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    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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Choices

Samuel DaviesQuoting Samuel Davies:

Consider how earnest and active men are in other pursuits. Should we form a judgment of the faculties of human nature by the conduct of the generality in religion, we should be apt to conclude that men are mere snails, and that they have no active powers belonging to them. But view them about other affairs, and you find they are all life, fire, and hurry. What labor and toil! What schemes and contrivances! What solicitude about success! What fears of disappointment! Hands, heads, hearts, all busy. And all this to procure those enjoyments which at best they cannot long retain, and which the next hour may tear from them. To acquire a name or a diadem, to obtain riches or honors, what hardships are undergone! What dangers dared! What rivers of blood shed! How many millions of lives have been lost! And how many more endangered! In short the world is all alive, all in motion with business. On sea and land, at home and abroad, you will find men eagerly pursuing some temporal good. They grow grey-headed, and die in the attempt without reaching their end; but this disappointment does not discourage the survivors and successors; still they will continue, or renew the endeavor. Now here men act like themselves; and they show they are alive, and endowed with powers of great activity. And shall they be thus zealous and laborious in the pursuit of earthly vanities, and quite indifferent and sluggish in the infinitely more important concerns of eternity? Continue reading

The Power Of Grace And The Necessity Of It

Samuel Davies had a keen appreciation of grace and understood its importance. In the excerpt below, he discusses its application:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

Have you not found that the very same things have very different effects upon you at different times? Those truths, which at one time leave you dull and sleepy, at other times quicken all your powers to the most vigorous exercise. Sinners, do you not return from the house of God in very different frames, though the service there has been substantially the same? At one time you sweat and agonize under a sense of guilt and make many resolutions to change your course of life; and at another time there is a stupid calm within, and you matter not all the concerns of eternity. Some indeed have lain so long under the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, that they are hardened, like clay, and hardly susceptive of any deep impressions at any time, after they murdered their conscience, and silenced all its first remonstrances. These may go on serene and placid, till the flames of hell give them sensation; and this is most likely to be their doom; though it is not impossible but that this gospel, this stale, neglected gospel, which now makes no impression on their stony hearts, may yet be endowed with almighty power to break them into the tenderest contrition: and I pray God this may be the happy event. . . .

How essential and important the doctrine of divine influence is to the church of God. The very life, and the whole success of the gospel depend upon it. And since this necessity supposes the utter depravity and spiritual impotence of human nature in its fallen state, that doctrine also must be frequently and plainly inculcated.

Alas! The great defect of the system of theology too fashionable in our days, and one great cause of the languishing state of religion in our age, and of the prevalence of vice and impiety! Since it has been the mode to compliment mankind as able to do something very considerable in religion, religion has died away. Since it has been the fashion to press a reformation of men’s lives, without inculcating the absolute necessity of divine grace to renew their nature, there is hardly such a thing as a thorough reformation to be seen; but mankind are evidently growing worse and worse. . . .

We are apt to think, if we had but such a minister among us, how much good would be done! It is true, that faithful and accomplished ministers are singular blessings to the places where they labor, because it is by their instrumentality that the Lord is wont to work: but still let us remember that even a Paul or an Apollos is nothing, unless the Lord gives the increase. One text of scripture, one sentence will do more execution, when enforced by divine energy, than all the labors of the ablest ministers upon earth without it. For this divine energy therefore let us look; for this let us cry; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, etc. When we depend upon the instruments, we provoke the Spirit of God to leave us. . . .

That we should ascribe all the success of the gospel to God alone, and not sacrilegiously divide the honor of it between him and the instruments of it, or between him and ourselves, the ministers of Christ are ready to answer you, in the language of Peter, if we be examined of the good deed done to impotent sinners, by what means they are made whole; be it known unto you, that by the name of Jesus do they stand whole before you, Acts 4:9-10. Why do ye look so earnestly upon us, as if by our own power or holiness we had done this! (Acts 3:12). It is a very shocking compliment to them to be accounted the authors of your faith. God’s ministers love to be humble, to lie in their proper sphere, and would have God to have all the glory, as the great efficient; and when we ascribe the work of God to the instrument, we provoke him to withdraw his influence, that we may be convinced of the mistake. Let us also take care that we do not assume the honor of the work to ourselves.

Hence also we may learn, whither we should look for grace to render the gospel successful among us. Let us look up to God. Saints, apply to him for his influences to quicken your graces, and animate you in your Christian course. Sinners, cry to him for his grace to renew your nature and sanctify you. Not all the men, nor all the means upon earth, can be of any service to you without him. Carefully attend upon the gospel, and all its institutions; but still be sensible, that these alone will not do; more is necessary; even the supernatural agency of divine grace. . . .

