are as easy as possible. Repentance, indeed, and some other bitter ingredients, are included in a religion for sinners; and how can it be otherwise, since these are necessary for their recovery, in the very nature of things? Besides, even these are sweet, when taken in the pill of a Savior’s dying love; and many a soul has found more noble pleasure in sincere sorrow for sin, than ever they found in the commission of it!

But after all—the generality of people die in their sins, amidst the full means of their recovery: and the great reason is, they will not be convinced of their danger, nor be persuaded to apply to the Physician. Oh! how tragic and affecting a case this! And what may render it the more so to us is—that it is the case of some of us! Yes, my friends, though I am unwilling to harbor one hard thought of any of you—yet I cannot avoid concluding that there are some, I am afraid many, souls in this assembly—who are not sensible of their dangerous disease, and their need of Christ as a Physician, and therefore are in danger of perishing without him! Sin, like a strong dose of opium, has stupefied you, and you feel easy and quiet, as if nothing ailed you, when the symptoms of death are strong upon you!

We can weep and lament over the sick-bed of a dying friend, and we even drop our tears after him into the grave. But shall we drop no tears this day over dying souls, that are so numerous among us!

What renders the case more sadly affecting is, that they perish by their own willful obstinacy, under the hands of an all-healing Physician! “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night over the slain of the daughters of my people!” You secure and healthy-hearted sinners, must it not shock you to think that Jesus Christ, the only Physician—gives you up? You see, in my text, he looks upon you as people that he has no business with. He had rather converse with publicans and sinners than with you, as having more hopes of success among them.

Let publicans and sinners take the hint, and be encouraged to apply to Jesus. Come, you profligates and harlots, drunkards, swearers, whoremongers, come, sinners of the most abandoned characters, apply to this Physician! He is willing to heal you: he offers you healing. “Will you be made whole?” is his question to you this day. He is perfectly able, able to save to the uttermost, however inveterate your disease may be! If the children of the kingdom shut themselves out: if self-righteous Pharisees reject this Physician, and die in their sin—you ‘sinners’ may certainly come in; put yourselves under his care, submit to his prescriptions, and you shall yet live, and be restored to perfect health and eternal life! As vile as you are—you are very proper materials for the temple of God!

If you are sensibly sick, it should not discourage you from entering yourselves into Christ’s hospital, and putting yourselves into his care; nay, this should even encourage you. Your being sick of sin is a necessary qualification to render you his patients—those who are such, he loves to converse with; and they are the only ones who are recovered by him. Therefore, this day give yourselves up to him as his willing patients. Cry to him to undertake your case: “Heal me, O Lord—and I shall be healed!” Submit to his prescriptions, and follow his directions, and you shall live forever!

I shall CONCLUDE my subject, by answering some questions that may arise in your minds on this topic.

What is the reason that the world around us lies dead in such a carnal security? Why is it there is so much sin in the world—and so little fear of punishment? Why is it that men will entertain such hopes of heaven—upon such slight evidences; or rather with the full evidence of the Word of God against them? Alas! the reason is, they are healthy in their own imagination: they think themselves well, and therefore apprehend no danger—but lie in a dead, inactive slumber!

What is the reason why so many neglect the means of grace in public and private? Why is it that there are so many prayerless families and prayerless closets among us? Why is the Bible thrown aside in some families, as a piece of useless lumber? Why is the house of God so thinly frequented in many places, and the table of the Lord almost deserted? Why is Christian conversation so unfashionable? And why do we hear so few inquiries from sinners—as to what they shall do to be saved? The reason is, they imagine themselves well; and, therefore, it is no wonder they neglect the means of recovery! They think they have no more to do with them—than people in health with physician and his remedies. The only method to bring them to use those means in earnest, is to make them sensible of their dangerous disease. And oh! that their ministers may use all proper means with them for this end, and that divine grace may render them effectual!

What is the reason that the means of grace are attended upon by others, with so much formality and indifference? Why is it, that there are so many lukewarm, spiritless prayers, and solemn mockeries of the great God? Why is it, that there are so many wandering eyes and wandering hearts in the heavenly exercise of praise, and in hearing the most solemn and affecting truths? Why is it that all the religion of many is nothing but a dull round of insipid, lifeless formalities? Alas! the same reason returns—they are healthy in their own conceit—and have no need for the physician of souls. And how can they, while they flatter themselves with this imagination, use those means in earnest, which are intended for the recovery of the sick? The sick will use them in earnest; but to others they are mere customary formalities.

