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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Genuine Saving Faith

Unbelief continues to work in most people whom the way of God is proposed in the gospel. Some are under the power of darkness and ignorance, and so they apprehend not. Some are blinded by Satan since he is the god of this world. Their minds are filled with prejudice, and their hearts with the love of present things. Some would mix in their own works, ways, and duties. John Owen discusses this in the article below:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)

The securing of the spiritual comforts of believers in this life is a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God, and their own advantage by the gospel. For God is abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should receive strong consolation, and he has provided ways and means for the communication of it to them; and their participation of it is their principal interest in this world, and is so esteemed by them. But their effectual refreshing enjoyment of these comforts is variously opposed by the power of the remainders of sin, in conjunction with other temptations. Hence, notwithstanding their right and title unto them by the gospel, they are often actually destitute of a gracious sense of them, and, consequently, of that relief which they are suited to afford in all their duties, trials, and afflictions. Now, the root whereon all real comforts do grow, whence they spring and arise, is true and saving faith,–the faith of God’s elect. Wherefore they do ordinarily answer unto, and hold proportion with, the evidences which any have of that faith in themselves; at least, they cannot be maintained without such evidences. Wherefore, that we may be a little useful unto the establishment or recovery of that consolation which God is so abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should enjoy, I shall inquire, what are the principal acts and operations of faith, whereby it will evidence its truth and sincerity in the midst of all temptations and storms that may befall believers in this world?

And I shall insist on such alone as will bear the severest scrutiny by Scripture and experience. And,–The principal genuine acting of saving faith in us, inseparable from it, yea, essential to such acting, consists in the: choosing, embracing, and approbation of God’s way of saving sinners, by the mediation of Jesus Christ, relying thereon, with a renunciation of all other ways and means pretending unto the same end of salvation.

This is that which we are to explain and prove. Saving faith is our ‘believing the record that God has given us of his Son,’ 1 John 5:10, ‘And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son,’ verse 11. This is the testimony which God gives, that great and sacred truth which he himself bears witness unto,–namely, that he has freely prepared eternal life for them that believe, or provided a way of salvation for them. And what God so prepares he is said to give, because of the certainty of its communication. So grace was promised and given to the elect in Christ Jesus before the world began, 2 Tim.1:9; Tit.1:2. And that is so to be communicated unto them, in and by the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, that it is the only way whereby God will give eternal life unto any; which is therefore wholly in him, and by him to be obtained, and from him to be received. Upon our acquiescence in this testimony, on our approbation of this way of saving sinners, or our refusal of it, our eternal safety or ruin does absolutely depend. And it is reasonable that it should be so: for, in our receiving of this testimony of God, we ‘set to our seal that God is true,’ John 3:33; we ascribe unto him the glory of his truth, and therein of all the other holy properties of his nature,–the most eminent duty whereof we are capable in this world; and by a refusal of it, what lies in us, we make him a liar, as in this place, 1 John 5:10, which is virtually to renounce his being. (“Evidences of the faith of God’s Elect”)

Preaching

From the works of John Owen:

A man preaches that sermon only well unto others which preaches itself in his own soul . . . And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savory unto them; yea, he knows not but that the food he hath provided may be poison unless he have really tasted of it himself. (Owen, Works, XVI: 76)

John Owen On Preaching And Prayer

Quoting Puritan theologian John Owen:

To preach the word . . . and not to follow it with constant and fervent prayer for its success, is to disbelieve its use, neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random. (“The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government”, Works, Vol. 16)

Man’s Will

Quoting English Puritan preacher and chancellor of Oxford University John Owen (1616-1683):

“If it is by our own will and choice that we are saved, then God’s purpose to convert a single soul could be frustrated. God may determine to save a soul. But after he has done all that is to be done or can be done for the saving of that soul, yet if the will remains unchanged, and God cannot do anything to renew that will, the soul will not be converted. … This is contrary to the testimonies of Christ (Mat 11:25-26; Joh 6:37; Rom 8:29). … it would all depend on man’s undetermined freedom of will whether he believes in Jesus Christ or not and salvation would be ‘of him who wills,’ and of him ‘who runs,’ and not ‘of God who shows mercy on whom he will have mercy’ (Rom 9:15-16). Thus to make God’s purpose to save by his grace depend on the wills of men is not consistent with our being the ‘workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus for good works’ (Eph 2:10). Nor, on this supposition, do men know what they pray for when they pray for their own or other men’s conversion to God.” (“A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit” by John Owen)

What Is Your View Of Heaven?