We observe that whatever excellent outward means and privileges a church enjoys, it is in a most miserable condition, if the Lord has withdrawn his influences from it: and whether this be not too much our own condition, I leave you to judge. Some of you, I doubt not, are even now, when others are withering around you, flourishing in the courts of the Lord, and feel the dews of heaven upon you: such I heartily congratulate. But in general, it is evident that a contagious lukewarmness and carnal security have spread themselves among us . . . and is it not time for you to cry mightily to God that he would pour out his Spirit upon you! (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

The Success Of The Harvest Is Due To Divine Grace

Samuel Davies

Mankind has always thought too highly of itself and scorns to be dependent on divine grace. God looks on and suffers their arrogant experiments to improve mankind. He withholds his displeasure to let them attempt to carry out their boasts through the powers of their degenerate nature and in so doing, they fail. Today, we are blessed with the instruments to see, hear, and read many sermons. There are churches everywhere. Yet sin is triumphant; and very few people are earnestly seeking to live the true Christian life of holiness. I fear that this condition will continue until our ministers and elders are humbled in the dust before God, acknowledging their own weakness, and professing their entire dependence upon Jesus Christ. Samuel Davies points to preaching as a case in point:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

Our observation furnishes us with such instances as these: Sometimes a minister who is an universal scholar, a masterly reasoner, and an accomplished orator, and withal sincerely engaged for the conversion of sinners, labors in vain, and all his excellent discourses seem to have no effect; while another of much inferior accomplishments is the successful instrument of turning many to righteousness. This cannot be accounted for without ascribing the distinction to the peculiar concurrence of divine grace; for if it depended upon the instruments, it would be quite the reverse. Sometimes a clear, convictive, and withal solemn and warm discourse has no effect; while at another time the same doctrines, delivered in a weak, incoherent manner, have strange efficacy, and reach the heart.

Sometimes the reading of a sermon has been the means of awakening careless sinners, when at other times the most solemn and argumentative preaching has been in vain. Sometimes we have seen a number of sinners thoroughly awakened, and brought to seek the Lord in earnest; while another number under the very same sermon, and who seemed as open to conviction as the former, or perhaps more so, have remained secure and thoughtless, as usual. And whence could this difference arise but from special grace?

We have seen persons struck to the heart with those doctrines which they had heard a hundred times without an effect. And indeed there is something in the manner of persons being affected with the word, which shows that the impression is not made by the word itself, or by any other power than divine. The truths that make such deep impressions upon their hearts are no new discoveries; they are the old common repeated truths of the gospel, which they had heard before a thousand times; and the manner in which they are represented by the minister may not be clearer than usual. But, to their surprise, these familiar doctrines flash upon them as new discoveries; they appear to them in a quite different light, as though they had never heard them before: and they reach the conscience, and pierce the heart with such amazing energy, that the sinner is cast into a consternation at his own stupidity, that he never had such apprehensions of things before. He was wont to regard the word as a speculation, or a pleasing song, but now he finds it living and powerful, etc., the secrets of his heart are laid open by it, and he is obliged to own that God is with it of a truth.

Thus a believer also discerns the doctrines of the gospel in a quite different light at one time than at another: he sees new glories in them. Hence one sermon leaves him cold and hard- hearted, while another, no better in itself, sets him all on fire. Hence also one receives advantage from a discourse which had no effect upon another: and from this proceeds the difference in judgment about the excellency of sermons, which we may observe among Christians. Every one forms a judgment according to his own sensations and not according to the discourse in itself. And indeed when we hear an exercised Christian expatiate in praise of a discourse, it is a happy sign that it was made of special service to him. Many such instances as these familiarly occur in the sphere of our observation; which prove, by matters of fact, which the success of the gospel depends upon the influence of divine grace. But we need not look about us to observe others. Turn your eyes inward upon what has passed in your own minds, and you shall find that your own experience proves the same thing. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

The Holy Spirit And Ministry

Samuel Davies

Have you ever noticed that one minister who is a scholar, an excellent orator, and is sincere in his passion for the conversion of sinners, preaches and works in vain; while another, who is less qualified, is successful in bringing many more to Christ? This cannot be accounted for except by divine grace; for if salvation was dependent upon the talents of men then the most talented would always reap the harvest. History teaches us that sometimes the reading of a sermon has been the means of awakening sinners, while at other times the most argumentative preaching moves no one at all. Where in this does the difference arise but in the grace of God? Samuel Davies offers the following explanation:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

[T]he different success of the same means of grace in different periods of the church, sufficiently shows the necessity of gracious assistances to render them efficacious. The various states of the church in various ages are but comments upon the sacred pages, and accomplishments of scripture.

Now we find that religion has flourished or declined, not so much according to external means, as according to the degree of divine influence. Alas! What could Noah, that zealous preacher of righteousness do, during the 120 years of his ministry? He might warn, he might persuade, he might weep over a secure world, in vain: they would rush upon destruction before his eyes; and he could only persuade his own family; and even among them there was a cursed Ham. How little could Moses, the favorite messenger and intimate of God, prevail to make his people dutiful! Alas! after all the astonishing wonders he wrought before their eyes, they continued obstinate and rebellious; for the Lord had not given them an heart to understand, etc., Deuteronomy 29:4. This heart to understand Moses mentions as something beyond his power and that could be effected by omnipotence only. What inconsiderable success had that zealous prophet Elijah, the eloquent Isaiah, or that tender-hearted, mourning, weeping prophet Jeremiah! Surely, many feeble servants of Christ, in all respects inferior to them, have been crowned with more extensive success!

