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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Clarke

How Did Famous Arminians Celebrate Christmas?

Christmas brings up different emotions for me.  On the one hand, I have fond memories of Christmas as both a boy and an adult.  I have appreciated Christmas over the years.  Yet on the negative side is watching my own boys grow up in a culture where Christmas means one thing: presents.  Lost is the focus of the incarnation of God.

As a history buff, I am also torn on Christmas itself.  The practice of Christmas, as we know it now, is really the product of 19th and 18th century practices coming from Germany and England to the United States and because of the economic power of the United States, the practice of Christmas as focused on gifts and stuff is by in large an American edition to the holiday.  While both Germans and Brits did give gifts to each other in the late 19th century, the excessive nature of gift giving is a largely American focus.  Santa Claus, as we know him today, is the product of advertisement from 1931.  The really St. Nicholas was a bishop who was at the council of Nicaea and tradition tells us that he punched Arias for his blasphemy toward the deity of Jesus Christ.  Not the picture of Santa Claus we think of today!

When it comes to Church History, how did early Arminians celebrate Christmas?  I am only speculating based off information from that era and not off direct statements from Arminians themselves.

Let us begin with Arminius and the early Remonstrants.  No doubt they would have followed the Calvinist tradition of rejecting Christmas.  John Calvin had made Christmas illegal to celebrate in Geneva and Calvin viewed the day as more pagan than divine.  Calvin, like all the Reformers, viewed the Catholic Church as corrupt and vile. Calvin viewed the popery as the antichrist.  Calvin viewed the various Catholic holidays as having nothing to do with the gospel.  Calvin then rejected the Catholic celebration of Christ’s Mass (or Christmas).  Arminius, who studied under Calvin’s son-in-law and successor, Theodore Beza, would have likely rejected Christmas for the same reasons.  Arminius wrote much like Calvin on the popery and he too viewed the Catholic church as corrupt and he called her “the great whore of Babylon” (Revelation 17:5-6).  I suspect that Arminius would not have celebrated any Catholic holidays and neither would the Remonstrants.

By the time of John Wesley, England was a mixed bag when it came to Christmas.  The Puritans had sought to end the day called Christmas and even sought to officially change the name to Christtide.  The name didn’t stick.  The Puritans, like the Reformers, viewed themselves as Protestants and not Catholic and wanted nothing to do with the Catholic holidays.  The Puritan in 18th century America made it illegal to celebrate Christmas in many of their towns in New England.  They allowed “the strangers” (non-Puritan immigrants) to practice Christmas but only in their own homes.  The Puritans made sure to work on Christmas as to show they were not resting or celebrating with the Catholics.  In this environment, John Wesley came.  Wesley likely would have been in-between having strong love for the Church of England and his love for the Puritans.  Wesley never condemns the holiday but we find no record of him practicing it either.  Yet his brother Charles wrote Hark! The Herald Angels Sing which would become a theologically accurate hymn for Christmas that is sung even today by Catholics.

I suppose that we could bring up other Arminians in the past and show their views on the day.  What would Adam Clarke say?  Clarke opposed Charles Wesley’s organ playing in church so I suppose he would oppose Christmas in the church.  In his Bible Commentary Clarke notes in passing that Jesus was not born on December 25th and reasons that He was born possibly around late September since the shepherds were in the fields with their flocks (Luke 2:8).  Clarke makes no mention of Christmas.

Richard Watson likewise makes no mention of Christmas in his Theological Dictionary.  Watson does mention that Catholicism is heretical and unbiblical so it is safe to say that he would not have regarded Christmas with fondness.  Watson also takes aim at the heretical Catholic mass.

Today all Arminians that I know of have no trouble with Christmas.  The day has become a day to remember and ponder the birth of the Son of God.  I agree with Arminius and with others before me that the day is likely the day that Jesus was born on nor is a Christian less a Christian if they don’t celebrate Christmas.  In our day the birth of the Lord Jesus has largely become a day of giving of gifts, commercialism, Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.  The glory of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus has been either completely ignored by the secular or watered down by the Church.  I have often joked with my wife that it is the one time of the year that secular radio plays Christian songs and Christian radio plays secular Christmas songs.  It is the one time of the year that Christian radio will play Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” and secular radio will play a secular artist singing “Silent Night.”

The reality is that Christmas does cause us, no matter who we are, to atlases acknowledge Jesus.  Militant atheists want to deny that Jesus even existed yet Christmas points to the biblical reality that Jesus did in fact live and the world continues to acknowledge this.  Secularist want to remove Jesus from Christmas and, like Easter before it, make it about children and about more stuff (greed).  Yet the incarnation of God (John 1:14) is still there.  While December 25th was probably not His birthdate, the reality of the birth of the Son of God drives unbelievers and sinners mad.

In my estimation, Christmas is neither good nor evil.  It is not biblical but it does point to a biblical reality: that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34-35).  Jesus was born to die (Matthew 1:21).  He came to shed His blood for our salvation.  This is the miracle of Christmas.  The incarnation of Jesus should cause us to worship and adore Him for what He did for our salvation (Philippians 2:5-11).

