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Posts Tagged ‘Works of John Wesley

John Wesley’s Strong Words About Unconditional Election

I found this quote while reading some of John Wesley.  He wrote this about unconditional election:

This is the blasphemy for which (however I love the persons who assert it) I abhor the doctrine of predestination, a doctrine, upon the supposition of which, if one could possibly suppose it for a moment, (call it election, reprobation, or what you please, for all comes to the same thing,) one might say to our adversary, the devil, “Thou fool, why dost thou roar about any longer? Thy lying in wait for souls is as needless and useless as our preaching. Hearest thou not, that God hath taken thy work out of thy hands; and that he doeth it much more effectually? Thou, with all thy principalities and powers, canst only so assault that we may resist thee; but He can irresistibly destroy both body and soul in hell! Thou canst only entice; but his unchangeable decrees, to leave thousands of souls in death, compels them to continue in sin, till they drop into everlasting burnings. Thou temptest; He forceth us to be damned; for we cannot resist his will. Thou fool, why goest thou about any longer, seeking whom thou mayest devour? Hearest thou not that God is the devouring lion, the destroyer of souls, the murderer of men” Moloch caused only children to pass though the fire: and that fire was soon quenched; or, the corruptible body being consumed, its torment was at an end; but God, thou are told, by his eternal decree, fixed before they had done good or evil, causes, not only children of a span long, but the parents also, to pass through the fire of hell, the ‘fire which never shall be quenched; and the body which is cast thereinto, being now incorruptible and immortal, will be ever consuming and never consumed, but ‘the smoke of their torment,’ because it is God’s good pleasure, ‘ascendeth up for ever and ever.'”

Strong words but I believe Wesley is correct.  How can one preach that God is loving and good when you turn around and teach that God has chosen, before time began, whom He will save and whom He will damn.  God has then created people knowing that the vast majority will be cast into hell and God has chosen this for His glory.  The Calvinist simply points to Deuteronomy 29:29 and lives it there.  I say, “No, no, no!  This is not the picture of the God of the Bible.”

Of course, the true Calvinist will respond in one of two ways.  The hyper-Calvinist would respond with clear affirmation of this doctrine that John Calvin called “the horrible decree.”  Some would respond with glee that God will punish most people for their sins (even before they were born and had nothing to add or take away from their predestination).  Other Calvinists will respond that the Calvinist doctrine of conditional election shows the goodness of God and His love that despite our sinfulness, God has chosen a remnant of grace (Romans 11:5-6).

However, the truth remains.  Calvinism teaches that God has predestined some to eternal salvation and most to eternal damnation.  John Calvin preached from Romans 9:22-23 that God had indeed prepared vessels of honor and wrath meaning that God did create most people as vessels of wrath for the purpose of destroying them.  This is where Calvin called “the horrible decree.”  It was horrible only from the human viewpoint according to Calvin but from God’s viewpoint is loving and good.  After all, reasons the Calvinist theologian, God could have just destroyed all of humanity for their rebellion but He chose instead to redeem a few from among the sinful and sent His Son to save them.

The Arminian view is very different.  Our view is that God punishes each sinner for their own sins (Ezekiel 18:4).  People die for their own sins (John 3:16-18).  People need divine grace to be saved (John 6:44) and God has sent His Son to redeem fallen humanity by His grace (Titus 2:11-12).  Jesus came to save whosoever will come and be saved (Romans 10:13).  Those who hear the gospel are given free grace to either receive this salvation or reject this gift.  God does not force salvation upon anyone.  Those who believe are saved by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  The work of God is to believe the gospel and be saved (John 6:29; Acts 2:37-38).  Those who believe the gospel become the elect of God by grace (Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Timothy 4:10).

Thank God for His free grace by which He saves sinners!  I pray that we would preach the grace of God to the lost and call them to repentance (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  All men need the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20) and I pray that all would hear the gospel and hear that Jesus will save those who come to Him in true saving faith.