Nay, when the Son of God descended from heaven to be a teacher to the world, who spake as never man spake, who carried omnipotence along with him to attest his doctrine by the most astonishing miracles, how few, during his life, were brought seriously to regard his doctrine! He was pleased to deter the remarkable effusion of his Spirit till his return to his native heaven. And when the Spirit was poured out, what a glorious alteration followed! Then Peter, a poor fisherman, is the happy instrument of converting three thousand with one short sermon; which is more perhaps than his divine Master had done by a hundred. Then, in spite of the united opposition of earth and hell, the humble doctrines of the cross triumphed over the nations, and subdued millions to the obedience of faith. Then the doctrines of Jesus, who was crucified at Jerusalem like an infamous malefactor, between two thieves, became the mighty, all-conquering weapons, through God, to demolish the strong-holds of Satan, II Corinthians 2:4. And whence this strange alteration? It was from the more abundant effusion of the Spirit upon the minds of men; upon their minds, I say; for as to the external evidences from miracles, prophecies, etc., they were sufficiently clear before this happy season. But there was not the same degree of internal illumination by the Spirit. It is often intimated by Christ, in his last discourses with his disciples, that the Holy Spirit was not yet given; and hence it was that he and they labored so much in vain. But upon his ascension he performed the promise he had so often repeated, and sent the Spirit both upon them and their hearers; and then the aspect of affairs was happily altered: then the word had free course, and was glorified. Then the world was convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

This point might be illustrated farther by a history of the various periods of the church from the apostolic age to the present time; but it would be too tedious; and what has been offered is sufficient to convince us that it is not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts, that the interests of religion are carried on, Zechariah 4:6. . . . (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

Samuel Davies: The Necessity Of Divine Influence On Man

Samuel Davies

Divine influence is necessary for the gospel to be effectual in saving sinners. Consider the success of the Gospel: A minister may preach two times on Sunday in the same church, using the same sermon for two practically identical groups of people. Yet, in one service a large number of the congregation prayed for the personal forgiveness of their sins and some even gained assurance of their personal salvation. In the second service, using the same message, the congregation seemed to be totally unconcerned with the state of their souls. Samuel Davies provides us with an explanation of such events:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7 – Preached in Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

The necessity of divine influences is asserted in the plainest terms in scripture. No man, says Christ, can come unto me, except the Father draw him, John 6:44. He that hath heard and learned of the Father, and he only, will come to him, verse 45, and this influence is not purchased by our endeavors, but it is the free gift of grace. Hence Christ varies his former declarations into this form; no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of my Father, verse 65, and the agency of divine grace is necessary, not only to draw sinners to Christ at first, but also to make them fruitful afterwards. Hence Christ represents even the apostles as dependent upon him as the branch upon the vine; and tells them plainly, that “without him they can do nothing,” John 15:4-5. Through all the stages of the Christian life, we depend entirely upon him; and without his influences, we should wither and die like a blasted flower, however blooming and fruitful we were before. Hence, says God to his people, in me is thy fruit found, Hosea 14:8. Since then this is the case, it will follow, that when God is pleased to withhold his influences, all the means of grace will be unsuccessful.

The unsuccessfulness of the gospel is often resolved into the withholding or withdrawing of the influences of grace, as one cause of it. Thus Moses resolves the obstinacy of the Israelites under all the profusion of wonders that had attended them, into this, as one cause of it: The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day, Deuteronomy 29:2-4. If none believe the report of the gospel, it is because the arm of the Lord is not revealed, Isaiah 53:1. “If the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are hidden from the wise and prudent, while they are revealed to babes; it is because God in his righteous judgment and sovereign pleasure, hides them from the one, and reveals them to the other,” Matthew 11:25-26. Nay, the evangelist speaks in yet more forcible terms, when speaking of the unbelief of the Jews, who were witnesses of Christ’s convictive miracles and discourses; therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said, he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, John 12:39-40, and in the same strain Paul speaks: He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, Romans 9:18, etc.

These passages are so opposite to the prevailing theology of this age, that they are dangerous weapons to meddle with; and it is well they are the very words of scripture, otherwise we should be charged with blasphemy for mentioning the truth contained in them. We must indeed be cautious that we do not infer from these scriptures any such horrid doctrine as this, that men are compelled to sin, or that, though they were disposed to turn to God they are judicially kept back and hindered by the divine hand. This would be contrary to the whole current of scripture, which charges the sin and ruin of sinners upon themselves; but these passages mean, that God denies to obstinate sinners those influences of his grace which are necessary to convert them, and which, if communicated, would have subdued their utmost obstinacy; and that in consequence of this denial, they will rush on in sin and irreclaimable impenitence, and perish; but yet that God, in denying them his grace, does not act merely as an arbitrary sovereign, but as a just judge, punishing them for their sin in abusing the blessings he has bestowed upon them, by judicially withdrawing the aids of his grace, and withholding farther influences. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

Samuel Davies: Can A Man Create Himself Or Raise Himself From The Dead?