The world has no problem with the Baby in the manger.  They have a problem with their sins and with the Judge of all the earth (Romans 1:18-21).  While the unbelieving world will celebrate the birth of the Messiah this December 25th, we disciples are looking to Hebrews 9:27-28 and we declare the Jesus is Lord!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/23/2014 at 4:30 PM

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

– Hebrews 12:2 (NASB)

One of the characteristics of cults is that they do not focus on Jesus Christ.  They may mention Him and use His name but often the focus is not on Jesus but upon either a man or a group such as a church.  Salvation is generally tied to Jesus (sometimes) but always somethings is added such as Jesus plus a church or Jesus plus a prophet or Jesus plus baptism into that church.  The focus is not on Jesus alone.

The message of cults is not on Jesus either.  It is usually on good works or keeping the commandments of the group (or church).  That list can be short or long depending on the group.  Most cults spend most of their time looking at themselves and what they do with just a casual glance at Jesus and what He has done.

Salvation, however, in the New Testament is focused on Jesus Christ and what He has done.  Hebrews 12:2 is clear that the disciple is not to be focused on the group, the church, their works, their repentance, their lack of sinning, their discipler but upon the Lord Jesus.  Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith.  Jesus is the One who sits at the right hand of God praying for the saints of God (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus is the One who died for our sins and brought us peace with God (Ephesians 2:14-15).  Jesus is the only One who bore our sins on the cross (Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24).  Jesus has sat down at God’s right hand until His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13).

Adam Clarke writes about Hebrews 12:2 and Jesus as our example:

Looking off and on, or from and to; looking off or from the world and all secular concerns to Jesus and all the spiritual and heavenly things connected with him. This is still an allusion to the Grecian games: those who ran were to keep their eyes fixed on the mark of the prize; they must keep the goal in view. The exhortation implies, 1. That they should place all their hope and confidence in Christ, as their sole helper in this race of faith. 2. That they should consider him their leader in this contest and imitate his example.

Jesus is our focus for the redeemed.  Our focus is not on us.  Our focus is not on our church.  Our focus is not on our prayer life.  Our focus is not on our evangelism.  Our focus is not on what we have done but upon the Lord Jesus and what He has done.  Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith.  He has finished this work (John 19:30).  We cannot add to His work nor take away from His work.  Salvation is accomplished through Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  Good works do not save (Ephesians 2:8-9).  A church or group does not save.  Jesus alone saves by His grace and for His glory.

If your salvation is dependent upon what you do or what a group does for you, repent!  Repent of your dead works (Hebrews 9:14).  Repent of seeking to save yourself when you cannot (Isaiah 64:6).  The only hope we have is Jesus.  He alone is the One who is able to deliver us from our sins (Matthew 1:21) and He alone is the One who is able to give us peace with a holy God (Romans 5:1).  Our faith must be in Him alone and not in us or our group.

If you are your group spends their time focusing on anything or anyone but Jesus Christ and His cross, I urge you repent or leave.  Flee idolatry (1 John 5:21).  Flee works salvation.  Flee from focusing on anything or anyone but the only One who can save us from us and the wrath of an Almighty God (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/13/2014 at 10:10 AM

Where is the Call to Holiness?

Very few people who claim to be true Christians live holy lives.  In many ways, many live their lives just like the people of this world.  They love the things in the world and pursue the world despite the call of John the Apostle in 1 John 2:15-17.  People are content to believe that God loves them enough to save them through His Son (John 3:16) but are content to live in the world and not flee from sin that first sent the Son of God to the cross (Isaiah 53:4-6).  People want to be “His people” but do not want to be completely saved from “their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

The call of God is to holiness (Hebrews 12:14).  The Bible tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Paul the Apostle prayed often for believers to be holy and blameless before God (see 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Paul called the Church to holiness (Philippians 2:14-15).  Paul wanted the Church to forsake sin (1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  John the Beloved likewise called the Church to holiness (1 John 2:1-2).  In Romans 6, Paul the Apostle tells the disciples in Rome that Jesus not only has set us from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin!

So where is the call to holiness?  I fear that in our day we have many people who even preach against sin but live shameful lives when no one is looking.  God knows.  He sees al things even what is going on in secret (Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24).  He sees that man who preaches one thing but secretly is looking at pornography on the Internet.  He sees that woman who claims to be holy but she is gossiping about others.  God knows all things.  We cannot hide from Him and we must give an account for our lives before Him (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The power of holiness begins with the gospel.  In Galatians 2:20 Paul preaches what you and I must preach and live as well; that we died with Christ on the cross and are raised to walk in the newness of life by His power.  The power for holy living comes through faith in the resurrected Christ who lives to make intercession before God on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25).  How can the disciple of Christ fail when we have the Son of God praying at God’s right hand for us and the Holy Spirit praying for us as well (Romans 8:26-27)?  The Lord Jesus knows our struggles (Hebrews 4:14-16) and He is more than able to help us overcome sin by His grace (1 Corinthians 10:13; Titus 2:13).

What sin is more powerful than Christ?  What sin can He not rescue us from?  He is able to rescue us from all sin.  He is able to empower us to live holy lives.  He is able to deliver us from us and He is able to help us not to be hypocrites when no one else is watching.  He is able to purify our minds as we set them upon Him (Philippians 4:8-9).  He is able to purify us from all sin (1 John 1:9).