Would you know the reason why the blessed Jesus, the most glorious and benevolent person who ever appeared in our world—is so generally neglected? Oh! Would you know why his love forgotten by those very creatures for whom he shed his blood? Would you know why there are not more longings and cries for him? Would you know why the Savior, an almighty and complete Savior—is so little sought after by perishing sinners? Would you know why he is of so little importance among them? Would you know why comes it to pass, that he may continue for months, for years, for scores of years, offering salvation to them, entreating, commanding, and persuading them to accept it, and warning them of the dreadful ruin they will bring upon themselves by rejecting it? Would you know why is it that, after all this—that he is despised and rejected by men, and that but very few will give him suitable entertainment? Would you know why there is this shocking conduct in reasonable creatures? Oh! it is the same old reason still: they do not feel themselves dangerously ill; and how, then, can they be solicitous about the only physician of sin-sick souls?

What is the reason that the gospel, which reveals and offers life and salvation to the world—meets with so cold a reception? Why does the way of salvation therein revealed—not spread transport and praise over all the earth? Why does the song of the angels—not sound from every human tongue, Glory to God in the highest for peace proclaimed on earth, and good will towards men? Why does the Christian world in general practically despise that religion which they profess? Oh! it is because they are healthy in their own imaginations, though dying by thousands all over the world. It is because they are not sensible of their need of the gospel and its blessings. Oh! if they were but once sensible how dangerously ill they are—they would soon change their opinion!

Let me bring this matter still nearer home. Why is it that the gospel, even with all the disadvantages which attend it from my unskillful lips, does not meet with a more affectionate welcome among you? There are many, I am afraid, who regularly or occasionally attend here to hear the gospel, who yet despise it in their hearts, or do not affectionately embrace it. And what is the reason of this? May I not venture to affirm, that the gospel has been dear to some, who have sat under no better ministry? Must not this be the reason—that there are multitudes of healthy-hearted sinners, even among us, who mingle among us in the same assembly, and hear the gospel from the same lips! Multitudes who are insensible of their disease, and consequently of their need of a physician! Oh! inquire whether this is not the true reason why the gospel meets with such a cold reception among us!

Would you know why so many fools make a mock of sin? Would you know why they can go on impenitent in it, apprehending little or no danger from it? Would you know why they are every day singing, and every day merry, thoughtless, and mirthful? Would you know why they can love and delight in sin, which God hates, and which he has threatened with such heavy vengeance? Alas! the reason is—they imagine that they are healthy! They do not look upon sin as a deadly disease which requires a divine cure—but as their health which ought to be nourished.

This is the disease under which our country now languishes. It is this disease that enfeebles our councils and undertakings; but who suspects that this has any bad influence in the case? Who endeavors the cure of this, as the most effectual cure for a languishing, bleeding country?

What is the reason that men are cautious of coming near a house infected with a contagious sickness, and that duty itself can hardly constrain them to enter—but that they can venture their souls without cause into ensnaring company, and within the sphere of temptation? Why is it, that, for the recovery of their mortal bodies, they will submit to the most self-denying regimen, take the most bitter and nauseous medicines, and be at great pains and expense—while for their souls they will take no pains, use no means, deny themselves in no gratifications? What is the reason of this? Oh! it is the same reason still—they do not feel the least sickness of their souls—but imagine they have a firm, invulnerable constitution, incapable of infection in the most contagious places, and that it will recover by its native strength, without extrinsic help.

Would you know why there is so much spiritual pride and vanity in the world? Would you know why there are so many religious vain boasters, who imagine they can turn to God when they please, in their own strength, and who pretend they can perform such great things in religion, whenever they are disposed to make the attempt? Oh! it is because they do not know that they are sick: they do not feel themselves enfeebled by sin and disabled from doing anything truly good.

You have seen some in a delirium, who imagined they were well, able to go about, and perform their usual business, when in the meantime they were under the power of a deadly disease, and the symptoms of death perhaps then upon them. Just so it is with these ostentatious boasters; and could you but cure their delirium, and make them sensible of their disorders—they would soon feel and confess themselves poor, weak, languishing creatures, unable to do anything—but just as they receive strength from God.

Would you know why so many hate faithful preaching, and resent it if any means are used for their recovery? It is because they imagine themselves well; and such do not like to be teased with the importunities of a physician, nor to have disagreeable medicines forced upon them. Oh! were they but sensible of their condition—they would willingly submit to the bitter prescriptions!

Would you know where you should begin your religion; or what is the grand preparative for your embracing the gospel in such a manner as to be saved by it? To this interesting inquiry you may easily infer an answer from what has been said. Begin your religion in a deep sense of sin; let your soul wound be probed to the quick, in order to a thorough cure, otherwise it would be but slightly skinned over, and it will again break out, and prove more dangerous than ever. Labor to get a deep sense of your disease—for only then you will so give yourselves up to the physician, that he may apply to you what he thinks proper, and make an effectual cure.

Some of you perhaps have wondered why you see poor mourning creatures here and there—who cannot live as you do—thoughtless, careless, and unaffected. You ascribe it perhaps to melancholy, to preciseness, to hypocrisy, or an affection of singularity. But I will tell you the true reason. They are sick—whereas you imagine yourselves well; and you cannot wonder that the sick and the healthy should behave in a different manner. Why do they not neglect Jesus Christ as you do? Oh! it is because they are sick, heart-sick, and therefore must long and cry for a physician! Why do they not indulge themselves in sin as you do? Is it because they are sick of it! They see it to be a deadly poison, and they cannot be easy while they feel it working through their frame.