Seeker Churches and The Inability of Humanity

On a follow-up post, I want to deal briefly with the seeker church movement and their faulty understanding of the total inability of humanity.  Seeker churches are the open air evangelists nightmare.  The majority of “Christians” that I have encountered on the streets while evangelizing who oppose me come from seeker churches.  I have been told on more than one occasion that I am “doing it wrong” or “not showing the love of God” when I am out witnessing or simply passing out gospel tracts.  Some of the hardest sinners I have met come from seeker churches who are convinced that as long as they believe in Jesus, they can live any way they want to live and Jesus will forgive them when they enter into eternity.  The faulty gospel message that seeker churches preach has done great harm to the cause of God and truth.

Seeker churches begin with a faulty understanding of humanity.  In fact, I would argue that God is not the primary focus on seeker churches or their “evangelism.”  People are.  Human beings consume the thoughts, plans, preaching, and programs of seeker churches.  Even their evangelism begins with a focus on the felt needs of the people rather than the glory of the King.  Seeker churches begin with an assumption that people are actually seekers.  People want to know about God but the church often stands in the way of seekers finding truth about Christ.  The traditional church, rather than helping seekers know about Christ by catering to their seekers needs, hinders the seeker from being able to be in a Christian community in which they can safely search for the truth.

Romans 1 is clear that people are not seekers.  In fact, Paul the Apostle shows us that mankind is actually in rebellion against God.  Romans 1:18 teaches us that humanity suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  People are seekers of one thing: sin.  They love their sins.  They are in fact slave to their sins (John 8:34).  People do not love God nor do they want to know about Him and the “church” is keeping people from knowing the truth.  People hate God and reject Him.  Romans 1:18-32 is clear that God has given humanity over to their sinfulness.

Romans 3:10 teaches us that there are no seekers after God.  People again are not seeking God.  They hate Him.  They reject Him.  They despise Him.

But seeker churches continue to teach that people by nature are seekers of God.  People, we are told, are spiritual beings who want to know God.  So seeker churches do everything to help seekers know more about God.  Yes they love much out such as His wrath against sin (Romans 1:18) or His hatred for those living in sin (Psalm 7:11 NKJV).  They fail to teach people what true repentance is (Matthew 3:8; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  They fail to teach the truth of holding firmly to Christ and sound doctrine (John 8:31-32; 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1).

Instead, seeker churches teach that God loves people period.  They teach that God is loving, good, merciful, and kind.  They teach that He is not like the traditional churches have taught but He longs for humans to know Him and He is pleading for the lost to come to belief in Christ.  Seekers are encouraged to study the Bible and to study Christianity by attending seeker churches and services.  They hope that seekers see the goodness of God in their ministries and that this causes them to come to belief in Jesus.

But this is too good of a view of mankind.  The view of Arminius would not match up with the seeker churches:

To the darkness of the mind succeeds the perverseness of the affections and of the heart, according to which it hates and has an aversion to that which is truly good and pleasing to God; but it loves and pursues what is evil. The Apostle was unable to afford a more luminous description of this perverseness, than he has given in the following words: “The carnal mind is enmity against God. For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. viii, 7.) For this reason, the human heart itself is very often called deceitful and perverse, uncircumcised, hard and stony.” (Jer. xiii, 10; xvii, 9; Ezek. xxxvi, 26.) Its imagination is said to be “only evil from his very youth;” (Gen. vi, 5; viii, 21;) and “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,” &c. (Matt. xv, 19.)

John Wesley wrote this about the state of humanity:

And this is certain, the Scripture gives us no reason to think any otherwise of them. On the contrary, all the above cited passages of Scripture refer to those who lived after the flood. It was above a thousand years after, that God declared by David concerning the children of men, “They are all gone out of the way, of truth and holiness; “there is none righteous, no, not one.” And to this bear all the Prophets witness, in their several generations. So Isaiah, concerning God’s peculiar people, (and certainly the Heathens were in no better condition,) “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores.” The same account is given by all the Apostles, yea, by the whole tenor of the oracles of God. From all these we learn, concerning man in his natural state, unassisted by the grace of God, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is” still “evil, only evil,” and that “continually.”