This is an ongoing struggle.  Sin is not defeated by one prayer meeting or by one experience.  Sin must be fought with all the time.  The only hope we have is to daily walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  Daily I must look to Christ alone to help me.  I look to Him by prayer.  I look to Him in His Word.  I daily do these things.  Discipline alone is good but discipline with a focus on Christ is the true way to victory (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Christ has secured our salvation and He also has secured our sanctification (John 17:17-20).  He cleanses our hearts by faith (Acts 15:9).  As we look to Christ alone to save us both from the wrath of God and from present sin (1 Thessalonians 1:10), we find that He is sufficient to help us in all our struggles with sin.

What final point.  The attitude I see today among some is that we just rest in Christ and don’t worry about fighting against our sins.  They believe that they are “once saved, always saved” and thus they don’t have to battle against sin.  They reason that God only sees them in Christ (imputed righteousness) and they don’t need to be personally righteous.  This incorrect thinking has led some to fall into great sins.  The Bible calls believers to forsake sin and to pursue holiness.  No where does the Bible tell us just to rest in Christ and not fight.  In 1 Corinthians 6:18 Paul told the corrupt Corinthian church to flee immorality.  In wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:9 that his aim was to please Christ in light of the judgment seat of Christ in verse 10.  In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul wrote that we are to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ”

Adam Clarke wrote on 2 Corinthians 7:1:

“These are things in which both body and soul must consent. But still withholding the eye, the ear, the hand, and the body in general, from sights, reports, and acts of evil, will not purify a fallen spirit; it is the grace and Spirit of Christ alone, powerfully applied for this very purpose, that can purify the conscience and the heart from all dead works. But if we do not withhold the food by which the man of sin is nourished and supported, we cannot expect God to purify our hearts. While we are striving against sin, we may expect the Spirit of God to purify us by his inspiration from all unrighteousness, that we may perfectly love and magnify our Maker. How can those expect God to purify their hearts who are continually indulging their eyes, ears, and hands in what is forbidden, and in what tends to increase and bring into action all the evil propensities of the soul?”

I ask the same.  How can we claim holiness while living in sin?  How can we expect to be holy while indulging our sinfulness all the while claiming to be in Christ by faith and resting in His work?  We deceive ourselves into thinking that God does not see us anymore now that we are in Christ.  Yet the Lord said in Revelation 2:2 to the church in Ephesus: “I know your works.”  How can this be if He only sees the work of Christ?

The reality is that God does see us.  He always see us.  For the disciple who truly loves Christ and is pursuing holiness, this is not a fearful thing (Psalm 121:4).  The knowledge that God always sees me brings both fear and such comfort that words can not describe.  God is able to deliver us from all sin.  It is in His power to do so.

My prayer is that the Church would pursue holiness.  Ephesians 5:27 says that Christ will have a bride without blemish.  He is sanctifying His bride even now.  I rejoice that the Lord is faithful to sanctify us.  I long for His touch.

Adam Clarke on Apostasy

There has been much spoken against the doctrine of what is called free will by persons who seem not to have understood the term. Will is a free principle. Free will is as absurd as bound will: it is not will if it be not free; and if it be bound, it is no will. Volition is essential to the being of the soul, and to all rational and intellectual beings. This is the most essential discrimination between matter and spirit. Matter can have no choice, spirit has. Ratiocination is essential to intellect; and from these volition is inseparable. God uniformly treats man as a free agent; and on this principle the whole of divine revelation is constructed, as is also the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. If a man be forced to believe, he believes not at all: it is the forcing power that believes, not the machine forced. If he be forced to obey, it is the forcing power that obeys; and he, as a machine, shows only the effect of this irresistible force. If a man be incapable of willing good and willing evil, he is incapable of being saved as a rational being; and if he acts only under an overwhelming compulsion, he is as incapable of being damned. In short, this doctrine reduces him either to a puncture stans, which by the vis inertiae is incapable of being moved, but as acted upon by foreign influence; or, as an intellectual being, to nonentity.

The power to will and the power to act must necessarily come from God, who is the Author both of the soul and the body, and of all their powers and energies; but the act of volition and the act of working come from the man. God gives power to will: man wills through that power; God gives power to act, and man acts through that power. Without the power to will man can will nothing; without the power to work, man can do nothing. God neither wills for man, nor works in man’s stead, but he furnishes him with power to do both; he is, therefore, accountable to God for these powers.

It is only in the use of lawful means that we have any reason to expect God’s blessing and help. One of the ancients has remarked, “Though God has made man without himself, he will not save him without himself;” and therefore man’s own concurrence of will, and co-operation of power with God, are essentially necessary to his preservation and salvation. This co-operation is the grand condition, sine qua non, of which God will help or save. But is not this endeavoring to merit salvation by our own works? No: for this is impossible, unless we could prove that all the mental and corporeal powers which we possess come from and of ourselves, and that we hold them independently of the power and beneficence of our Creator; and that every act of these was of infinite value, to make it an equivalent for the heaven we wished to purchase. Putting forth the band to receive the alms of a benevolent man, can never be considered a purchase price for the bounty bestowed. For ever shall that word stand true in all its parts, “Christ is the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.”