Samuel Davies

Christ says, “No man can come unto me, except the Father draw him.” (John 6:44) Therefore, the agency of divine grace is necessary to draw sinners to Christ. Afterwards, it is this grace that also makes them fruitful. Samuel Davies provides an excellent explanation of this process:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, November 19, 1752)

We may infer the same thing from the many passages of sacred writ ascribing the success of the gospel upon sinners, and even upon believers, to the agency of divine grace. If even a well- disposed Lydia gives a believing attention to the things spoken by Paul, it is, because the Lord hath opened her heart, Acts 16:14. Thus the Philippians believed, because, says the apostle, to you it is given on the behalf of Christ to believe, Philippians 1:29. Thus the Ephesians were spiritually alive, because says he, you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. Faith is not of ourselves; but is expressly said to be the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8. Nay, the implantation of faith is represented as an exploit of omnipotence, like that of the resurrection of Christ. Hence the apostle prays, Ephesians 1:19-20, that the Ephesians might be made deeply sensible of the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward that believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.

Repentance is also the gift of God: Christ is exalted to bestow it, Acts 5:31. When the Jewish Christians heard of the success of the gospel among the Gentiles, they unanimously ascribed it to God: then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life, Acts 11:18, and it is upon this encouragement that Paul recommends the use of proper means to reclaim the obstinate: if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, II Timothy 2:25. Regeneration, also in which faith and repentance and other graces are implanted, is always ascribed to God. If all things are made new, all these things are of God, II Corinthians 5:17-18. If while others reject Christ some receive him, and so are honored with the privilege of becoming the sons of God, it is not owing to themselves, but to him. They are born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God, John 1:11-13. He begets such of his own sovereign will by the word of truth, James 1:18, and every good and perfect gift with which they are endowed is not from themselves, but from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, who is the great origin of all moral excellency, as the sun is of light, verse 17. Hence this change is expressed by such terms as denote the divine agency, and exclude that of the creature; as a new birth, John 3:3, a new creation, II Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:10, the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:10, a resurrection from the dead, John 5:25, Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 3:1. Now it is the greatest absurdity to speak of a man’s begetting, of his creating himself, or raising himself from the dead.

Thus we find that the first implantation of grace in the heart of a sinner is entirely the work of God; and, lest we should suppose that, when it is once implanted, it can flourish and grow without the influence of heaven, we find that the progress of sanctification in believers is ascribed to God, as well as their first conversion. David was sensible, after all his attainments, that he could not run the way of God’s commandments unless God should enlarge his heart, Psalm 119:32. All the hopes of Paul concerning his promising converts at Philippi depended upon his persuasion, that he that had begun a good work in them, would perform it until the day of Christ, Philippians 1:6. Nay, it was upon this he placed his own entire dependence. We are not sufficient of ourselves, says he, to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, II Corinthians 3:5. If I am faithful, it is “because I have obtained mercy of the Lord to make me so,” I Corinthians 7:25. By the grace of God I am what I am; and if I have labored more abundantly than others, it is not I, but the grace of God that was with me, I Corinthians 15:10. I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me, Philippians 4:13. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

Blessings And Human Effort

Samuel Davies

The necessity for God’s blessing is clearly asserted in the Scriptures. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) This is not just a blessing of enablement, but also a blessing of free grace accomplished by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For once the inclination of the heart has been changed by grace: “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” says Jesus, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) On November 19th, 1752, Samuel Davies preached on the need for divine influence upon all the works of men at a church in Hanover County, Virginia:

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

[T]he promises of God to bestow blessings upon us, do not render needless our most vigorous endeavors to obtain them; and, on the other hand, that our most vigorous endeavors do not supersede the influences of the Spirit to work in us the dispositions we are laboring after. . . .

This may be illustrated by various instances. God commands us strictly to circumcise the foreskins of our hearts, to make ourselves new hearts and new spirits, Jeremiah 4:4, and to cleanse ourselves from mortal pollution, Isaiah 1:16, as if this were wholly our work, and he had no efficiency in it. In the meantime, he promises us absolutely to circumcise our hearts to love him, to give us new hearts, and to purge us from all our filthiness, and from all our abominations, as though he performed all the work without our using means. Now we are sure these things are consistent; for the sacred oracles are not a heap of contradictions. And how does their consistency appear? Why, thus: It is our duty to use the most vigorous endeavors to obtain these graces promised, because it is only in the use of vigorous endeavors that we have reason to expect divine influences. And yet those endeavors of ours do not in the least work those graces in us, and therefore there is certainly as much need of the promised agency of divine grace to effect the work, as if we should do nothing at all. Our utmost endeavors fall entirely short of it, and do not entitle us to divine assistance; and this we must have an humble sense of, before we can receive the accomplishment of such promises as the effect of free grace alone. But we should continue in these endeavors, because we have no reason to hope for the accomplishment of the promises in a course of sloth and negligence.