And this account of the present state of man is confirmed by daily experience. It is true, the natural man discerns it not: And this is not to be wondered at. So long as a man born blind continues so, he is scarce sensible of his want: Much less, could we suppose a place where all were born without sight, would they be sensible of the want of it. In like manner, so long as men remain in their natural blindness of understanding, they are not sensible of their spiritual wants, and of this in particular. But as soon as God opens the eyes of their understanding, they see the state they were in before; they are then deeply convinced, that “every man living,” themselves especially, are, by nature, “altogether vanity;” that is, folly and ignorance, sin and wickedness.

When we preach the gospel to sinners, we are showing them the kindness of God that leads them to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Wesley preached:

Behold then both the justice and mercy of God! — his justice in punishing sin, the sin of him in whose loins we were then all contained, on Adam and his whole posterity; — and his mercy in providing a universal remedy for a universal evil; in appointing the Second Adam to die for all who had died in the first; that, “as in Adam all died, so in Christ all” might “be made alive;” that, “as by one man’s offence, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, so by the righteousness of one, the free gift” might “come upon all unto justification of life,” — “justification of _life_,” as being connected with the new birth, the beginning of spiritual life, which leads us, through the life of holiness, to life eternal, to glory.

How then should we preach to sinners?  By making it comfortable for them to be seekers (when in fact they are not truly seekers)?  I believe the Bible is clear that the preaching of the gospel requires that we call people to repent (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31).  We call people to become disciples of Christ (Luke 9:23-25).  We can people but the Spirit of God works to bring them to salvation (John 6:44).  Because of the nature of sin, people need the aid of the Spirit to be saved.  John Wesley wrote on John 6:44 the following:

No man can believe in Christ, unless God give him power: he draws us first, by good desires. Not by compulsion, not by laying the will under any necessity; but by the strong and sweet, yet still resistible, motions of his heavenly grace.

Through grace God draws the lost to Himself but make no doubt about it, grace is what draws the lost.  It is not the works of men that bring them to salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Salvation is the work of God and His grace (John 1:12-13) that He brought forth through His Son.  May we preach and exalt Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5) and not flesh.  If we exalt Christ, sinners will be saved (John 12:32) but we are doing a dishonor both to the Lord God and to people when we make flesh our focus.

John Wesley on Original Sin

John Wesley leaves no doubt that he holds to original sin as his Calvinist brethren did.  He states the following about those who would reject the doctrine.

1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And, First, from hence we may learn one grand fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty; their luxury, or prodigality. Some have dared to say that “no man is born without vices of one kind or another.” But still as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first grand distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: The other declares that all men are conceived in sin,” and “shapen in wickedness;” — that hence there is in every man a “carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be, subject to” his “law;” and which so infects the whole soul, that “there dwelleth in” him, “in his flesh,” in his natural state, “no good thing;” but “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil,” only evil, and that “continually.”

2. Hence we may, Secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are put Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm, “We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.” But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil Is he void of all good Is he wholly fallen Is his soul totally corrupted Or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually” Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still.

3. We may learn from hence, in the Third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is qerapeia yuchs, God’s method of healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great Physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals all our Atheism by the knowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God, — in particular, of this important truth, “Christ loved me” — and gave himself for me.” By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed; that of self-will by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God; and for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now, this is properly religion, “faith” thus “working by love;” working the genuine meek humility, entire deadness to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in, and conformity to, the whole will and word of God.

4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work in the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity of godliness would then be a more proper expression than the “superfluity of naughtiness.” For an outside religion, without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does, accordingly, suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reason is only “a well-ordered train of words:” According to them, religion is only a well-ordered train of words and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves; for if the inside be not full of wickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to “cleanse the outside of the cup” Outward reformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.

5. But ye have not so learned the oracles of God. Ye know, that He who seeth what is in man gives a far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that the great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness which we sustained by the sin of our first parent. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of Him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul. O beware of all those teachers of lies, who would palm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, although they should come unto you with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness; with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea, beauty and elegance of expression, all professions of earnest good will to you, and reverence for the Holy Scriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, “once delivered to the saints,” and delivered by the Spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: Therefore, “ye must be born again,” born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted. By grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: In the second Adam, in Christ, ye all are made alive. “You that were dead in sins hath he quickened:” He hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved you and gave himself for you! Now, “go on from faith to faith,” until your whole sickness be healed; and all that “mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus!”

