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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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Is The Doctrine Of Future Punishment Cruel And Unmerciful?

 

Archibald Alexander

Archibald Alexander (1772–1851) was an American educator, theologian and preacher. In 1807 he became pastor of Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He received the Doctor of Divinity in 1810 from the College of New Jersey. He is most noted as founder and first principal of Princeton Seminary serving there from 1812 to 1840. As principal and professor of theology, he is considered the first of the great “Princeton theologians.” Below, he shares his thoughts on false doctrines that teach there is no hell:

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:3-5 ESV)

[According to many], the doctrine of [hell] endless punishment is “cruel and unmerciful”. . . . It is customary with them to appeal to the tender feelings and sympathies of their hearers, and to conclude that if a parent would not inflict such a punishment on his children, much less will God on his creatures. But this is a false method of reasoning. An amiable child shudders at seeing a criminal suffer the just punishment of the law, but this is no argument against the punishment of the guilty.

It would be easy to persuade a set of convicted felons that the law which condemned them was cruel and unmerciful, because they want to escape punishment, and do not take into consideration the important ends to be answered to the public by their punishment. Thus wicked men are easily brought to believe that the penalties threatened in the Scriptures are cruel and unmerciful; but such opinions ought to have no weight with the honest and impartial inquirer after truth.

All comparisons on this subject fail; for neither parents nor civil rulers, nor any other beings in the universe, except the supreme Ruler, are under obligations to punish sin according to its merit. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Only God Almighty is capable of estimating the evil of sin, and of inflicting punishment in exact proportion to its evil. If reasoning from the sympathies of our nature, and especially from the tender feelings of parents, were of real force, it would be as conclusive against the judgments of God on individuals and communities in this world, as against future punishment. For what benevolent parent would subject his children to the innumerable forms of evil and suffering which are everywhere witnessed in our world? How many perish by shipwreck, by pestilence, by earthquakes, by oppression, by war, and by persecution! But because a kind earthly father could not endure to see his children suffer such things, must we conclude that it is an unrighteous thing in the Governor of the universe to recompense the wicked by such judgments? Or will these men deny that God has anything to do in bringing these evils upon men?

How is it possible that reasonable men, with the Bible in their hands, can believe in [this false] doctrine. . . If they would only listen to the dictates of conscience, they never could think that there was no future punishment for sinners of the deepest dye. The very heathen, as many of them as believe in a future state, hold the doctrine of future punishment for the crimes of a wicked life. There never before was a sect of heretics who altogether denied the doctrine of future punishment. . . . As we said before, this doctrine had its origin in paradise, when the devil assured Eve that she will not die for her disobedience . . . And was the very doctrine by which the grand adversary murdered our whole race; but never, until recently, could any number of men be found of sufficient hardihood to avow it as the main article of their creed. It contains within itself the virulent poison of all other errors and heresies; yes, it leaves in the distance every form of infidelity. Atheism, black and blasphemous as it is, is not so dangerous as this doctrine; for it completely removes all restraint from the sinner . . . assuring the vilest sinners that they have nothing to fear hereafter; and not only so, but promising them the rich reward of eternal life. The prevalence of this soul-destroying error, in some parts of our land, is truly alarming. Every citizen, as well as every Christian—is bound to use his best endeavors to check the progress of an error fraught with so many dreadful consequences! (“Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted”)

Benjamin Franklin On Christmas

Quoting Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richards Almanac, 1743:

“How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.”

The State Of Preaching

 

James Montgomery Boice

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) was a successful inner city pastor and articulate spokesman for the Reformed faith in America and around the world. He was the pastor of Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. In the excerpt below, he writes about the decline of expository preaching:

Anyone who thinks seriously about the state of preaching in the twentieth century must notice a strange contradiction. On the one hand, there is a strong acknowledgment of the need for great preaching, usually defined as expository preaching. But on the other hand, good expository preaching has seldom been at a lower ebb. Evangelical (and even liberal) seminaries exhort their young men, “Be faithful in preaching…. Spend many hours in your study poring over the Bible…. Be sure that you give the people God’s Word and not merely your own opinions.” But in practice these admonitions are not heeded, and the ministers who emerge from the seminaries – whether because of poor instruction, lack of focus, or some other, undiagnosed cause – generally fail in this primary area of their responsibility.