This point may be illustrated by the consistency of the use of means and the agency of providence in the natural world. God has peremptorily promised, that while the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest shall not cease, Genesis 8:22. But this promise does not render it needless for us to cultivate the earth; nor does all our cultivation render this promise needless: for all our labor would be in vain without the influence of divine providence; and this influence is to be expected only in the use of labor. Thus, in the moral world, the efficacy belongs to God, as much as if we made no use of means at all; and the most vigorous endeavors are as much our duty as if we could effect the work ourselves, and he had no special hand in it. Were this remark attended to, it would guard us against the pernicious extremes of turning the grace of God into wantonness, and pleading it as an excuse for our idleness; and of self-righteousness, and depending upon our own endeavors. In this guarded manner does Paul handle this point: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure, Philippians 2:12-13. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

God Alone Can Give The Increase

Samuel Davies

Let us remember that the Biblical promises of God’s blessings do not render needless our most supreme efforts to obtain them. Let us remember too, that our most supreme efforts do not supplant the power of the Holy Spirit working in us the blessings we are striving for. Samuel Davies discusses this concept as it correlates to sanctification:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

The scripture representation of the degeneracy of mankind is confirmed by universal experience. If we form any observations of ourselves or others, we find that the whole bent of our souls by nature is contrary to the gospel. The gospel is designed to reclaim men from sin; but they are obstinately set upon it: it is designed to make sin bitter to them, and to dissolve their hearts into tender sorrows for it; but we naturally delight in sin, and out hearts are hard as the nether mill-stone: it is intended to bring apostate rebels back to God, and the universal practice of holiness; but we love estrangement from him, and have no inclination to return. We abhor the ways of strict holiness, and choose to walk in the imaginations of our own hearts. The gospel is calculated to advance the divine glory, and abash the pride of all flesh, in the scheme of salvation it reveals: but this is directly contrary to the disposition of the sinner, who is all for his own glory. This requires no tedious arguments to prove it. Look in upon your own hearts; look back on your own conduct; look round you on the world; and there the evidences of it will glare upon you.

Now, since the innate dispositions of men are thus averse to the gospel, it is evident that nothing but divine power can make it effectual for their sanctification. Instructions may furnish the head with notions, and may correct speculative mistakes; but they have no power to sway the will, and sweetly allure it to holiness. Persuasions may prevail to bring men to practice what they had omitted through mistake, carelessness, or a transient dislike; but they will have no effect where the heart is full of innate enmity against the things recommended. In this case, he that planteth and he that watereth is nothing; it is God alone can give the increase; as is more than intimated by the promises and declarations of the word, which appropriate all the success of the gospel to God alone.

Jehovah is not fond of ostentation and parade, nor wasteful in throwing away his blessings where they are not needed; and therefore, if the means of grace were sufficient of themselves to convert sinners and edify believers, he would not make such magnificent promises of the supernatural aids of his grace, nor claim the efficacy of them as his own. He would not assert the insufficiency of them without his influence, nor assign the withdrawal of his grace as one cause of their unsuccessfulness. But all this he does in his word. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

Priorities

Samuel Davies

Quoting Samuel Davies:

Consider how earnest and active men are in other pursuits. Should we form a judgment of the faculties of human nature by the conduct of the generality in religion, we should be apt to conclude that men are mere snails, and that they have no active powers belonging to them. But view them about other affairs, and you find they are all life, fire, and hurry. What labor and toil! What schemes and contrivances! What solicitude about success! What fears of disappointment! Hands, heads, hearts, all busy. And all this to procure those enjoyments which at best they cannot long retain, and which the next hour may tear from them. To acquire a name or a diadem, to obtain riches or honors, what hardships are undergone! What dangers dared! What rivers of blood shed! How many millions of lives have been lost! And how many more endangered! In short the world is all alive, all in motion with business. On sea and land, at home and abroad, you will find men eagerly pursuing some temporal good. They grow grey-headed, and die in the attempt without reaching their end; but this disappointment does not discourage the survivors and successors; still they will continue, or renew the endeavor. Now here men act like themselves; and they show they are alive, and endowed with powers of great activity. And shall they be thus zealous and laborious in the pursuit of earthly vanities, and quite indifferent and sluggish in the infinitely more important concerns of eternity? What! Solicitous about a mortal body, but careless about an immortal soul! Eager in pursuit of joys of a few years, but careless and remiss in seeking an immortality of perfect happiness! Anxious to avoid poverty, shame, sickness, pain, and all the evils, real or imaginary, of the present life; but indifferent about a whole eternity of the most intolerable misery! Oh, the destructive folly, the daring wickedness of such a conduct! My brethren, is religion the only thing which demands the utmost exertion of all your powers, and alas! Is that the only thing in which you will be dull and inactive? Is everlasting happiness the only thing about which you will be remiss? Is eternal punishment the only misery which you are indifferent whether you escape or not? Is God the only good which you pursue with faint and lazy desires? How preposterous! How absurd is this! You can love the world, you can love a father, a child, or a friend; nay, you can love that abominable, hateful thing, sin: these you can love with ardor, serve with pleasure, pursue with eagerness, and with all your might; but the ever-blessed God, and the Lord Jesus, your best friend, you put off with a lukewarm heart and spiritless services. (“The Danger of Lukewarmness in Religion”)

Ministry Cannot Succeed Without Divine Help

Samuel Davies

Men are naturally inclined to oppose the Gospel. Therefore, it is evident that nothing but the divine power of God can make the Gospel effectual for their sanctification. We may preach and teach but our efforts will have no power to sway the will of man unless God empowers the message and messenger. Samuel Davies explains further:

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

When we see a people enjoy the frequent cultivations of the gospel, and the means of spiritual fruitfulness, and yet few new trees of righteousness planted, and those, that have been planted, seemingly withering and unfruitful, we cannot but conclude that something is wanting; without which all the means they enjoy be of no service. We should naturally turn our thoughts to an inquiry, what was wanting, had we tilled our lands from year to year without a crop. And since we find at present, which notwithstanding all the labors bestowed upon us, we lie in a deep sleep, and hardly know what it is of late to be animated with the news of some careless sinner here and there awakened to serious concern about his eternal estate, it is high time to inquire what is wanting. . . .