It is not for want of holy resolutions and heavenly influences that men are not saved, but through their own unsteadiness; they do not persevere, they forget the necessity of continuing in prayer, and thus the Holy Spirit is grieved, departs from them, and leaves them to their own darkness and hardness of heart. When we consider the heavenly influences which many receive who draw back to perdition, and the good fruits which, for a time, they bore, it is blasphemy to say, They had no genuine, or saving grace. They had it, they showed it, they trifled with it, and sinned against it; and therefore are lost.

What a comfortable thought it is to the followers of Christ, that neither men nor demons can act against them but by the permission of their heavenly Father, and that he will not suffer any of those who trust in him to be tried above what they are able to bear, and will make the trial end in their greater salvation, and in his glory!

Slothfulness is natural to man; it requires much training to induce him to labor for his daily bread: if God should miraculously send it, he will wonder and eat it; and that is the whole. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate,” is an ungracious word to many; they profess to trust in God’s mercy, but labor not to enter that rest. God will not reverse his purpose to meet their slothfulness: they alone who overcome shall sit with Jesus on his throne. Reader, “take unto thee the whole armor of God, that thou mayest be able to stand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.” And remember that he only who endures to the end shall be saved.

If to “watch” be to employ ourselves chiefly about the business of our salvation, alas! how few of those who are called Christians are there who do watch! how many who slumber! how many who are asleep! how many seized with a lethargy! how many quite dead!

You have many enemies; be continually on your guard; be always circumspect: 1. Be watchful against evil. 2. Watch for opportunities to do good. 3. Watch over each other in love. 4. Watch that none may draw you aside from the belief and unity of the gospel.

He that is self-confident is already half fallen. He who professes to believe that God will absolutely keep him from falling finally, and neglects watching unto prayer, is not in a safer state. He who lives by the moment, walks in the light, and maintains his communion with God, is in no danger of apostasy.

Will it avail any of us how near we get to heaven, if the door be shut before we arrive? How dreadful the thought, to have only missed being eternally saved! to aim well and yet to permit the devil, the world, or the flesh, to hinder in the few last steps! Reader, watch and be sober.

For want of a little more dependence upon God, how often does an excellent beginning come to an unhappy conclusion! Many who were on the borders of the promised land, and about to cross Jordan, have, through an act of unfaithfulness, been turned back to wander many a dreary year in the wilderness. Reader, be on thy guard. Trust in Christ, and watch unto prayer.

He who changes from opinion to opinion, and from one sect or party to another, is never to be depended on; there is much reason to believe that such a person is either mentally weak, or has never been rationally and divinely convinced of the truth.

The apostle shows here five degrees of apostasy: 1. Consenting to sin; being deceived by its solicitations. 2. Hardness of heart through giving way to sin. 3. Unbelief in consequence of this hardness, which leads them to call even the truth of the gospel in question. 4. This unbelief causing them to speak evil of the gospel, and the provision God has made for the salvation of their souls. 5. Apostasy itself, or falling off from the living God, and thus extinguishing all the light that was in them, and finally grieving the Spirit of God, so that he takes his flight, and leaves them to a seared conscience and reprobate mind. He who begins to give the least way to sin is in danger of final apostasy: the best remedy against this is, to get the evil heart removed; as one murderer in the house is more to be dreaded than ten without. Every believer in Christ is in danger of apostasy while any remains of the evil heart of unbelief are found in him. God has promised to purify the heart, and the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. It is, therefore, the highest wisdom of genuine Christians to look to God for the complete purification of their souls; this they cannot have too soon, and for this they cannot be too much in earnest. Who can adequately describe the misery and wretchedness of that soul which has lost its union with the Fountain of all good, and, in losing this, has lost the possibility of happiness till the simple eye be once more given, and the straight line once more drawn?

How strange is it that there should be found any backslider! that one who once felt the power of Christ should ever turn aside! But it is still stranger that any one who has felt it, and given, in his life and conversation, full proof that he has felt it, should not only let it slip, but at last deny that he ever had it, and even ridicule a work of grace in the heart! Such instances have appeared among men.

Where there are so many snares and dangers, it is impossible to be too watchful and circumspect. Satan, as a roaring lion, as a subtle serpent, or in the guise of an angel of light, is momentarily going about seeking whom he may deceive, blind, and devour; and, when it is considered that the human heart, till entirely renewed, is on his side, it is a miracle of mercy that any soul escapes perdition: no man is safe any longer than he maintains the spirit of watchfulness and prayer; and to maintain such a spirit, he has need of all the means of grace. He who neglects any of them which the mercy of God has placed in his power, tempts the devil to tempt him. As a preventive of backsliding and apostasy, the apostle recommends mutual exhortation. No Christian should live for himself alone; he should consider his fellow Christian as a member of the same body, and feel for him accordingly, and love, succor, and protect him. When this is carefully attended to in religions society, Satan finds it very difficult to make an inroad on the church; but when coldness, distance, and want of brotherly love take place, Satan can attack each singly, and, by successive victories over individuals, soon make an easy conquest of the whole.