Why do they use the means of grace with so much earnestness? Why do they pray, and hear, and attend upon every religious ordinance with so much zeal and solicitude? Why can they not, like you, attend upon them in a careless, formal way, or entirely neglect them? Oh! the reason is, they are sick, heart-sick, and they are using these means for their recovery! And did you view yourselves in the same just light, you would use them too! Yes, you would be as strict, as earnest, as laborious as any of them!

Why do they not, like you, abandon themselves, and devote all their time to some worldly pursuit? Oh! it is because they are sick, and must take time for the use of means for their recovery, whatever else they must omit. Why are they so much afraid of temptation, and keep out of its way? It is because they are afraid of a relapse, and that sin, their old disease, will renew its strength! Why are they so often filled with doubts, and fears, and anxious perplexities? Oh! it is because they feel the symptoms of the disorder—and they know not whether they are in a way of recovery or not. When they are satisfied in this point, then they can rejoice, and that with a joy more noble than you are capable of.

And poor, sick souls—be of good cheer; you shall yet be healed! Yes, there is balm in Gilead; there is a physician there! Jesus can heal you; and, blessed be his name, he is as willing as he is able. Continue steadfast in the use of the means appointed for your recovery, and he will make them efficacious. Yes, these sick souls of yours shall yet be as healthy and vigorous as an angel; and you shall before long be advanced to the region of immortal health, where the inhabitants no more say, “I am sick”; where you shall breathe a pure, healthful air, agreeable to your delicate constitutions, and be vigorous and lively forever!

Do not think much of it, that a disease so inveterate and mortal, should be painful and difficult in the cure. The operation will not last long; and if it does but succeed, the pain and self-denial will be infinitely more than compensated!

The deep sense of your disorder is often discouraging to you. Oh! you are afraid it will at last prove mortal. But this very thing ought to encourage you. Those people whom I cannot speak one comfortable word to, are not of your character; they are the secure, healthy-hearted sinners. But for you there is strong consolation; so strong that it may bear down all your fears before it. The sense of your disorder qualifies you for the Physician, and renders you proper objects of his never-failing care. The poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind, the broken-hearted, are the character of the people that he has to do with, and who are recovering under his hands. And are not these your characters? They are, indeed, humbling and mortifying; but, oh! they are encouraging, as they prepare you for Christ’s healing care!

But as for you, healthy-hearted sinners, I must pronounce you to be lost and dead souls! Jesus himself has declared, that he has no business with such as you. And if he casts you off—oh! what other physician can you employ! Alas! you will die in your sins! Die in your sins! Oh! dreadful! better to die in a ditch, or a dungeon—than die in your sins! Therefore now labor to be sensible of your disorder, while it is curable; for all who are not healed in this life—are given up as incurable forever! Now apply to Christ as a Physician, for he is willing to undertake your cure!

Sermon Sunday – Johnathan Edwards – How to Know If You’re A Real Christian

August 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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How to Know if You are a Real Christian

by

 Jonathan Edwards
 (1703-1758)

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.” [James 2:19]

How do you know if you belong to God? We see in these words what some people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God. Some people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church membership to show that God approves of them. There is an evangelism programme in common use that asks people certain questions. One of the questions is, “Suppose you were to die today. Why should God let you into his heaven?”  A very common response is, “I believe in God.” Apparently the apostle James knew people who said the same thing: I know I am in God’s favor, because I know these religious doctrines.

Of course James admits that this knowledge is good. Not only is it good, but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn’t believe in God; and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for those who had the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle, someone who could tell them of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a person, who knew James, and then refused to believe in God!  Certainly this would make their damnation greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the One God is only the start of good things because “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6.)

However, James is clear that although this belief a good thing, it is definitely not proof that a person is saved. What he means is this: “You say you are a Christian and you are in God’s favor. You think God will let you into heaven, and the proof of it is, you believe in God. But that is no evidence at all, because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be punished in hell.”

The demons believe in God, you can be sure of that! They not only believe that He exists, but they believe that God is a holy God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth, who has promised judgments, and who will carry out his vengeance upon them. This is the reason the demons “shudder” or tremble–they know God more clearly than most human beings do, and they are afraid. Nevertheless, nothing in the mind of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God’s grace in our hearts.

This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have, or find within themselves, something of God’s saving grace-proof they would go to heaven. This would prove James wrong. But how absurd! The Bible makes it clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their believing in God does not take away their future punishment. Therefore believing in God is not proof of salvation for demons, and it is safe to say, not for people, either.

Demons Have a Knowledge of God.

This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The devil is perfectly wicked. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:8 ) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they “shudder.” But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.

Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God’s existence is more concrete than any man’s knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus cast out some demons. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.

Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn’t make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly that Jesus will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God’s grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way.

Knowledge of God alone is no proof of salvation.

We may make several conclusions based on these truths. First, that no matter how much people may know about God and the Bible, it is no sure sign of salvation. The devil before his fall, was one of the bright and morning stars, a flame of fire, one excelling in strength and wisdom. (Isa. 14:12, Ezek. 28:12-19) Apparently, as one of the chief angels, Satan knew much about God. Now that he is fallen, his sin has not destroyed his memories from before. Sin does destroy the spiritual nature, but not the natural abilities, such as memory. That the fallen angels do have many natural abilities may be seen from many Bible verses, for example Eph 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In the same way, the Bible says that Satan is “more crafty” than other created beings. (Gen 3:1, also 2 Cor. 11:3, Acts 13:10)

Therefore we can see that the Devil has always had great mental ability and is able to know much about God, the visible and invisible world, and many other things. Since his job in the beginning was to be a chief angel before God, it is only natural that understanding these things has always been of first importance to him, and that all his activities have to do with these areas of thoughts, feelings, and knowledge.

Because it was his original employment to be one of the angels before the very face of God, and sin does not destroy the memory, it is clear that Satan knows more about God than just about any other created being. After the fall, we can see from his activities as a tempter, etc., (Matt 4:3) that he has been spending his time increasing his knowledge and its practical applications. That his knowledge is great can be seen in how tricky he is when tempting people. The craftiness of his lies shows how clever he is. Surely he could not manage his deceit so well without an actual and true knowledge of the facts.

This knowledge of God and his works is from the very beginning. Satan was there from the Creation, as Job 38:47 shows: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. . .while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” So he must know much about the way God created the world, and how He governs all the events in the universe. Furthermore, Satan has seen how God has worked his plan of redemption in the world; and not as an innocent bystander, but as an active enemy of God’s grace. He saw God work in the lives of Adam and Eve, in Noah, Abraham, and David. He must have taken a special interest in the life of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men, the Word of God incarnate. How closely did he watch Christ? How carefully did he observe his miracles and listen to His words? This is because Satan has set himself against Christ’s work, and it is to his torment and anguish that Satan has watched Christ’s work unfold successfully.

Satan, then, knows much about God and God’s work. He knows heaven first-hand. He knows hell also, with personal knowledge as its first resident, and has experienced its torments for all these thousands of years. He must have a great knowledge of the Bible: at the least, we can see he knew enough to try tempting our Saviour. Furthermore, he has had years of studying of the hearts of men, his battlefield where he fights against our Redeemer. What labours, exertions, and cares the Devil has used over the centuries as he has deceived men. Only a being with his knowledge and experience of God’s working, and the human heart, could so imitate true religion and transform himself into an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)

Therefore we can see that there is no amount of knowledge of God and religion that could prove a person has been saved from their sin. A man may talk about the Bible, God, and the Trinity. He may be able to preach a sermon about Jesus Christ and everything He has done. Imagine, somebody might be able to speak about the way of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners, perhaps even enough to show others how to become Christians. All these things might build up the church and enlighten the world, yet it is not a sure proof of the saving grace of God in a person’s heart.

It also may be seen that for people to merely agree with the Bible is no sure sign of salvation. James 2:19 shows that the demons really, truly, believe the truth. Just as they believe there is one God, they agree with all the truth of the Bible. The devil is not a heretic: all the articles of his faith are firmly established in the truth.

It must be understood, that when the Bible talks about believing that Jesus is the Son of God, as a proof of God’s grace in the heart, the Bible means not a mere agreement with the truth, but another kind of believing. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1) This other kind of believing is called “the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” (Titus 1:1) There is a spiritual holding to the truth, which will be explained later on.

Religious experiences are no proof of salvation.

Some people have strong religious experiences, and think of them as proof of God’s working in their hearts. Often these experiences give people a sense of the importance of the spiritual world, and the reality of divine things. However, these, too, are no sure proof of salvation. Demons and damned human beings have many spiritual experiences which have a great effect on their heart attitudes. They live in the spiritual world and see first-hand what it is like. Their sufferings show them the worth of salvation and the worth of a human soul in the most powerful way imaginable. The parable in Luke chapter 16 teaches this clearly, as the suffering man asks that Lazarus might be sent to tell his brothers to avoid this place of torment. No doubt people in hell now have a distinct idea of the vastness of eternity, and of the shortness of life. They are completely convinced that all the things of this life are unimportant when compared to the experiences of the eternal world.

People now in hell have a great sense of the preciousness of time, and of the wonderful opportunities people have, who have the privilege of hearing the Gospel. They are completely aware of the foolishness of their sin, of neglecting opportunities, and ignoring the warnings of God. When sinners find out by personal experience the final result of their sin there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 13:42) So even the most powerful religious experiences are not a sure sign of God’s grace in the heart.