There are those today who would deny that we are born with a sinful nature.  They teach that we are born sinless, that we do not inherit anything from Adam through the Fall (Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 5:12) but instead we are born into a sinful world that leads us to sin.  I hold that we are born with a sinful nature that we inherit from our father Adam.  Many hold that we are born with both a sinful nature and guilty of Adam’s sin.  They believe this because they believe that Romans 5:12-19 teaches that we are not just born with original sin but with original guilt.  I believe in original sin but deny original guilt.  A person goes to hell because of their sin and they sin because they desire to sin and commit sins against a holy God (1 John 3:4).  None will be in hell because of someone else’s sin but their own (Romans 1:18-32).  However, from the fall of Adam we do inherit original sin, the desire to be a sinner.  If we deny original sin, we must deny the substitutionary work of Christ who died in our place (Galatians 1:4).  If Adam is not our representative, how can Jesus be (Isaiah 53:4-11)?

Adam sinned so all die in him (1 Corinthians 15:22) because he was the head (1 Corinthians 11:3).  The explanation for the universality of death cannot be explained apart from Adam’s sin.  Why do babies die?  Why do the handicapped die?  They die because of Adam’s sin and he passed down his original sin to us all.  John Wesley went on to teach about how Adam’s sin has been imputed to all mankind.  Wesley said we all die because:

  1. Our bodies became mortal in Adam.
  2. Our souls died; that is, were disunited from God.  And hence,
  3. We are all born with a sinful, devilish nature.  By reason whereof,
  4. We are children of wrath, liable to death eternal (Romans 5:18; Ephesians 2:3).

John Calvin, on the other hand, taught clearly that we inherit both original sin and original guilt from Adam.  He wrote,

Hence, even infants bringing their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb, suffer not for another’s, but for their own defect. For although they have not yet produced the fruits of their own unrighteousness, they have the seed implanted in them.  Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bred of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God.  Hence, it follows, that it is properly deemed sinful in the sight of God; for there could be no condemnation without guilt.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/10/2013 at 10:00 AM

John Wesley’s Plea to Unbelievers To Be Justified Through Faith

I love these words from John Wesley as he pleas in his sermon, Justification by Faith, to unbelievers to repent and turn to Christ alone for salvation.  His words are what we need to be preaching to a dying, sinful world that loves their sinning more than Christ.

Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words! thou vile, helpless, miserable sinner! I charge thee before God, the Judge of all, go straight unto him, with all thy ungodliness. Take heed thou destroy not thy own soul by pleading thy righteousness, more or less. Go as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and thou shalt then find favor in his sight, and know that he justifieth the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the “blood of sprinkling,” as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus “look unto Jesus!” There is “the Lamb of God,” who “taketh away thy sins!” Plead thou no works, no righteousness of thine own! no humility, contrition, sincerity! In nowise. That were, in very deed, to deny the Lord that bought thee. No: Plead thou, singly, the blood of the covenant, the ransom paid for thy proud, stubborn, sinful soul. Who art thou, that now seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness? Thou art the man! I want thee for my Lord! I challenge “thee” for a child of God by faith! The Lord hath need of thee. Thou who feelest thou art just fit for hell, art just fit to advance his glory; the glory of his free grace, justifying the ungodly and him that worketh not. O come quickly! Believe in the Lord Jesus; and thou, even thou, art reconciled to God.

Let us preach this truth from every rooftop and from every mountain that God alone can justify the sinner before Himself through faith in His only Son (Romans 5:1).  Salvation is by grace through faith and not by works whatsoever (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2013 at 11:30 AM

On Justification by Faith by John Wesley (Part 3)

IV.