“But he that lacketh these things:” he, whether Jew or Gentile, who professes to have faith in God, and has not added to that faith, fortitude, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and universal love, “is blind,” his understanding is darkened, and cannot see afar off, shutting his eyes against the light, winking, not able to look truth in the face, nor to behold that God whom he once knew was reconciled to him; and thus it appears he is willfully blind, “and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” — has at last, through the non-improvement of the grace which he received from God, his faith ceasing to work by love, lost the evidence of things not seen: for, having grieved the Holy Spirit by not showing forth the virtues of Him who called him into his marvelous light, he has lost the testimony of his sonship; and then darkness and hardness having taken the place of light and filial confidence, he first calls all his former experience into doubt; — questions whether he has not put enthusiasm in the place of religion. By these means his darkness and hardness increase, his memory becomes indistinct and confused, till at length he forgets the work of God on his soul, next denies it, and at last asserts that the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins is impossible, and that no man can be saved from sin in this life. Indeed, some go so far as to deny the Lord that bought them; to renounce Jesus Christ as having made atonement for them; and finish their career of apostasy by utterly denying his godhead. Many cases of this kind have I known; and they are all the consequence of believers not continuing to be workers together with God, after they had experienced his pardoning love.

Here (2 Peter ii, 22) is a sad proof of the possibility of falling from grace, and from very high degrees of it too. These had escaped from the contagion that was in the world; they had had true repentance, and cast up “their sour-sweet morsel of sin;” they had been washed from all their filthiness, and this must have been through the blood of the Lamb; yet, after all, they went back, got entangled with their old sins, swallowed down their formerly rejected lusts, and rewallowed in the mire of corruption. It is no wonder that God should say, “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning:” reason and nature say, “It must be so;” and divine justice says, “It ought to be so;” and the person himself must confess that it is right that it should be so. But how dreadful is this state! How dangerous, when the person has abandoned himself to his old sins! Yet it is not said that it is impossible for him to return to his Maker; though his case be deplorable, it is not utterly hopeless; the leper may yet be made clean, and the dead may be raised. Reader, is thy backsliding a grief and burden to thee? Then thou art not far from the kingdom of God; believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.

The backslider’s soul, before influenced by the Spirit of God, dilated and expanded under its heavenly influences, becomes more capable of refinement in iniquity, as its powers are more capacious than formerly. Evil habits are formed and strengthened by relapses; and relapses are multiplied, and become more incurable, through new habits.

A soul cut off from the flock of God is in an awful state! His outward defense is departed from him; and being no longer accountable to any for his conduct, he generally plunges into unprecedented depths of iniquity, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Reader, art thou without the pale of God’s church? Remember, it is written, “Them that are without, God judgeth.”

The backslider’s affections and desires are no longer busied with the things of God, but gad about, like an idle person, among the vanities of a perishing world. Swept from love, meekness, and all the fruits of the Spirit; and garnished, or adorned, decorated with the vain showy trifles of folly and fashion. This may comprise also smart speeches, cunning repartees, &c., for which many who have lost the life of God are very remarkable.

In a state of probation every thing may change. While we are in life we may stand or fall. Our standing in the faith depends on our union with God; and that depends on our watching unto prayer, and continuing to possess that faith that worketh by love. The highest saint under heaven can stand no longer than he depends upon God, and continues in the obedience of faith. He that ceases to do so will fall into sin, and get a darkened understanding and a hardened heart; and he may continue in this state till God come to take away his soul. Therefore, let him who most assuredly standeth take heed lest he fall, not only partially, but finally.

When probation ends, eternity begins. In a state of trial the good may change to bad, the bad to good. It is utterly absurd to say that the day of grace may end before the day of life. It is impossible; as then the state of probation would be confounded with eternity. The Scriptures alleged by some in behalf of their sentiment are utterly misunderstood and misapplied. There can be no truer proverb than, “While there is life there is hope.” Probation necessarily implies the possibility of change.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/14/2014 at 11:13 AM

Why Expository Preaching Is Neglected

By far the popular form of preaching today is topical preaching.  Topical preaching is where the preacher takes his topic, perhaps finds a few selected verses of Scripture, and then proceeds to teach on the topic.  Topical preaching is used in seeker churches and most churches focused on pragmatic ways of church growth instead of prayer and sound doctrine.  I know that is a broad criticism but I have yet to find a seeker church or a mega church that is based on expository preaching.  Every seeker and mega church I know (and sadly they are what defines American Christianity and many smaller churches feel the pressure to copy their pragmatism) uses topical sermons.  Some would claim to have expositional preaching by teaching through a book of the Bible but they neglect verse by verse teaching.

Expository preaching is focused on verse by verse teaching that is focused on what the Scripture means.  This is the simple definition of what the duty of the Bible teacher is to do: open the Bible and teach what it means.  Like Ezra of old, they are to do what he did in Nehemiah 8:8:

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Notice what Ezra did, he opened the Law of God and gave the sense.  Adam Clarke wrote this about preaching:

What the nature of preaching or expounding the word of God was, at this early period of its institution, we learn from the above cited text.

I. They read in the book of the law of God. – The words of God, the doctrines of Divine revelation, are the proper matter of preaching; for they contain the wisdom of the Most High, and teach man the things which belong to his peace and happiness.

II. They read distinctly - to expand; they analyzed, dilated, and expounded it at large, showing the import and genuine meaning of every word.

III. They gave the sense – they put weight to it; showed its value and utility, and how intimately concerned they were in all that was revealed: thus applying verbal criticism, and general exposition to their true and most important purposes.