Demons and damned people also have a strong sense of God’s majesty and power. God’s power is most clearly displayed in his execution of divine vengeance upon his enemies. “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction?” (Rom 9:22) Shuddering, the devils await their final punishment, under the strongest sense of God’s majesty. They feel it now, of course, but in the future it will show to the greatest degree, when the Lord Jesus “is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thess 2:7) On that day, they will desire to be run away, to be hidden from the presence of God. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.” (Rev 1:7) So everyone will see him in the glory of His Father. But, obviously, not all who see him will be saved.

Objection #1- People are different from demons.

Now it is possible that some people might object to all this, saying that ungodly men in this world are quite different from demons. They are under different circumstances and are different kind of beings. An objector might say, “Those things that are visible and present to demons are invisible and future to men. Besides, people have the disadvantage of having bodies, which restrain the soul, and keep people from seeing these spiritual things first-hand. Therefore, even if demons do have a great knowledge and personal experience of the things of God, and have no grace, the conclusion does not apply to me.” Or, put another way: if people have these things in this life, it may very well be a sure sign of God’s grace in their hearts.

In reply, it is agreed that no man in this life has ever had the degree of these things as the demons have them. No person has ever shuddered, with the same amount of fear that the demons shudder with. No man, in this life, can ever have the same kind of knowledge that the Devil has. It is clear that demons and damned men understand the vastness of eternity, and the importance of the other world, more than any living person, and so they crave salvation all the more.

But we can see that men in this world can have experiences of the same kind as those of demons and damned people. They have the same mental outlook, the same opinions and emotions, and the same kind of impressions on the mind and heart. Notice, that for the apostle James it is a convincing argument. He claims that if people think believing in one God is proof of God’s grace, it is not proof, because demons believe the same. James is not referring to the act of believing only, but also to the emotions and actions that go along with their belief. Shuddering is an example of emotions from the heart. This shows that if people have the same kind of mental outlook, and respond from the heart in the same way, it is no sure sign of grace.

The Bible does not state how much people in this world may see God’s glory, and not have God’s grace in their hearts. We are not told exactly to what degree God reveals himself to certain people, and how much they will respond in their hearts. It is very tempting to say that if a person has a certain amount of religious experience, or a certain amount of truth, they must be saved. Perhaps it is even possible for some unsaved people to have greater experiences than some of those who have grace in their hearts! So it is wrong to look at experience or knowledge in terms of amount. Men who have a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts have experiences and knowledge of a different kind.

Objection #2- People can have religious feelings that demons cannot.

At this point, someone might answer these thoughts by saying, “I agree with you. I see that believing in God, seeing His majesty and holiness, and knowing that Jesus died for sinners is not proof of grace in my heart. I agree that demons can know these things as well. But I have some things they don’t have. I have joy, peace, and love. Demons can’t have them, so that must show that I am saved.”

Yes, it is true that you have something more than a demon can have, but it is nothing better than a demon could have. A person’s experience of love, joy, etc., may not be because they have any cause in them different from a demon, but just different circumstances. The causes, or origins, of their feelings are the same. This is why these experiences are no better than those of demons. To explain further:

All the things that were discussed before about demons and damned people, arise from two main causes, natural understanding and self-love. When they think about themselves, these two things are what determine their feelings and response. Natural understanding shows them that God is holy, while they are wicked. God is infinite, but they are limited. God is powerful, and they are weak. Self-love gives them a sense of the importance of religion, the eternal world, and a longing after salvation. When these two causes work together, demons and damned men become aware of the awesome majesty of God, whom they know will be their Judge. They know that God’s judgment will be perfect and their punishment will be forever. Therefore, these two causes together with their senses will bring about their anguish on that judgment day, when they see the outward glory of Christ and His saints.

The reason many people feel joy, peace, and love today, while demons do not, may be more due to their circumstances, rather than any difference in their hearts. The causes in their hearts are the same. For example, the Holy Spirit is now at work in the world keeping all of mankind from being as wicked as they could be (2 Thess 2:17). This is in contrast to demons, who are just as wicked as they can be all the time. Furthermore, God in his mercy gives gifts to all people, such as the rain for crops (Matt 5:45), heat from the sun, etc. Not only that, but often people receive many things in life to bring them happiness, such as personal relationships, pleasures, music, good health, and so on. Most important of all, many people have heard news of hope: God has sent a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died to save sinners. In these circumstances, the natural understanding of people can cause them to feel things that demons never can.

Self-love is a powerful force in the hearts of men, strong enough without grace to cause people to love those who love them, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners  love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32) It is a natural thing for a person who sees God being merciful, and who knows that they are not as bad as they could be, to therefore be sure of God’s love for them. If your love for God comes only from your feelings that God loves you, or because you have heard that Christ died for you, or something similar, the source of your love to God is only self-love. This reigns in the hearts of demons as well.