1. But on what terms, then, is he justified who is altogether “ungodly,” and till that time “worketh not?” On one alone; which is faith: He “believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly.” And “he that believeth is not condemned;” yea, he is “passed from death unto life.” “For the righteousness (or mercy) of God is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: –Whom God hath set forth for a propitiation, through faith in his blood; that he might be just, and” (consistently with his justice) “the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus:” “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law;” without previous obedience to the moral law, which, indeed, he could not, till now, perform. That it is the moral law, and that alone, which is here intended, appears evidently from the words that follow: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the law. What law do we establish by faith? Not the ritual law: Not the ceremonial law of Moses. In nowise; but the great, unchangeable law of love, the holy love of God and of our neighbour.”

2. Faith in general is a divine, supernatural “elegchos,” “evidence” or “conviction,” “of things not seen,” not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;” but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for “my” sins, that he loved “me,” and gave himself for “me.” And at what time soever a sinner thus believes, be it in early childhood, in the strength of his years, or when he is old and hoary-haired, God justifieth that ungodly one: God, for the sake of his Son, pardoneth and absolveth him, who had in him, till then, no good thing. Repentance, indeed, God had given him before; but that repentance was neither more nor less than a deep sense of the want of all good, and the presence of all evil. And whatever good he hath, or doeth, from that hour when he first believes in God through Christ, faith does not “find,” but “bring.” This is the fruit of faith. First the tree is good, and then the fruit is good also.

3. I cannot describe the nature of this faith better than in the words of our own Church: “The only instrument of salvation” (whereof justification is one branch) “is faith; that is, a sure trust and confidence that God both hath and will forgive our sins, that he hath accepted us again into His favour, for the merits of Christ’s death and passion. –But here we must take heed that we do not halt with God, through an inconstant, wavering faith: Peter, coming to Christ upon the water, because he fainted in faith, was in danger of drowning; so we, if we begin to waver or doubt, it is to be feared that we shall sink as Peter did, not into the water, but into the bottomless pit of hell fire.” (“Second Sermon on the Passion”)

“Therefore, have a sure and constant faith, not only that the death of Christ is available for all the world, but that he hath made a full and sufficient sacrifice for “thee,” a perfect cleansing of “thy” sins, so that thou mayest say, with the Apostle, he loved “thee,” and gave himself for “thee.” For this is to make Christ “thine own,” and to apply his merits unto “thyself.” (“Sermon on the Sacrament, First Part”)

4. By affirming that this faith is the term or “condition of justification,” I mean, First, that there is no justification without it. “He that believeth not is condemned already;” and so long as he believeth not, that condemnation cannot be removed, but “the wrath of God abideth on him.” As “there is no other name given under heaven,” than that of Jesus of Nazareth, no other merit whereby a condemned sinner can ever be saved from the guilt of sin; so there is no other way of obtaining a share in his merit, than “by faith in his name.” So that as long as we are without this faith, we are “strangers to the covenant of promise,” we are “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and without God in the world.” Whatsoever virtues (so called) a man may have, –I speak of those unto whom the gospel is preached; for “what have I to do to judge them that are without?” –whatsoever good works (so accounted) he may do, it profiteth not; he is still a “child of wrath,” still under the curse, till he believes in Jesus.

5. Faith, therefore, is the “necessary” condition of justification; yea, and the “only necessary” condition thereof. This is the Second point carefully to be observed; that, the very moment God giveth faith (for “it is the gift of God”) to the “ungodly” that “worketh not,” that “faith is counted to him for righteousness.” He hath no righteousness at all, antecedent to this, not so much as negative righteousness, or innocence. But “faith is imputed to him for righteousness,” the very moment that he believeth. Not that God (as was observed before) thinketh him to be what he is not. But as “he made Christ to be sin for us,” that is, treated him as a sinner, punishing him for our sins; so he counteth us righteous, from the time we believe in him: That is, he doth not punish us for our sins; yea, treats us as though we are guiltless and righteous.

6. Surely the difficulty of assenting to this proposition, that “faith is the “only condition” of justification,” must arise from not understanding it. We mean thereby thus much, that it is the only thing without which none is justified; the only thing that is immediately, indispensably, absolutely requisite in order to pardon. As, on the one hand, though a man should have every thing else without faith, yet he cannot be justified; so, on the other, though he be supposed to want everything else, yet if he hath faith, he cannot but be justified. For suppose a sinner of any kind or degree, in a full sense of his total ungodliness, of his utter inability to think, speak, or do good, and his absolute meetness for hell-fire; suppose, I say, this sinner, helpless and hopeless, casts himself wholly on the mercy of God in Christ, (which indeed he cannot do but by the grace of God,) who can doubt but he is forgiven in that moment? Who will affirm that any more is “indispensably required” before that sinner can be justified?