IV. They caused them to understand the reading and they understood – had a mental taste and perception of the things which were in the reading, i. e., in the letter and spirit of the text. Thus they knew the Divine will, and approved the things that were more excellent, being (thus) instructed out of the law, Rom. ii. 18.

Consider topical teaching for a moment.  Does the explanation of the Scriptures take place?  When a topical preacher reads a verse, how often do they seek to expound on the Word and to teach what the Bible means?  They perhaps make a small comment about the passages of Scripture but do they dig deep into the Word to show its meaning?  Do they expound at large about the Word from which they read?  Often passages of Scripture in topical preaching is nothing more than proof texts.

Expository preaching focuses on the authority of the Bible by allowing the Bible to dominate the teaching.  The Bible and not the people or the preacher lead the people of God.  If we truly believe that Jesus is the Lord over His people and over His Church and He leads the Church by His Word, why do we neglect to expound His Word that He has given us by His Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?  If Jesus is Lord over His sheep, the duty of the Bible teacher is to feed the sheep of God and not to rob them of His Word in their lives.  We deny the headship of Jesus Christ in His Church when we fail to teach His Word to His Church (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Jesus speaks today and He does so in His Word (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Why do churches neglect expository preaching?  Why is expository preaching not popular today?  Let me offer my own analysis.

1.  Pragmatism.  

The “model” churches today are the mega churches.  The money, the power, the rock-n-roll “worship”, the skinny jeans, the rimmed glasses, the videos, the lights, the large platforms full of smoke, etc. are all seen as true Christianity by many clergy.  They see the mega pastor rolling in his Lexus and walking with his body guards and people reading his books and one begins to think, “Well, they are being used by God powerfully and they are not Bible teachers but entertainers so why not me?”  By looking to the mega church instead of the Word of God, the faithful church begins to compromise for the sake of money and growth.  The topical model fills the mega churches pulpits.  I have a reason why and I will get to that in a minute.  Soon the small faithful preacher feels the pressure to copy and so he neglects faithful exposition of God’s Word in favor of entertainment type sermons.

2.  Laziness.

Expository preaching is hard work.  It is not just working verse by verse through Romans but it is seeking to explain Scripture.  Expository preaching then requires you to study, to work through the text, to read commentaries, to study other sermons on the text, to dive into the original languages.  This is not easy work.  When I use to teach weekly from the Bible, an average time for me in my studies with 5-6 hours a week on just a few verses.

Topical preaching does not require much work.  In fact, you can google a sermon and have an outline in a few minutes.  I know of one pastor who waits until Saturday night then he sits and ponders what subject his church needs to hear and then he builds his topical sermon from that.  Notice again that the people and not the Word of God is what leads this man.  The topical sermon is dominated by the preacher, by the hearers, and by what is going on in the culture.

3.  Lack of Historical Focus.

We are Protestants.  We are children of the Reformation.  Martin Luther is often called “the first expositor” since he advocated verse by verse Bible teaching among the Reformers because Luther knew that the Catholics said they derived their authority from the pope.  The true Church, said Luther, derives its power from the Bible and if the true Church would teach the Bible then the people would be saved and Rome defeated in the process.  When the Bible is neglected, the source of authority is lost.

All the Reformers were expositors.  Luther.  Knox.  Calvin.  Arminius.  The Puritans were expositors.  Wesley wrote a Bible commentary as did other early Wesleyans such as Adam Clarke, Thomas Coke, and Daniel Whedon.  For the Arminian, Arminius himself was a faithful expositor.  He had learned expository preaching from Beza who in turn learned it from Calvin.  Calvin prepared ten sermons that he preached every two weeks.  Calvin preached verse by verse to the point that he was in exile from his church for three years and then when Calvin returned three years later, he opened his Bible to the same place where he had left off and continued to preach.

If we are truly Protestants, our authority comes from one place: the Bible.  The Bible is what allows us to preach the gospel and allows us to see God save sinners and sanctify His saints (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 4:12-13).

4.  Driven by Culture and not God.

Large crowds do not prove God’s blessing.  They prove nothing.  Simply because a church has thousands coming to it does not mean that it is blessed by God or glorifying to Him.  Neither do small churches prove God’s blessing or curse. Our duty is not to look to the crowds for our preaching.  Our duty is to be faithful to God (2 Timothy 2:2).  Our duty is to preach the truth of God.  We are to explain the Word of God for the glory of God.  Where you find faithful expository preaching, you’ll find faithful worship in singing and prayer.

The mega churches that have the focus today are there only for one reason: crowds.  They are not there because of the power of God.  They are not there because the Word is going forth (Acts 4:1-4).  They are not known for their sound theology nor for their hunger for God in prayer.  They are popular because they are popular with the world.

Our duty must be to be faithful to God.  The world will not like this (2 Timothy 3:12).  We who love the Word know that the world is wicked (Romans 3:10-18) and we know our job is to preach the truth of God despite the hatred of the world (John 15:18-25).  My job is not to be clever, to make people laugh, or to tell cute stories that move you but my job is 1 Corinthians 2:16, to make known the mind of Christ.

5.  Malpractice

If a person is to teach the Word of God, they must know the Word of God.  What doctor would not study diseases and be well read on the latest illnesses that are out there?  What kind of doctor would we think of one who just walks in while we are sick and dying and starts telling jokes, looks goofy, just tiptoes around my sickness and yet he doesn’t treat my disease and helps me be healthy?  Medical doctors take an oath to save lives and help people.

