Justification 20, Humiliation 4

Last week we looked at David Brainerd’s comment on the extreme difficulty of people being brought to the point of being utterly undone within themselves. This week we want to focus on the great danger there is of people taking up some self-righteous appearances of it. It is this danger that Brainerd especially dwelt on in his dying days because he was persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way. The full quote from just before he died is given below.

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish. (1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

If it is the case that multitudes perish in this hidden way, then there is a great danger of people taking up some self-righteous appearances of it. However, the vast majority of people today do not even see that they must be brought to some point of being utterly undone within themselves. The need for people to be broken from their pride and self-righteousness is not thought of as important in evangelism. However, those who think they believe and those who believe see that there is something to the issue of humility and being broken in heart. Perhaps they are the ones that are taken up with some selfrighteous appearances of this.

Let us review something of the great danger of this. The point that I have been trying to get across is that what Brainerd is teaching is really vitally connected with justification. Therefore, if a person is taken up with some self-righteous appearance of being utterly undone within himself, that person is not really justified but is deceived about it. Why is this? Because a person that is not utterly undone within himself is not really trusting in Christ alone. This must be stressed over and over again. Until a person is utterly undone within himself he will trust in himself to some degree and that makes it impossible to trust in Christ alone. In the days of Brainerd it was the accepted view that people had to be broken in heart and undone within themselves to be justified. Today, however, very few have ever heard of such teaching despite the clarity of it in Scripture.

This should sink into the depths of our hearts and wake us up. What was at one time considered to be vital to evangelism and true religion is now scarcely known. It is not that multitudes now perish because of taking up some self-righteous appearances of this, but now this vital truth is not even known. Now people do not even take up an appearance of it because it is not even talked about. So if vast multitudes perished then because they took up self-righteous appearances of being utterly undone in self, then how much greater is the problem when a far greater number of people are alive and this teaching is not practiced by hardly anyone at all? Could it be that even within orthodox circles where the doctrine of justification is tenaciously held that the teaching of a person being utterly undone is not heard and therefore many are perishing while holding on to an orthodox view of justification? Let me give a quote from Solomon Stoddard, the grandfather of Jonathan Edwards:

There are some who deny the any necessity of the preparatory work of the Spirit of God in order to a closing with Christ. This is a very dark cloud, both as it is an evidence that men do not have the experience of that work in their own souls, and as it is a sign that such men are utterly unskillful in guiding others who are under this work. If this opinion should prevail in the land, it would give a deadly wound to religion. It would expose men to think of themselves as converted when they are not…. But if they do not know any necessity of preparation, they will take the first appearance of holiness for holiness; and, if they find religious affections in themselves, they will grow confident that God has wrought a good work in them. It would, likewise, expose them to bolster up others in false confidence. A man who knows that there must be a work of preparation will be careful how he encourages others that they are in Christ. He will inquire how God has made way for their receiving Christ; but another, who is a stranger to it will be ready to take all for gold that glitters.

May the words of these men that God greatly used in true revival and the conversions of many souls have their proper weight upon us today. Brainerd thought that multitudes perished because they took up with a self-righteous appearance of being utterly undone. Stoddard thought that men who denied this were utterly unskillful in guiding seeking souls. He also thought that if that opinion prevailed in the land that it would give a deadly wound to religion. Indeed the land has very little true Christianity within its borders and there are many who are ready to cry “peace, peace” on souls when there is no peace at all. Surely multitudes of people are perishing within the confines of churches and of perhaps orthodox ministers. Surely this must give us great pause in the way we think and approach evangelism. Surely this should at the very least make us stop and think before we try to encourage people into believing that they are saved and how we guide others to a belief in Christ. We must also consider that Jesus said to the crowds following Him around the country that they must deny self in order to be His disciple. What does it mean to deny self? It means something like what Brainerd meant when he said that a man must be utterly undone within himself in order to come to a saving faith. Remember, justification is by faith without works.

Jesus said that salvation is impossible with men (Luke 18:27). Must men see that salvation is impossible with themselves in order to trust Christ alone for justification? Is that adding to the Gospel? No, it is simply setting out what is needed for man to believe in Christ alone. Paul also gives his testimony to this in Romans 7:

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

How does Paul describe his conversion? First, we see that the Law was used and applied to his heart. Before that Paul only saw the Law as reaching the outer man, but now he understood that it reached his affections, desires, and deepest wants. Paul saw the Law as that which must be preached in order for man to die to the Law, that is, to die to his own ability to keep the Law. If the Law is not preached, then there is no way for man to know that he cannot keep the rigorous standards of the Law. So Paul thought he was alive apart from the Law, but when the Law came (spiritually pressed on his heart) he saw his sin and he died. In other words, Paul died to self and its efforts to keep the Law because he saw that it was impossible for the flesh to keep the Law. The Law, which is holy, righteous, and good was set out to him and he judged himself by it and its spiritual demands. Paul saw through the commandment that sin was utterly sinful and when this happened Paul was utterly undone within himself.

What happened to Paul needs to happen to every person. People must not only see that they have broken the Law, but that they cannot keep the Law in their hearts at all. They need to be brought to the point where they see that salvation is impossible with men (including themselves) so that they are utterly undone within themselves in terms of having anything to do with their own salvation. If and only if a person reaches that point is that person able to trust in Christ alone for salvation. Are multitudes perishing now because this is hidden from them? Yes, I fear so. Some people will not even preach the Law in evangelism now. Others just try to get people to admit that they are sinners. However, Jesus told people that salvation was impossible with men and Paul said that he had to die to himself in order to be married to Christ. Though it is not popular, I believe Jesus and Paul. If they were right, then justification by faith alone demands that men be utterly broken from self in order to believe in Christ alone.


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