John Owen (1616-1683)

John Owen

Quoting John Owen:

We may hereby examine both our own notions of the state of glory and our preparations for it, and whether we are in any measure “made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Various are the thoughts of men about the future state,-the things which are not seen, which are eternal. Some rise no higher but unto hopes of escaping hell, or everlasting miseries, when they die. Yet the heathen had their Elysian fields, and Mohammed his sensual paradise. Others have apprehensions of I know not what glistening glory, that will please and satisfy them, they know not how, when they can be here no longer. But this state is quite of another nature, and the blessedness of it is spiritual and intellectual. Take an instance in one of the things before laid down. The glory of heaven consists in the full manifestation of divine wisdom, goodness, grace, holiness,-of all the properties of the nature of God in Christ. In the clear perception and constant contemplation hereof consists no small part of eternal blessedness. What, then, are our present thoughts of these things? What joy, what satisfaction have we in the sight of them, which we have by faith through divine revelation? What is our desire to come unto the perfect comprehension of them? How do we like this heaven? What do we find in ourselves that will be eternally satisfied hereby? According as our desires are after them, such and no other are our desires of the true heaven,-of the residence of blessedness and glory. Neither will God bring us unto heaven whether we will or no. If, through the ignorance and darkness of our minds,-if, through the earthliness and sensuality of our affections,-if, through a fullness of the world, and the occasions of it,-if, by the love of life and our present enjoyments, we are strangers unto these things, we are not conversant about them, we long not after them,-we are not in the way towards their enjoyment. The present satisfaction we receive in them by faith, is the best evidence we have of an indefeasible interest in them. How foolish is it to lose the first-fruits of these things in our own souls,- those entrances into blessedness which the contemplation of them through faith would open unto us,-and hazard our everlasting enjoyment of them by an eager pursuit of an interest in perishing things here below! This, this is that which ruins the souls of most, and keeps the faith of many at so low an ebb, that it is hard to discover any genuine working of it.

Imagination And Faith

John Owen, by John Greenhill (died 1676). See ...

John Owen

Quoting John Owen:

No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who doth not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith; it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing,-only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamored on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he doth but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are there in this world, are nothing but self-deceiving imaginations.

“Cultural Christians” And Peace

John Owen, by John Greenhill (died 1676). See ...

John Owen

Quoting John Owen:

Many love to walk in a very careless, unwise profession. So long as they can hold out in the performance of outward duties, they are very regardless of the greatest evangelical privileges,-of those things which are the marrow of divine promises,-all real endeavors of a vital communion with Christ. Such are spiritual peace, refreshing consolations, ineffable joys, and the blessed composure of assurance. Without some taste and experience of these things, profession is heartless, lifeless, useless; and religion itself a dead carcass without an animating soul. The peace which some enjoy is a mere stupidity. They judge not these things to be real which are the substance of Christ’s present reward; and a renunciation whereof would deprive the church of its principal supportments and encouragements in all its sufferings. It is a great evidence of the power of unbelief, when we can satisfy ourselves without an experience in our own hearts of the great things, in this kind of joy, peace, consolation, assurance, that are promised in the Gospel. For how can it be supposed that we do indeed believe the promises of things future,-namely, of heaven, immortality, and glory, the faith whereof is the foundation of all religion,-when we do not believe the promises of the present reward in these spiritual privileges? And how shall we be thought to believe them, when we do not endeavor after an experience of the things themselves in our own souls, but are even contented without them? But herein men deceive themselves. They would very desirously have evangelical joy, peace, and assurance, to countenance them in their evil frames and careless walking And some have attempted to reconcile these things, unto the ruin of their souls. But it will not be. Without the diligent exercise of the grace of obedience, we shall never enjoy the grace of consolation.

John Owen On Preaching With Power

John Owen, by John Greenhill (died 1676). See ...

John Owen

Quoting the great Puritan, John Owen:

A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.

 

John Owen On The Word Of Power

Quoting the great Puritan, John Owen:

A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savory unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.

Packer Compares Calvinism To Arminianism

J. I. Packer

Quoting J.I. Packer:

  • “One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God who enables man to save himself.
  • One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly.
  • The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them.
  • The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms.
  • One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.
  • Plainly these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.” (Introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)
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