Yet consider those in the modern Western church who stand up week after week and they dominate the gathering with their goofy stories, jokes, lack of biblical depth, and lack of understanding.  Yet we applaud this?  We give money for this?

The duty of the Bible teacher is to know the Word of God.  The average Jehovah’s Witness can quote 35 verses to the average Protestant’s 1.  Can you, Bible teacher, quote the Word of God?  Do you know the Word?  Do you know how to defend the key doctrines of the Bible from memory such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the Scriptures, the deity of the Lord Jesus, His death, burial and resurrection?  Can you explain biblically how one comes to salvation in Christ alone through grace alone?  Do you wrestle with Romans 9?  Do you preach Ephesians 1?  Do you explain Hebrews 6 or 10?  Can you defend biblically what the Bible says about homosexuality, adultery, divorce, marriage, racism?  Are you able, like the Ephesian elders, to test people to see if they are in the faith (Revelation 2:2)?

How dare we enter the pulpit and be malpracticing as we do so.  Know the Word.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/19/2013 at 10:47 AM

The Death of Adam Clarke

The following is the story of the death of Dr. Adam Clarke, the great saint of God who sought God with all his strength until his final day.  May we learn from Psalm 116:15, Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”

Thomas Stanley requesting him to fix a time for preaching a charity-sermon, Dr. Clarke replied, I am not well: I cannot fix a time; I must first see what God is about to do with me.’ “At supper he was languid and silent; and, in the hope of gaining upon his appetite, his kind and considerate friend Mrs. Hobbs had got for him some fish, to which he was always partial; but he could not eat of it, and took a little boiled rice instead. “Ever since Dr. Clarke’s return from Bristol he had been affected with some degree of diarrhea; but now, contrary to custom, it was not attended with the slightest pain. On being pressed to take something for it, he took ginger and rhubarb, but refused every other recommendation “The diarrhea increased all night. On the Sabbath morning he was heard to be up very early, but this was no unusual thing. At six o’clock, however, he requested the servant to call Mr. Hobbs, who obeyed the summons with all speed, and on coming down saw Dr. Clarke standing with his great-coat on, his traveling-bag in his hand, his hat lying on the table just ready for a journey. Addressing Mr. Hobbs, he said, ‘My dear fellow, you must get me home directly: without a miracle I could not preach. Get me home — I want to be home.’ Mr. Hobbs, seeing him look exceedingly ill, replied, ‘Doctor, you are too ill to go home; you had better stay here. At any rate, the gig is not fit for you: I will go and inquire for a postchaise, if you are determined to return.’

Shortly after Mrs. Hobbs come down, with Miss Hobbs and Miss Everingham, the servant having informed these ladies of Dr. Clarke’s indisposition. “By this time he had sunk into a chair; and, finding him very cold, they had got a fire, and the three ladies were rubbing his forehead and hands, while Mr. Hobbs sent with the gig for a medical gentleman, — Mr. Greenly, a friend of the family, who chanced to have come to town on the preceding evening from Chatham, where he had professionally attended the cholera-hospital. In the meantime Mr. Hobbs had called in a medical man in the neighborhood, and sent off to inform his sons of their father’s illness. Mr. Theodoret arrived shortly, and Mr. John not long after, accompanied by the Doctor’s nephew, Mr. Thrascyles Clarke, who had been for many years a surgeon in the Royal Navy, and had frequently seen cases of cholera in the East.

As soon as the medical gentlemen saw Dr. Clarke, they pronounced the disease to be cholera. The family wished him to be taken up-stairs; but he was by this time so weak, that it was found he could not get up. A small bed being in the adjoining room, he was conveyed there, and laid down upon it. Mr. Hobbs then said, ‘ My dear Doctor, you must put your soul into the hands of your God, and your trust in the merits of your Saviour.’

To which Dr. Clarke could only faintly reply, ‘I do, — I DO.’ “Dr. Wilson Philip arrived about nine o’clock. All the means that skill, experience, and attention could devise and employ were used to arrest the disease.

Service-time having arrived, the chapel, as usual on such occasions, was filled. An aged minister, after reading prayers, ascended the pulpit, and announced that Dr. Clarke was laboring under an attack of cholera. The impression may be better imagined than described.

A friend of Dr. Clarke’s, Mr. Thurston, on hearing this, immediately left the chapel, and hastened to the house of Mr. Hobbs, to learn if indeed it could be true, and if, in the dismay and hurry of the family, Mrs. Clarke had been sent for. He immediately drove off to Haydon Hall to bring Mrs.

Clarke, who arrived a little before four in the afternoon. On her entering the room, Dr. Clarke feebly extended his hand toward her. One of the Doctor’s daughters, Mrs. Hook, on hearing that her father was indisposed, though she knew not the extent of the calamity, had set off for Bayswater; and her father opened his eyes feebly, and strove to clasp his fingers upon her hand. But he had not attempted to speak but twice; once in the morning, when he asked his son Theodoret, ‘Am I blue?’ and again at noon, on seeing him move from his bed-side, he asked, with apparent anxiety, ‘Are you going?’