Now, if there ever was one such instance from the beginning of the world, (and have there not been, and are there not, ten thousand times ten thousand?) it plainly follows, that faith is, in the above sense, the sole condition of justification.

7. It does not become poor, guilty, sinful worms, who receive whatsoever blessings they enjoy, (from the least drop of water that cools our tongue, to the immense riches of glory in eternity,) of grace, of mere favour, and not of debt, to ask of God the reasons of his conduct. It is not meet for us to call Him in question “who giveth account to none of his ways;” to demand, “Why didst thou make faith the condition, the only condition, of justification? Wherefore didst thou decree, “He that believeth,” and he only, “shall be saved?” This is the very point on which St. Paul so strongly insists in the ninth chapter of this Epistle, viz., That the terms of pardon and acceptance must depend, not on us, but “on him that calleth us;” that there is no “unrighteousness with God,” in fixing his own terms, not according to ours, but his own good pleasure; who may justly say, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy;” namely, on him who believeth in Jesus. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,” to choose the condition on which he shall find acceptance; “but of God that showeth mercy;” that accepteth none at all, but of his own free love, his unmerited goodness. “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy,” viz., on those who believe on the Son of his love; “and whom he will,” that is, those who believe not, “he hardeneth,” leaves at last to the hardness of their hearts.

8. One reason, however, we may humbly conceive, of God’s fixing this condition of justification, “If thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ, thou shalt be saved,” was to “hide pride from man.” Pride had already destroyed the very angels of God, had cast down “a third part of the stars of heaven.” It was likewise in great measure owing to this, when the tempter said, “Ye shall be as gods,” that Adam fell from his own steadfastness, and brought sin and death into the world. It was therefore an instance of wisdom worthy of God, to appoint such a condition of reconciliation for him and all his posterity as might effectually humble, might abase them to the dust. And such is faith. It is peculiarly fitted for this end: For he that cometh unto God by this faith, must fix his eye singly on his own wickedness, on his guilt and helplessness, without having the least regard to any supposed good in himself, to any virtue or righteousness whatsoever. He must come as a “mere sinner,” inwardly and outwardly, self-destroyed and self-condemned, bringing nothing to God but ungodliness only, pleading nothing of his own but sin and misery. Thus it is, and thus alone, when his “mouth is stopped,” and he stands utterly “guilty before” God, that he can “look unto Jesus,” as the whole and sole “Propitiation for his sins.” Thus only can he be “found in him,” and receive the “righteousness which is of God by faith.”

9. Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words! thou vile, helpless, miserable sinner! I charge thee before God, the Judge of all, go straight unto him, with all thy ungodliness. Take heed thou destroy not thy own soul by pleading thy righteousness, more or less. Go as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and thou shalt then find favour in his sight, and know that he justifieth the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the “blood of sprinkling,” as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus “look unto Jesus!” There is “the Lamb of God,” who “taketh away thy sins!” Plead thou no works, no righteousness of thine own! No humility, contrition, sincerity! In nowise. That were, in very deed, to deny the Lord that bought thee. No: Plead thou, singly, the blood of the covenant, the ransom paid for thy proud, stubborn, sinful soul. Who art thou, that now seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness? Thou art the man! I want thee for my Lord! I challenge “thee” for a child of God by faith! The Lord hath need of thee. Thou who feelest thou art just fit for hell, art just fit to advance his glory; the glory of his free grace, justifying the ungodly and him that worketh not. O come quickly! Believe in the Lord Jesus; and thou, even thou, art reconciled to God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/03/2012 at 10:00 AM

On Justification by Faith by John Wesley (Part 2)

II.

