Musings 133

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)

Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

The work of regeneration being of absolute necessity unto salvation, it greatly concerns ministers especially, in all ways possible, to promote the same; and in particular that they guide souls aright who are under a work of preparation. There are some who deny 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… For men must see the plague of their own hearts, their helplessness, and that they are like clay in the hand of the potter before they come to Christ, and so will be afraid and be searching themselves. (Solomon Stoddard, Guide to Christ)

Thomas Adam tells us that if we make a mistake here, all is lost. Pink tells us it is those things that we continue to trust in that thrust away all Divine help. Stoddard tells us that the work of regeneration is of an absolute necessity and that souls must have a work of the Spirit of God with His work of preparation in them in order that they might close with Christ. Stoddard says that men must see three things before men can come to Christ: One, they must see the plague of their own hearts. Two, they must see their helplessness. Three, they must see that they are like clay in the hand of the potter. The quotes from the three men come to us from the 1700’s and then the 1900’s. The early writers represented what was the standard practice at the time and Pink represents the older writers in face of what the overwhelming majority practiced in his time.

While we can put the blame on Finney as such, it was clearly a backing away from the practice based on the sovereign God that brought the modern practices to pass. We had a solid Reformed practice that was eroded during the time of Finney, but in the 1800’s and early to mid-1900’s liberalism and rationalism took over as well. There was a battle against liberalism and rationalism, but there has not been a real battle against the teaching of Finney (Pelagianism). The teaching of the older writers (Luther, Calvin, Adam, Stoddard) have not been recovered and are even looked down upon by modern writers who are Reformed in name. The terrible danger that the older writers spoke of are now the common teaching among the Reformed in name as well.

What is known as Reformed in our day is really Arminianism at the heart of it as people are just told to believe. What is known as Arminianism in our day is really (for the most part) nothing but ancient Pelagianism. This can be seen in how sinners are instructed. In the past they were told that they must see the plague of their own hearts, that they were helpless, and that they were like clay in the hand of the Potter. We see nothing like that today.

We can think of it as practical Arminianism or practical Pelagianism or whatever other name one wants to use, but the heart of the matter is that terribly dangerous practices are being taught. Sinners are not taught the truth about themselves and they are not being instructed to seek the Lord who alone can take what is in them that fights true faith away. It is like having a blockage in your vein and the doctor telling you that your blood must flow but not doing anything to take the blockage away. The difference between the spiritual truth and the doctor is that one may lead to death in this life, but the other leads to eternity in hell. Preachers who do not warn the congregation of these things and only tell them to believe are guilty of spiritual malpractice. They are like the prophets who cried out “peace, peace” and yet there was no peace. Truth has been sold for a bowl of stew.

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