Dr. W. Philip again visited him in the afternoon; but Mr. Thrasycles Clarke and Mr. Greenly never left his room, nor relaxed in their efforts to save a life they saw to be fast hastening away. The female members in this kind family forgot all personal risk in attending upon the affliction of one who had to them been so often the minister of peace. His two sons chafed his cold hands and feet frequently in the day, and often stepped behind his head to lift him higher on the pillow. Hope did not abandon them; nor could Mrs. Clarke be brought to believe that death had made a sure lodgment, and that life was fast sinking under his power. “From the first, Dr. Clarke appeared to suffer but little pain. The sickness did not last long, and a slight degree of spasm which succeeded it had all passed away before eleven o’clock in the forenoon. But there was a total prostration of strength, and difficulty of breathing; which, as night advanced, increased so much, and proved so distressing to Mrs. Clarke, that she was obliged to be removed into the adjoining room. “A few minutes after eleven Mr. Hobbs came into the room where she was sitting, and in deep distress said, ‘I am sure, Mrs. Clarke, the Doctor is dying.’ She passed with him once snore into the sickchamber, and said, ‘Surely, Mr. Hobbs, you are mistaken; Dr. Clarke breathes easier than he did just now;’ to which Mr. Hobbs in strong emotion replied, ‘Yes; but shorter.’ “At this moment Dr. Clarke heaved a short sob, and his spirit went forth from earth to heaven.”

Deep and solemn was the feeling which the announcement of the death of Dr. Adam Clarke produced in London, and throughout the land. The Methodist communion felt that they had suffered few such losses since the day when their founder himself was removed to his eternal rest. And not only the body to which he more intimately belonged, but good men of every name, deplored his departure with a sincere and religious lamentation, as if bereaved of a personal counselor, companion, and friend.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/18/2013 at 10:00 AM

Posted in Adam Clarke, Death, Life And Death

Tagged with

Why the Early Methodists Grew?

John Wesley brought with him the rise of evangelical Arminianism and he helped found the Methodist Church (though Wesley never left the Anglican Church).  Wesley was a scholar but even more he was passionate to preach the gospel.  He would preach anywhere and everywhere.  Wesley was encouraged by his Calvinist friend George Whitefield to preach in the open air and so he did on April 2, 1739 for the first time.  Wesley described it this way:

Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people. The Scripture on which I spoke was this (is it possible anyone should be ignorant that it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ?): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”

Wesley called it “vile” because he had been raised and trained to preach only in the church buildings and not in the open air.  From here on, Wesley would write in his journal about preaching to thousands upon thousands of people in the open air.  This led to the founding of the Methodist Church as Wesley and his companions were often kicked out of churches and even physically assaulted by the crowds for their preaching.

One Methodist historian describes the early Methodists like this:

During its early years in England and in America, Methodism was a despised sect.

Methodists were enthusiasts (too excitable); their camp meetings were out of control; their preachers were uneducated. They sang “ditties” instead of stately hymns. They offended people by talking to them about their souls. They opposed “worldliness,” which included Sabbath breaking, dancing, card playing, gambling, alcohol, and fancy dress.

For the first 75 years of their presence in America, Methodists would never have won any popularity polls. But Methodism grew. From 1784 to 1850, a period known generally as the Second Great Awakening, Methodism grew from 3 percent of America’s religious population, to 33 percent. It was in part because Methodism during this period thought it better to be despised for the gospel than to be respectable in the world.

Notice that the early Methodists loved the gospel and loved souls and desired to preach the truth of the gospel above being popular with the world.  This led to their growth.  They were “other” minded people, focused on eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Philippians 3:17-20).  They did not care about being friends with this world (James 4:4) and they lived and died with a focus on the glory of God (Philippians 1:20-21).  Amazing, faithful people!

But along with a zeal for the gospel, they had great men of God who were both solid theologians and solid evangelists at the same time.  Consider men such as Adam Clarke or Richard Watson or John Fletcher.  All three men were men of God who were known for their zeal, for their prayer lives, for their personal holiness but they also loved the Word of God and expounded the Word of God.  All three men were to be found teaching the early Methodists sound doctrine in their Bible classes but they were turn around and open air preach or lead their students back to their studies to pray.  They could on the one hand study the Greek New Testament and on the other they could spend all night in prayer.  John Wesley himself was a student of the Word.  He would often ride his horse and read a book as he traveled.  I own his Works and they are full of Greek, French, and Latin references.  Yet Wesley would rise up at 4 AM each day to pray and read his Bible.  He loved knowledge but he feared God as well.

Where is that today?  Where are the theologians who are known not just for their knowledge of the Word of God (such as Adam Clarke) but also their preaching, their zeal, their open air preaching, their hunger for souls.  Oh God give us men such as Paul the Apostle who could expound on the riches of justification in Romans 5 and pray to the Lord with much passion in Romans 10:1-2 for his own race to be saved!  We need both the scholar and the evangelist.  We need men of God who both love the Word, study theology, etc. but also love souls, love to pray, love to worship, and love to apply theology.  We often are educated beyond our level of obedience (James 2:14-26) and I fear that we have much knowledge about God but we know little of this God in a real and personal way (John 17:3; Philippians 3:8-11).  I want to know much about God but oh to have a zeal for Him where I take His Word and go out into the highways as Wesley did proclaiming the truth of His Word (Acts 5:20).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/16/2012 at 2:02 PM

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