1. But what is it to be “justified?” What is “justification?” This was the Second thing which I proposed to show. And it is evident, from what has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is “sanctification;” which is, indeed, in some degree, the immediate fruit of justification, but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one implies what God does for us through his Son; the other, what he works in us by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the term “justified” or “justification” is used in so wide a sense as to include “sanctification” also; yet, in general use, they are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and the other inspired writers.

2. Neither is that far-fetched conceit, that justification is the clearing us from accusation, particularly that of Satan, easily provable from any clear text of holy writ. In the whole scriptural account of this matter, as above laid down, neither that accuser nor his accusation appears to be at all taken in. It can not indeed be denied, that he is the “accuser” of men, emphatically so called. But it does in nowise appear, that the great Apostle hath any reference to this, more or less, in all he hath written touching justification, either to the Romans or the Galatians.

3. It is also far easier to take for granted, than to prove from any clear scripture testimony, that justification is the clearing us from the accusation brought against us by the law: At least if this forced, unnatural way of speaking mean either more or less than this, that, whereas we have transgressed the law of God, and thereby deserved the damnation of hell, God does not inflict on those who are justified the punishment which they had deserved.

4. Least of all does justification imply, that God is deceived in those whom he justifies; that he thinks them to be what, in fact, they are not; that he accounts them to be otherwise than they are. It does by no means imply, that God judges concerning us contrary to the real nature of things; that he esteems us better than we really are, or believes us righteous when we are unrighteous. Surely no. The judgment of the all-wise God is always according to truth. Neither can it ever consist with his unerring wisdom, to think that I am innocent, to judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so. He can no more, in this manner, confound me with Christ, than with David or Abraham. Let any man to whom God hath given understanding, weigh this without prejudice; and he cannot but perceive, that such a notion of justification is neither reconcilable to reason nor Scripture.

5. The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the Father, hereby, for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of his Son, he “showeth forth his righteousness (or mercy) by the remission of the sins that are past.” This is the easy, natural account of it given by St. Paul, throughout this whole epistle. So he explains it himself, more particularly in this and in the following chapter. Thus, in the next verses but one to the text, “Blessed are they,” saith he, “whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” To him that is justified or forgiven, God “will not impute sin” to his condemnation. He will not condemn him on that account, either in this world or in that which is to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be remembered or mentioned against him, any more than if they had not been. God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of his love hath suffered for him. And from the time we are “accepted through the Beloved,” “reconciled to God through his blood,” he loves, and blesses, and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned.

Indeed the Apostle in one place seems to extend the meaning of the word much farther, where he says, “Not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law, shall be justified.” Here he appears to refer our justification to the sentence of the great day. And so our Lord himself unquestionably doth, when he says, “By thy words thou shalt be justified;” proving hereby, that “for every idle word men shall speak, they shall give an account in the day of judgment.” But perhaps we can hardly produce another instance of St. Paul’s using the word in that distant sense. In the general tenor of his writings, it is evident he doth not; and least of all in the text before us, which undeniably speaks, not of those who have already “finished their course,” but of those who are now just “setting out,” just beginning to “run the race which is set before them.”

III.

1. But this is the third thing which was to be considered, namely, Who are they that are justified? And the Apostle tells us expressly, the ungodly: “He (that is, God) justifieth the ungodly;” the ungodly of every kind and degree; and none but the ungodly. As “they that are righteous need no repentance,” so they need no forgiveness. It is only sinners that have any occasion for pardon: It is sin alone which admits of being forgiven. Forgiveness, therefore, has an immediate reference to sin, and, in this respect, to nothing else. It is our “unrighteousness” to which the pardoning God is “merciful:” It is our “iniquity” which he “remembereth no more.”

2. This seems not to be at all considered by those who so vehemently contend that a man must be sanctified, that is, holy, before he can be justified; especially by such of them as affirm, that universal holiness or obedience must precede justification. (Unless they mean that justification at the last day, which is wholly out of the present question.) So far from it, that the very supposition is not only flatly impossible, (for where there is no love of God, there is no holiness, and there is no love of God but from a sense of his loving us,) but also grossly, intrinsically absurd, contradictory to itself. For it is not a saint but a sinner that is forgiven, and under the notion of a sinner. God justifieth not the godly, but the ungodly; not those that are holy already, but the unholy. Upon what condition he doeth this, will be considered quickly: but whatever it is, it cannot be holiness. To assert this, is to say the Lamb of God takes away only those sins which were taken away before.