Pulpit committees know this. So do the people who sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday. Many know what they want. They want a minister who will make his primary aim to teach the Bible faithfully week after week and also embody what he teaches in his personal life. But ministers like this from the standard denominations and even some others are hard to find and apparently are getting harder to find all the time. What is wrong? How are we able to explain this strange contradiction between what we say we want and what is actually produced by most of our seminaries?

This problem is so obvious that a number of answers have inevitably been given, most of which contain some truth. One answer is that attention has been shifted from preaching to other needed aspects of the pastoral ministry: counseling, liturgics, small group dynamics, and other concerns. Hundreds of books about these diverse aspects of the ministry are appearing every year, many of them best sellers, but there are not many valuable books on preaching. There are some, but they are not very popular. And one cannot really imagine a work like Clarence Macartney‘s Preaching Without Notes attracting anywhere near the degree of attention in the seventies as it attracted just thirty years ago. Clearly the attention of a great majority of ministers is being directed away from expository preaching to other concerns. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

Benjamin Rush On Education

Benjamin Rush

Quoting Benjamin Rush (Signer of the Declaration of Independence):

We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism. (Source: Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 93-94.)

James Wilson On Religion And Law

James Wilson

Quoting James Wilson (Signer of the Constitution):

Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both. (Source: James Wilson, The Works of the Honorable James Wilson (Philadelphia: Bronson and Chauncey, 1804), Vol. I, p. 106.)

Benjamin Rush On The Republic And Religion

Benjamin Rush, an important proponent of heroi...

Benjamin Rush

Quoting Benjamin Rush (Signer of the Declaration of Independence):

The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. (Source: Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 8.)

 

What Would Your Community Look Like If Satan Took Over?

The article below offers contrasting results of Satan’s war on Christianity. The warning to us here is to beware of the cultural church as much as we would avoid the obvious sin. Michael S. Horton writes:

What would things look like if Satan actually took over a city? The first frames in our imaginative slide show probably depict mayhem on a massive scale: Widespread violence, deviant sexualities, pornography in every vending machine, churches closed down and worshipers dragged off to City Hall. Over a half-century ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church, gave his CBS radio audience a different picture of what it would look like if Satan took control of a town in America. He said that all of the bars and pool halls would be closed, pornography banished, pristine streets and sidewalks would be occupied by tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The kids would answer “Yes, sir,” “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full on Sunday … where Christ is not preached.

Not to be alarmist, but it looks a lot like Satan is in charge right now. The enemy has a subtle way of using even the proper scenery and props to obscure the main character. The church, mission, cultural transformation, even the Spirit can become the focus instead of the means for “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). As provocative as Barnhouse’s illustration remains, it is simply an elaboration of a point that is made throughout the story of redemption. The story behind all the headlines of the Bible is the war between the serpent and the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15), an enmity that God promised would culminate in the serpent’s destruction and the lifting of the curse. . . .

Satan lost the war on Good Friday and Easter, but has shifted his strategy to a guerilla struggle to keep the world from hearing the gospel that dismantles his kingdom of darkness. . . . Wherever Christ is truly proclaimed, Satan is most actively present. (Sermon: “Christless Christianity”)

Truth And Pastors

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1Timothy 6:11-14)

There are many who have differing opinions over a pastor’s job description. We should all agree, however, that his primary task is to teach us the truth of the Word of God. John MacArthur discusses this responsibility:

What do you look for in a pastor? Not how interesting, not how clever, not how short his sermons are, not how popular he is, not how cute he is, not how slick he is. How well does he guard the truth? How faithful to the truth is he? How skilled in an understanding of the truth? How…strong in the proclamation of that truth? You may be a pastor, but if you do not guard the truth, you’re not a man of God. This is a lifelong responsibility.

A young preacher came to Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse, great Philadelphia theologian and preacher, and said, “Dr. Barnhouse…he said…I’d give the world if I knew the Bible like you do.” He said, “Good, because that’s exactly what it’ll cost you.”

This is all we live for, is to know the Word and to make it known. The man of God, called by God, given one responsibility, to proclaim His truth. To do it, he must flee the things that corrupt. He must follow after…the issues that lead to holiness. He must fight his whole life long, and he must be faithful to the truth to the end of the age.

The typical church service, somebody said, is like a merry-go-round. Crowded with people sitting down in a seat they had to pay for, controlled by a man who has nothing to say. There’s a lot of music, lots of motion up and down, some good feelings, but, unfortunately, you get off exactly where you got on. How sad. (“Identifying a Man of God”)

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