Imagine the situation of the demons. They know they are unrestrained in their wickedness. They know God is their enemy and always will be. Although they are without any hope, still they are active and fighting. Just think, what if they had some of the hope that people have? What if demons, with their knowledge of God, had their wickedness restrained? Imagine if a demon, after all his fears about God’s judgment, was suddenly led to imagine that God might be his Friend? That God might forgive him and let him, sin and all, into heaven? Oh the joy, the wonder, the gratitude we would see! Would not this demon be a great lover of God, since, after all everybody loves people who help them? What else could cause feelings so powerful and sincere? Is it any wonder, that so many people are deceived this way? Especially since people have the demons to promote this delusion. They have been promoting it now for many centuries, and alas they are very good at it.

True Spiritual experiences have a different source.

Now we come to the question, if all these various experiences and feelings come from nothing more than demons are capable of, what are the kinds of experiences that are truly spiritual and holy? What do I have to find in my own heart, as a sure sign of God’s grace there? What are the differences that show them to be from the Holy Spirit?

This is the answer: those feelings and experiences which are good signs of God’s grace in the heart differ from the experience of demons in their source and in their results.

Their source is the sense of the overwhelming holy beauty and loveliness of the things of God. When a person grasps in his mind, or better yet, when he feels his own heart held captive by the attractiveness of the Divine, this is an unmistakable sign of God’s working.

The demons and damned in hell do not now, and never will experience even the tiniest bit of this. Before their fall, the demons did have this sense of God. But in their fall, they lost it, the only thing they could lose of their knowledge of God. We have seen how the demons have very clear ideas about how powerful God is, his justice, holiness, and so on. They know a lot of facts about God. But now they haven’t a clue about what God is like. They cannot know what God is like any more than a blind man can know about colors! Demons can have a strong sense God’s awesome majesty, but they don’t see his loveliness. They have observed His work among the human race for these thousands of years, indeed with the closest attention; but they never see a glimmer of His beauty. No matter how much they know about God (and we have seen that they know very much indeed) the knowledge they have will never bring them to this higher, spiritual knowing what God is like. On the contrary, the more they know about God, the more they hate Him. The beauty of God consists primarily in this holiness, or moral excellence, and this is what they hate the most. It is because God is holy that the demons hate Him. One could suppose that if God were to be less holy, the demons would hate Him less. No doubt demons would hate any holy Being, no matter what He was like otherwise. But surely they hate this Being
all the more, for being infinitely holy, infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful!

Wicked people, including those alive today, will on the day of judgment see all there is to see of Jesus Christ, except His beauty and loveliness. There is not one thing about Christ that we can think of, that will not be set before them in the strongest light on that brilliant day. The wicked will see Jesus “coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:26) They will see his outward glory, which is far, far greater than we can possibly imagine now. You know the wicked will be thoroughly convinced of all who Christ is. They will be convinced about His omniscience, as they see all their sins replayed and evaluated. They will know first-hand Christ’s justice, as their sentences are announced. His authority will be made utterly convincing when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord. (Phil 2:10,11) The divine majesty will be impressed upon them in quite an effective way, as the wicked are poured into hell itself, and enter into their final state of suffering and death (Rev 20:14,15) When that happens, all their knowledge of God, as true and as powerful as it may be, will be worth nothing, and less than nothing, because they will not see Christ’s beauty.

Therefore, it is this seeing the loveliness of Christ that makes the difference between the saving grace of the Holy Spirit, and the experiences of demons. This sight or sense is what makes true Christian experience different from everything else. The faith of God’s elect people is based on this. When a person sees the excellence of the gospel, he senses the beauty and loveliness of the divine scheme of salvation. His mind is convinced that it is of God, and he believes it with all his heart. As the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 4:34, “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” That is to say, as was explained before, unbelievers can see that there is a gospel, and understand the facts about it, but they do not see its light. The light of the gospel is the glory of Christ, his holiness and beauty. Right after this we read, 2 Cor 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Clearly, it is this divine light, shining into our hearts, that enables us to see the beauty of the gospel and have a saving belief in Christ. This supernatural light shows us the superlative beauty and loveliness of Jesus, and convinces us of His sufficiency as our Saviour. Only such a glorious, majestic Saviour can be our Mediator, standing between guilty, hell-deserving sinners such as ourselves, and an infinitely holy God. This supernatural light gives us a sense of Christ that convinces us in a way nothing else ever could.

A true spiritual experience transforms the heart.

When a most wicked sinner is caused to see Christ’s divine loveliness, he no longer speculates why God should be interested in him, to save him. Before, he could not understand how the blood of Christ could pay the penalty for sins. But now he can see the preciousness of Christ’s blood, and how it is worthy to be accepted as the ransom for the worst of sins. Now the soul can recognize that he is accepted by God, not because of who he is, but because of the value God puts on the blood, obedience, and intercession of Christ. Seeing this value and worth gives the poor guilty soul rest which cannot be found in any sermon or booklet.

