Musings 130

But who is sufficient for these things? Is all this change a small matter? And is it in the power of man thus to renew his heart, and change the whole bent of his affections—i.e. to new make himself? No, no more than it was to make himself at the first. And therefore the Scripture tells us plainly, “that it is God who works in us both to will and to do;” that “without him:–without Christ, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God,” enlightening our understandings, and renewing our wills; “we can do nothing.” And those who think they can do great things for themselves, either never tried, or else they are ignorant of their case, and do not know the work that is before them. Dear brethren, if we mistake here, we lost all. We expect light where there is nothing but darkness; strength from weakness; and look for health and salvation where there is nothing but corruption and death. We are self-sufficient, and can only be self-saved, i.e. miserable, and left to perish by the work of our own hands. (Thomas Adam, 1701-1784)

Adam points out something that we should take care to focus on. “If we mistake here,” all is lost. This is seemingly a forgotten point in the modern day. The historians focus on historical things and preachers focus on getting money for bigger buildings and plan and preach to fill those bigger buildings. The huge problem, however, is that those buildings are filled with people who are being deceived. Even if preachers are orthodox and have orthodox creeds, the issue of numbers will be there as long as preachers are paid salaries. It is easy to be orthodox and it is easy to preach basic orthodoxy, but it is difficult to preach in a way that strips people of their self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. It is difficult to preach in a way that drives people to see their utter and absolute need of Christ. It is difficult to preach in a way that sets forth Christ and Christ alone as what is necessary for all things in salvation and sanctification, and that includes faith and repentance.

Adam understands that the doctrine of depravity, that is, of man’s total inability in spiritual things as a vital issue. Adam understands that the soul that looks to itself for faith is looking in the wrong direction and is mislead, even greatly deceived. Adam understands that the soul without Christ can do absolutely and utterly nothing in terms of what is spiritual and truly good. Adam understands that even believing souls must have Christ to do anything spiritual or truly good as well. The question, however, is that is biblical. If Adam is right about these things, and he does stand in the Puritan tradition as well as Luther and Calvin, then our present generation has missed the mark. What was understood as standard practice from Luther until the time of Finney has been rejected and Finney (his type of teaching that was based on Pelagian doctrine) has won the day.

But again, “if we mistake here, we lost all.” This is not just an intellectual discussion with people who can calmly discuss things that matter little, this is truly a vital point at a vital area. Following the thought of Adam on this, those who disagree with him have people looking for spiritual strength from those who have no spiritual strength at all. Those who disagree with him have people looking for health and salvation where there is nothing but open graves and death. Those who disagree with him look to people to be self-sufficient and to help out in their own salvation, but instead they will perish by the work of their own hands.

We must not pass by this vital issue with a simple sneer as if it is Hyper-Calvinism or something. The older writers thought that the heart of man must be emptied of self and pride (broken) in order for that heart to be able not to trust in self. It is as sinful to trust in self to trust in Christ as to trust in idols. When we trust in self that is our idol. When we trust in self to trust in Christ we have no idea of what it means to trust in Christ alone. The Lord Jesus not only purchased salvation, He procured it and He must apply it by the Spirit. The Gospel was not purchased for sinners and left up to them to apply it to themselves, but instead the Gospel is so fully procured that nothing is left for the sinner to do (in this sense) but look to Christ for a new heart, faith, repentance, and all things necessary. There is a reason that the Reformers spoke of Christ alone. It is because Christ saves from beginning to end and leaves nothing to chance and nothing left to do. Christ alone means Christ alone. May God open the eyes of people to see that they cannot trust in Christ until they have been turned by His grace from trusting in themselves.

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