[T]he success of the ministry of the gospel with respect to saints and sinners, entirely depends upon the concurring influences of divine grace; or, that without the divine agency to render the gospel successful, all the labors of its ministers will be in vain. . . .

Such is the present degeneracy of human nature, that all the ministrations of the gospel cannot remedy it, without the concurring efficacy of divine grace. . . .

The metaphors used in sacred scripture to illustrate this case, sufficiently prove the degeneracy of mankind, and their entire opposition to the gospel. They are represented as spiritually dead, Ephesians 2:1, John 5:25, that is, though they are still capable of the exercises of reason and animal actions, yet they are really destitute of a supernatural principle of spiritual life, and incapable of suitable exercises towards God. And can a Paul or an Apollos quicken the dead with convictive arguments, with strong persuasions, or tender and passionate expostulations? No; none but he can do it whose almighty voice bade Lazarus come forth. . . . .

What can the charms of eloquence do to charm deaf adders that stop their ears? (Psalm 58:4). The Israelites might as well pretend to overthrow the walls of Jericho with the sound of ram’s horns, as we with our feeble breath to overthrow the strong-holds of Satan in the hearts of sinners! It is the divine agency alone that gives the success in both cases. Clay cannot open the eyes of the blind, except in his almighty hands who could form a world out of nothing. . . . (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

God Gives The Increase

 

Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies was born in New Castle County, Delaware in 1723, of Welsh descent. In 1747 he was ordained by New Castle Presbytery as an evangelist to visit the newly formed congregations in Hanover County, Virginia. He itinerated in the care of seven Virginia congregations east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1753 he sailed to England and Scotland to raise funds in support of the proposed College of New Jersey, which was established at Princeton. He was elected president of the college in 1759, and served in that capacity until his death in 1761. He was often referred to as the apostle of Virginia, and what he understood Scripture to teach about human instrumentality appears in the following sermon:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7)

The design of God in all his works of creation, providence, and grace, is to advance and secure the glory of his own name; and therefore, though he makes use of secondary causes as the instruments of his operations, yet their efficacy depends upon his superintending influence. It is his hand that sustains the great chain of causes and effects, and his agency pervades and animates the worlds of nature and of grace.

In the natural world, he makes use of the instrumentality of the husbandman to till the ground, to sow the seed, and water it. But it is he that commands the clouds to drop down fatness upon it, and the sun to diffuse its vital influence. It is he that continues to the earth, and to the other principles of vegetation, their respective virtues; and without this influence of his the husbandman’s planting and watering would be in vain; and, after all his labor, he must acknowledge, that it is God that giveth the increase.

So in the world of grace, God uses a variety of suitable means to form degenerate sinners into his image, and fit them for a happy eternity. All the institutions of the gospel are intended for this purpose, and particularly the ministry of it. Ministers are sowers sent out into the wild field of the world, with the precious seed of the word. It is the grand business of their life to cultivate this barren soil, to plant trees of righteousness, and water them that they may bring forth the fruits of holiness. It is by the use of painful industry that they can expect to improve this wilderness into a fruitful field; and the Lord is pleased to pour out his spirit from on high at times to render their labors successful; so that they who went forth bearing precious seed with sorrow and tears, return bringing their sheaves with joy. But alas! They meet with disappointments enough to convince them that all their labors will be in vain, if a sovereign God deny the influences of his grace. The agency of his Holy Spirit is as necessary to fructify the word, and make it the seed of conversion, as the influences of heaven are to fructify the earth, and promote vegetation. A zealous Paul may plant the word, and an eloquent Apollos may water it; the one may attempt to convert sinners to Christianity, and the other to build them up in faith, but they are both nothing as to the success of their labors, unless God gives the increase; that is, unless he affords the influence of his grace to render their attempts successful in begetting and cherishing living religion in the hearts of men. This is the great truth contained in my text: Neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

The Dangerous Prayer

Samuel Davies

The cultural Christian will find his dangers numerous. He is particularly in danger from pride, presuming upon God, lukewarmness and self-righteousness. His heart is still corrupt and ensnared by the world. He is in danger of resting short of true Christianity. Danger is thick on every side and it is very doubtful whether he will be saved because he rests upon a false assurance. This is evident from his lack of proper earnestness in prayer, Bible study, church attendance, and seeking after holiness. Samuel Davies illustrates below the harm of prayers in the mouths of false believers:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