When a person comes to see the proper foundation of faith and trust with his own eyes, this is saving faith. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (John 6:40) “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” (John 17:6-8) It is this sight of the divine beauty of Christ that captivates the wills and draws the hearts of men. A sight of the outward greatness of God in His glory may overwhelm men, and be more than they can endure. This will be seen on the day of judgment, when the wicked will be brought before God. They will be overwhelmed, yes, but the hostility of the heart will remain in full strength and the opposition of the will continue. But on the other hand, a single ray of the moral and spiritual glory of God and of the supreme loveliness of Christ shone into the heart overcomes all hostility. The soul is inclined to love God as if by an omnipotent power, so that now not only the understanding, but the whole being receives and embraces the loving Saviour.

This sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God’s nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

Genuine spiritual experiences have different results.

The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God. These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ’s beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God’s grace from the false.

False spiritual experiences have a tendency to cause pride, which is the devil’s special sin. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” (1 Tim 3:6) Pride is the inevitable result of false spiritual experiences, even though they are often covered with a disguise of great humility. False experience is enamored with self and grows on self. It lives by showing itself in one way or another. A person can have great love for God, and be proud of the greatness of his love. He can be very humble, and very proud indeed of his humility. But the emotions and experiences that come from God’s grace are exactly opposite. God’s true working in the heart causes humility. They do not cause any kind of showiness or self-exaltation. That sense of the awesome, holy, glorious beauty of Christ kills pride and humbles the soul. The light of God’s loveliness, and that alone, shows the soul its own ugliness. When a person really grasps this, he inevitably begins a process of making God bigger and bigger, and himself smaller and smaller.

Another result of God’s grace working in the heart is that the person will hate every evil and respond to God with a holy heart and life. False experiences may cause a certain amount of zeal, and even a great deal of what is commonly called religion. However it is not a zeal for good works. Their religion is not a service of God, but rather a service of self. This is how the apostle James puts it himself in this very context, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ?” (James 2:1920) In other words, deeds, or good works, are evidence of a genuine experience of God’s grace in the heart. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:34) When the heart has been ravished by the beauty of Christ, how else can it respond?

The sight of Christ’s beauty- God’s greatest gift!

How excellent is that inner goodness and true religion that comes from this sight of the beauty of Christ! Here you have the most wonderful experiences of saints and angels in heaven. Here you have the best experience of Jesus Christ Himself. Even though we are mere creatures, it is a sort of participation in God’s own beauty. “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” (2 Pet 1:4) “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10) Because of the power of this divine working, there is a mutual indwelling of God and His people. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) This special relationship has to make the person involved as happy and as blessed as any creature in existence. This is a special gift of God, which he gives only to his special favorites. Gold, silver, diamonds, and earthly kingdoms are given by God to people who the Bible calls dogs and pigs. But this great gift of beholding Christ’s beauty, is the special blessing of God to His dearest children. Flesh and blood cannot give this gift: only God can bestow it. This was the special gift which Christ died to obtain for his elect. It is the highest token of his everlasting love, the best fruit of his labours and the most precious purchase of his blood.

By this gift, more than anything else, the saints shine as lights in the world. This gift, more than anything else, is their comfort. It is impossible that the soul who possesses this gift should ever perish. This is the gift of eternal life. It is eternal life begun: those who have it can never die. It is the dawning of the light of glory. It comes from heaven, it has a heavenly quality, and it will take its bearer to heaven. Those who have this gift may wander in the wilderness or be tossed by waves on the ocean, but they will arrive in heaven at last. There the heavenly spark will be made perfect and increased. In heaven the souls of the saints will be transformed into a bright and pure flame, and they will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Amen.

Originally titled True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils by Jonathan Edwards, 1752. This modern language version is Copyright 1994 by William Carson. Permission is granted for reproduction, so long as this file is not altered, this notice is included in any reproduction, and it is not sold for profit.

Sermon Sunday: Charles Spurgeon

April 3, 2011 at 7:48 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | 2 Comments
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Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 7th, 1855, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

“I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”—Malachi 3:6

It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel— Continue Reading Sermon Sunday: Charles Spurgeon…

A buried treasure

November 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Think of something precious to you. Not someone, some thing. Maybe this is a ring that has been handed down in your family for generations. Maybe this is a tool your grandfather gave you. It may be something from a loved one who is no longer here. Whatever it is, think about it. Could you describe it to me? What color is it? How big is it? What is it made of? Does it have any distinguishing features? Do you remember the day that you got it? Where you were? What was going on when you got it?

