Justification 21, Humiliation 5

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)

We have been going through this wonderful statement of David Brainerd taken from his diary not too long before he died. He gives us what he considers to be the essence of true religion. I have tried to show how it fits with the great doctrine of the Gospel, justification by faith alone (without works). In order to be justified by faith alone or without works, one must trust in Christ alone apart from any trust in self. I have been trying to show that this is necessary in order for justification to be by faith alone which is to say by grace alone and by Christ alone.

I received an email this week that responded to some of the things that I have been saying. I would like to use that email in an effort to clear some things up. The email quoted Spurgeon as against Preparationism and then implied that I was teaching the same thing. First, from what I have read Spurgeon was against Preparationism of a certain kind. That is absolutely true. However, would he have necessarily been against what I have been saying? In some of his sermons he would sound like it and in other sermons he would sound like he was for what I am saying. So what do we do? Well, we are to be guided by Scripture first and foremost. Whatever Scripture says we are to follow over and beyond any man.

The Puritans, many of the most important pastors to come to America, and Jonathan Edwards practiced a certain form of evangelism. This is also the type of evangelism used by David Brainerd. This type of evangelism has been referred to as “seeking evangelism” and as “Preparationism.” Those terms are fine as far as it goes. However, there was another type of evangelism that came up and it was also called “Preparationism.” This kind of evangelism gave certain things for the soul to do and if it followed those steps the soul would be saved. In other words, what it really did was to give people works to do in order to be saved. However, the two types of Preparationism must not be confused. I fear that Spurgeon denounced the works oriented Preparationism without distinguishing it from the other kind. In fact, in some of Spurgeon’s teaching he would agree that the soul needs to be prepared before it can be saved. I will give one sermon that was obviously in favor of some form of preparation.

Spurgeon preached on Luke 1:17 a sermon entitled A PEOPLE PREPARED FOR THE LORD. In this sermon he tells us that souls need to be prepared. Let me give several quotes from his sermon:

We sang over and over again those words, “Just as I am,” Just as I am,” and we are prone to protest against the idea of being prepared for Christ; we preach incessantly that no preparation is needed, but that men are to come to Jesus just as they are. Yet here is John the Baptist se apart “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

The fact is, that to get men to come to Jesus just as they are, is not an easy thing. To get them to give up the idea of preparing to get them prepared to come without preparing to get them ready to come just as they are is the hardest part of our work, this is the greatest difficulty….But when we say to them “Come just as you are now, with nothing in your hand to buy the mercy of God, with nothing wherewith to demand or to deserve it,” men want a great deal of preparing before they will come to that point. Only the grace of God, working mightily through the Word, by the Spirit, will prepare men to come to Christ thus, prepared by being unprepared so far as any fitness of their own is concerned. The only fit state in which they can come is that of sinking themselves, abandoning all idea of helping Christ, and coming in all their natural impotence and guilt, and taking Christ to be their all in all.

Beloved friends, this is the true preparedness of heart for coming to Christ, the preparedness of coming to him just as you are; and it was John’s business thus “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” That is also my business at this time.

The headings of points of this sermon I will list below:

  • First, John made ready “a people prepared for the Lord” by AROUSING THEIR ATTENTION.
  • Now, second, John made the people ready for Christ BY AWAKENING THEIR CONSCIENCES.
  • Thirdly, John had “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” BY POINTING OUT THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION.
  • A fourth way in which John made ready “a people prepared from the Lord,” he did it BY DECLARING THE GRACE AND POWER OF JESUS CHRIST.

As we can see at least from this one sermon that Spurgeon believed in a type of preparation of the soul. I do not believe that it is much different from what Brainerd taught. Brainerd was trying to get people to see that they could do nothing to save themselves in order to really believe in Christ. In other words, to use Spurgeon’s words, people must be prepared to see that they are unprepared and so come to Christ just as they are. If there is no preparation at all, then there would be no need to teach people about Christ or of their sin. Instead, the whole point of teaching people about their sin is so that they will give up any hope in themselves and so come just as they are. The whole point of teaching people in the Gospel about Christ is so that they will trust in Him and not themselves. The point of preparation as Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd taught it was so that the soul would be emptied of self in order to come to Christ without anything in their hands at all. The other type of Preparationism was different in that it appeared to be giving people things to do that would assist in their salvation. The Edwards and Brainerd type was to prepare the soul by stripping it of all that the soul trusted in of itself so that it could go to Christ without any merit at all of itself.

Why would Edwards and Brainerd teach men to meditate on sin in order to be broken from sin? Listen to Spurgeon from the same sermon above: “Hence it is a real preparation of men for Christ to convince them of sin.” The teaching of sin does not prepare men for Christ in any other way than to show them that they are sinners and that they cannot save themselves. Why are we to prepare men by teaching about Christ? Spurgeon says this: “If I were to preach to you merely to arouse your attention, to awaken your consciences to a sense of sin, or simply to show you the nature of true religion, yet you would not be prepared for Christ unless you knew something about him, something about his suitableness and his power to save you.”

Who prepares men for Christ? Is it their own effort to do this? No, listen again to Spurgeon: “Only the grace of God, working mightily through the Word, by the Spirit, will prepare men to come to Christ thus, prepared by being unprepared so far as any fitness of their own is concerned.” And again, “He who makes you willing to receive is certainly willing to give. If he has emptied you, and prepared you to receive of his fullness, do not think that he will refuse you when you come to him for it.” In other words, Christ is the One who truly prepares the soul by emptying it of itself, its own merits, and any trusting in itself.

I don’t believe that what Spurgeon teaches in this sermon is any different from what Edwards and Brained taught. We must be emptied of self, but we are to pray for that and seek it by the hand of Christ through His Word. The kind of Preparation that Edwards taught was a preparation in which Christ emptied the soul of all that kept the soul from trusting in Him alone. This is perfectly in line with justification by faith alone and a salvation that is totally be grace alone. Christ does not show the soul its sin and pride because the soul deserves it, but because He shows souls this when He is preparing them to come to Him apart from any merit on their own. Men that are filled with pride and self must be emptied of that by grace in order to come to Christ without any merits of their own. This is what Spurgeon taught. Indeed he was hard on those that tried forms of Preparationism that were steps to salvation by their own works, but he clearly believed that souls must be humbled and taught of Christ in order to be converted. That is all that I have been saying through Brainerd because the Gospel of Christ demands that we trust in Christ alone and nothing in ourselves. Men must be prepared by Christ to come to an end of self.

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