View a lukewarm professor [claims to be a Christian] in prayer; he pays to an omniscient God the compliment of a bended knee, as though he could impose upon him with such an empty pretense. When he is addressing the Supreme Majesty of heaven and earth, he hardly ever recollects in whose presence he is, or whom he is speaking to, but seems as if he were worshiping without an object, or pouring out empty words into the air: perhaps through the whole prayer he had not so much as one solemn, affecting thought of that God whose name he so often invoked. Here is a criminal petitioning for pardon so carelessly, that he scarcely knows what he is about. Here is a needy, famishing beggar pleading for such immense blessings as everlasting salvation, and all the joys of heaven, so lukewarmly and thoughtlessly, as if he cared not whether his requests were granted or not. Here is an obnoxious offender confessing his sins with a heart untouched with sorrow: worshiping the living God with a dead heart; making great requests, but he forgets them as soon as he rises from his knees, and is not at all inquisitive what becomes of them, and whether they were accepted or not. And can there be a more shocking, impious, and daring conduct than this? To trifle in the royal presence would not be such an audacious affront. For a criminal to catch flies, or sport with a feather, when pleading with his judge for his pardon, would be but a faint shadow of such religious trifling. What are such prayers but solemn mockeries and disguised insults? And yet, is not this the usual method in which many of you address the great God? The words proceed no further than from your tongue: you do not pour them out from the bottom of your hearts; they have no life or spirit in them, and you hardly ever reflect upon their meaning. And when you have talked away to God in this manner, you will have it to pass for a prayer. But surely such prayers must bring down a curse upon you instead of a blessing: such sacrifices must be an abomination to the Lord: Prov. xv. 8; and it is astonishing that he has not mingled your blood with your sacrifices, and sent you from your knees to hell; from thoughtless, unmeaning prayer, to real blasphemy and torture. (Sermon: “The Danger of Lukewarmness in Religion”)

The Vanity And Wickedness Of A Lukewarm Christianity

Samuel Davies

Even the best of Christians will sometimes find themselves in a state of lukewarmness towards the things of God. It is during these times that the real Christian will seek the Author of divine fire. He will cry unto the Lord “Fill me with the flame of Your Righteousness!” Samuel Davies challenges the indifferent confessor of Christ in the following article:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

Though you should profess the best religion that ever came from heaven, it will not save you; nay, it will condemn you with peculiar aggravations if you are lukewarm in it. This spirit of indifferency diffused through it, turns it all into deadly poison. Your religious duties are all abominable to God while the vigor of your spirits is not exerted in them. Your prayers are insults, and he will answer them as such by terrible things in righteousness. And do any of you hope to be saved by such a religion? I tell you from the God of truth, it will be so far from saving you, that it will certainly ruin you for ever: continue as you are to the last, and you will be as certainly damned to all eternity, as Judas, or Beelzebub, or any ghost in hell. But alas!

How common, how fashionable is this lukewarm religion! This is the prevailing, epidemical sin of our age and country; and it is well if it has not the same fatal effect upon us it had upon Laodicea; Laodicea lost its liberty, its religion, and its all. Therefore let [the state of] Virginia hear and fear, and do no more so wickedly. We have thousands of Christians, such as they are; . . . but alas! They are generally of the Laodicean stamp; they are neither cold nor hot. But it is our first concern to know how it is with ourselves; therefore let this inquiry go round this congregation; are you not such lukewarm Christians? Is there any fire and life in your devotions? Or are not all your active powers engrossed by other pursuits? Impartially make the inquiry, for infinitely more depends upon it than upon your temporal life.

If you have hitherto been possessed with this Laodicean spirit, I beseech you indulge it no longer. You have seen that it mars all your religion, and will end in your eternal ruin: and I hope you are not so hardened as to be proof against the energy of this consideration. Why halt you so long between two opinions? I would you were cold or hot. Either make thorough work of religion, or do not pretend to it. Why should you profess a religion which is but an insipid indifferency with you? Such a religion is good for nothing. Therefore awake, arise, and exert yourselves. Strive to enter in at the strait gate; strive earnestly, or you are shut out for ever. Infuse heart and spirit into your religion. Whatever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might. Now, this moment, while my voice sounds in your ears, now begin the vigorous enterprise. Now collect all the vigor of your souls and breathe it out in such a prayer as this, “Lord, fire this heart with thy love.” (“The Danger of Lukewarmness in Religion”)

The Indifferent Man

Samuel Davies

You would think that any person would be all attention and reverence when it comes to the word of God. A sane man would drink it in, and thirst for it as new-born babe for his mother’s milk. This word reveals the only method of your salvation and the blessings of God. You have a deeply personal interest in and need for God’s word. So, how is it that you can be indifferent hearers of it? Samuel Davies speaks to this issue:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