For most of us this exercise comes pretty easily. As humans, we hold on to those things that we hold dear. The things that are most important to use have a prominent place in our hearts. Now, think back on that object that is precious to you. See yourself holding it (if possible). Now imagine that you took the item outside; somewhere in your backyard. And you dug a hole, dropped that precious object into it, covered it back up with dirt, and tamped it down. Continue Reading A buried treasure…

Genesis 1:14-19

September 13, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Bible Study | Leave a comment
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This week, we continue our look at the week of Creation. Today, we’ll be looking at the fourth day of Creation:

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for light in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. Continue Reading Genesis 1:14-19…

Persecution Fridays: Turkmenistan

September 10, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com 

Turkmenistan: Pastor Faces Charges

Pentecostal pastor Ilmurad Nurliev faces criminal charges of “large–scale swindling,” according to Forum 18 News.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and possible confiscation of property. Pastor Nurliev was arrested at his home in southeastern Turkmenistan on Aug. 27. Three women who previously attended Nurliev’s church wrote statements stating the pastor took money from them. Nurliev’s wife and other church members vigorously deny these charges, saying police pressured the three to write the statements and that they now regret doing so. Another church member was threatened that if she does not testify against Pastor Nurliev, her husband, who is not a church member, will be fired from his job.

The Voice of the Martyrs encourages you to pray that the truth of this case will become known. Ask the Lord to comfort and sustain Pastor Nurliev and his wife, Maya. Please pray for wisdom and guidance for all of those who are involved in the case. Pray the church in Turkmenistan will be strengthened in spite of hostilities.

Independence

July 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Yesterday, America celebrated it’s birthday. The first Independence Day happened July 4th, 1776. It marked the moment when a group of British colonies had become an entirely new nation. This nation was built on Christian principles and came to be so that the people in the colonies could worship the God of the Bible as they felt they were commanded to. They wanted to be free from the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church and the king of Britain. The people of the colonies fought and many gave their lives in order for this freedom to be achieved and they expected their descendants to not only understand the cost of this freedom, but to keep fighting for it. Sadly, today’s America is a far cry from what the Founding Fathers expected or hoped for. The American people have given up the fight for their freedom and allowed smooth-talking, deceitful, self-righteous men and women to take these freedoms away from us. We have fallen asleep and our freedoms are slowly disappearing while we don’t care. Continue Reading Independence…

Revival (long)

April 26, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I don’t know what it is like in other areas of America (I’m originally from Ohio and don’t remember hearing a lot about this up there), but over the next five or so months, churches across the South will be holding revivals. These will be big to-dos varying in length from three or four days to an entire week. During the time leading up to these events, the church excitement grows and people look forward to this in order to be “refreshed” and get a spiritual boost so that they continue to “work for the Lord”.  They will dress in their Sunday best, notebooks in hand, to hear what the preacher/evangelist (usually a guest) has to say. Depending on the denomination and area, these meetings will range in volume and action. The expectation is that at the end of the week, they will have heard the very thing they needed to hear so that they can move to a new level with God and “do more” for Him. I remember attending a few revivals (I haven’t been to one in years) and recall them being emotionally charged appeals (in some cases) or sound, steady topical teaching (in other cases). For weeks following the revival, people would make larger efforts to have more ministries, outreaches, events, and other things geared toward the church. As I look back though, I seem to also remember that after about two months the revival wore off. People began getting caught up in the daily grind again and all of those new ministries and events just fell by the wayside. I have thought about this a lot lately. In my own life, I am striving harder to have everything I do line the Scriptures. I am not even close yet, but things are moving along. I started wondering what Scripture said about revival. What I found was interesting. Continue Reading Revival (long)…

America’s Answer

April 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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As we watch the federal government grow to an unheard of size, taking liberties and freedoms with it, we keep hearing talk about answers. The president says that his plans are the answers for America’s problems. He tells us as often as possible how great his plans are and how lucky we are to have him as our president. The problem is that the math doesn’t add up when you look at the numbers and just about everything that the president has said to the American people has been a lie. He has broken almost every promise and took steps to make things extremely worse for not only us but future generations of Americans as well. Our grandchildren will have no idea what America used to be like (unless they have an honest history teacher) unless we stop this progression.
 
But, if the president’s plans aren’t the answer than what is? Many talk about cutting taxes and reducing spending. Those will both work economically, but they aren’t the answer to restoring the moral fabric of the country. Personally, I will be surprised if the Republicans do any better than the Democrats when they get the majority again. They seem to be Democrat lite to me… The answer to our country’s problems doesn’t lie in economic plans or government programs. It doesn’t fall on the president, Congress, or big business to fix our situations (they all proven many times over that they are too incompetent to do this anyway). America’s answer lies in One person. God. Continue Reading America’s Answer…

What has God done for me?

March 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Many people today, inside and outside the church, have become focused on self. They are all about them and what they can do. They often don’t know or care what God has done for them. Those who aren’t professing Christians can’t see that their very life is a gift from God. Sadly, this affects the gospel. When people don’t understand what God has done for them or why He did it, is cheapens the gospel and lessens the effect the good news can have in a person’s life. When pastors don’t preach the true gospel, the people listening don’t receive what they need to hear to help them understand who God is and what He’s done for them. Continue Reading What has God done for me?…
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