Is lukewarmness and indifference a suitable temper with respect to a future state of happiness or misery? Is it a suitable temper with respect to a happiness far exceeding the utmost bounds of our present thoughts and wishes; a happiness equal to the largest capacities of our souls in their most improved and perfect state; a happiness beyond the grave, when all the enjoyments of this transitory life have taken an eternal flight from us, and leave us hungry and famishing for ever, if these be our only portion; a happiness that will last as long as our immortal spirits, and never fade or fly from us? Or are lukewarmness and indifference a suitable temper with respect to a misery beyond expression, beyond conception dreadful; a misery inflicted by a God of almighty power and inexorable justice upon a number of obstinate, incorrigible rebels for numberless, willful and daring provocations, inflicted on purpose to show his wrath and make his power known; a misery proceeding from the united fury of divine indignation, of turbulent passions, of a guilty conscience, of malicious tormenting devils; a misery (who can bear up under the horror of the thought?) that shall last as long as the eternal God shall live to inflict it; as long as sin shall continue evil to deserve it; as long as an immortal spirit shall endure to bear it; a misery that shall never be mitigated, never intermitted, never, never, never see an end? And remember, that a state of happiness or misery is not far remote from us, but near us, just before us; the next year, the next hour, or the next moment, we may enter into it; is a state for which we are now candidates, now upon trial; now our eternal all lies at stake; and oh, sirs, does an inactive, careless posture become us in such a situation? Is a state of such happiness, or such misery, is such a state just — just before us, a matter of indifference to us? Oh can you be lukewarm about such matters? Was ever such a prodigious stupidity seen under the canopy of heaven, or even in the regions of hell, which abound with monstrous and horrid dispositions? No; the hardiest ghost below cannot make light of these things. Mortals! Can you trifle about them? Well, trifle a little longer, and your trifling will be over, for ever. You may be indifferent about the improving of your time; but time is not indifferent whether to pass by or not: it is determined to continue its rapid course, and hurry you into the ocean of eternity, though you should continue sleeping and dreaming through all the passage. Therefore awake, arise; exert yourselves before your doom be unchangeably fixed. If you have any fire within you, here let it burn; if you have any active powers, here let them be exerted; here or nowhere, and on no occasion. Be active, be in earnest where you should be; or debase or sink yourselves into stocks and stones, and escape the curse of being reasonable and active creatures. Let the criminal, condemned to die tomorrow, be indifferent about a reprieve or a pardon; let a drowning man be careless about catching at the only plank that can save him: but oh do not you be careless and indifferent about eternity, and such amazing realities as heaven and hell. If you disbelieve these things you are infidels; if you believe these things, and yet are unaffected with them, you are worse than infidels: you are a sort of shocking singularities, and prodigies in nature. Not hell itself can find a precedent of such a conduct. The devils believe, and tremble; you believe, and trifle with things whose very name strikes solemnity and awe through heaven and hell. (Sermon: “The Danger of Lukewarmness In Religion”)

Consider The Dangers Ahead!

I once heard a man, who when asked “Don’t you want to grow as a Christian and in your faith?” he replied “No! I am satisfied where I am right now!” I am not sure what the satisfaction was like that he was enjoying, but I know that I never want to stop growing in holiness and the knowledge of my God. I have faltered many times and sinned many times along the way, but through Christ my God has held on to me and does not let me slip too far. What a glorious God! I want to grow in my knowledge of Him and enjoy Him forever. Samuel Davies writes below on the indifference of those who do not see the danger ahead:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

Ye modern Laodiceans, are you not yet struck with horror at the thought of that insipid, formal, spiritless religion you have hitherto been contented with? And do you not see the necessity of following the advice of Christ to the Laodicean church, be zealous, be fervent for the future, and repent, bitterly repent of what is past. . . . Consider the difficulties and dangers in your way. Oh, sirs, if you know the difficulty of the work of your salvation, and the great danger of miscarrying in it, you could not be so indifferent about it, nor could you flatter yourselves such languid endeavors will never succeed. It is a labor, a striving, a race, warfare; so it is called in the sacred writings: but `would there be any propriety in these expressions, if it were a course of sloth and inactivity? Consider, you have strong lusts to be subdued, a hard heart to be broken, a variety of graces, which you are entirely destitute of, to be implanted and cherished, and that in an unnatural soil, where they will not grow without careful cultivation, and that you have many temptations to be encountered and resisted. In short, you must be made new men, quite other creatures than you now are. And oh! Can this work be successfully performed while you make such faint and feeble efforts? Indeed God is the Agent, and all your best endeavors can never affect the blessed revolution without him. But his assistance is not to be expected in the neglect, or careless use of means, nor is it intended to encourage idleness, but activity and labor: and when he comes to work, he will soon inflame your hearts, and put an end to your lukewarmness. Again, your dangers are also great and numerous; you are in danger from presumption and from despondency; from coldness, from lukewarmness, and from false fires and enthusiastic heats; in danger from self-righteousness, and from open wickedness, from your own corrupt hearts, from this ensnaring world, and from the temptations of the devil: you are in great danger of sleeping on in security, without ever being thoroughly awakened; or, if you should be awakened, you are in danger of resting short of vital religion; and in either of these cases you are undone for ever. In a word, dangers crowd thick around you on every hand, from every quarter; dangers, into which thousands, millions of your fellow-men have fallen and never recovered. . . . Oh that you knew the true state of the case! Such knowledge would soon fire you with the greatest ardor, and make you all life and vigor in this important work. (“The Danger of Lukewarmness In Religion”)

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