3. Does then the good Shepherd seek and save only those that are found already? No: He seeks and saves that which is lost. He pardons those who need his pardoning mercy. He saves from the guilt of sin, (and, at the same time, from the power,) sinners of every kind, of every degree: men who, till then, were altogether ungodly; in whom the love of the Father was not; and, consequently, in whom dwelt no good thing, no good or truly Christian temper, –but all such as were evil and abominable, –pride, anger, love of the world, –the genuine fruits of that “carnal mind” which is “enmity against God.”

4. These who are sick, the burden of whose sins is intolerable, are they that need a Physician; these who are guilty, who groan under the wrath of God, are they that need a pardon. These who are “condemned already,” not only by God, but also by their own conscience, as by a thousand witnesses, of all their ungodliness, both in thought, and word, and work, cry aloud for Him that “justifieth the ungodly,” through the redemption that is in Jesus; –the ungodly, and “him that worketh not;” that worketh not, before he is justified, anything that is good, that is truly virtuous or holy, but only evil continually. For his heart is necessarily, essentially evil, till the love of God is shed abroad therein. And while the tree is corrupt, so are the fruits; “for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.”

5. If it be objected, “Nay, but a man, before he is justified, may feed the hungry, or clothe the naked; and these are good works;” the answer is easy: He may do these, even before he is justified; and these are, in one sense, “good works;” they are “good and profitable to men.” But it does not follow, that they are, strictly speaking, good in themselves, or good in the sight of God. All truly “good works” (to use the words of our Church) “follow after justification;” and they are therefore good and “acceptable to God in Christ,” because they “spring out of a true and living faith.” By a parity of reason, all “works done before justification are not good,” in the Christian sense, “forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ;” (though from some kind of faith in God they may spring;) “yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not” (how strange soever it may appear to some) “but they have the nature of sin.”

6. Perhaps those who doubt of this have not duly considered the weighty reason which is here assigned, why no works done before justification can be truly and properly good. The argument plainly runs thus: —

No works are good, which are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done.

But no works done before justification are done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done:

Therefore, no works done before justification are good.

The first proposition is self-evident; and the second, that no works done before justification are done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, will appear equally plain and undeniable, if we only consider, God hath willed and commanded that “all our works” should “be done in charity;” (en agapE) in love, in that love to God which produces love to all mankind. But none of our works can be done in this love, while the love of the Father (of God as our Father) is not in us; and this love can not be in us till we receive the “Spirit of Adoption, crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.” If, therefore, God doth not “justify the ungodly,” and him that (in this sense) “worketh not,” then hath Christ died in vain; then, notwithstanding his death, can no flesh living be justified.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/02/2012 at 10:00 AM

On Justification by Faith by John Wesley (Part 1)

“To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5 (KJV)

1. How a sinner may be justified before God, the Lord and Judge of all, is a question of no common importance to every child of man. It contains the foundation of all our hope, inasmuch as while we are at enmity with God, there can be no true peace, no solid joy, either in time or in eternity. What peace can there be, while our own heart condemns us; and much more, He that is “greater than our heart, and knoweth all things?” What solid joy, either in this world or that to come, while “the wrath of God abideth on us?”

2. And yet how little hath this important question been understood! What confused notions have many had concerning it! Indeed, not only confused, but often utterly false; contrary to the truth, as light to darkness; notions absolutely inconsistent with the oracles of God, and with the whole analogy of faith. And hence, erring concerning the very foundation, they could not possibly build thereon; at least, not “gold, silver, or precious stones,” which would endure when tried as by fire; but only “hay and stubble,” neither acceptable to God, nor profitable to man.

3. In order to justice, in far as in me lies, to the vast importance of the subject, to save those that seek the truth in sincerity from “vain jangling and strife of words,” to clear the confusedness of thought into which so many have already been led thereby, and to give them true and just conceptions of this great mystery of godliness, I shall endeavour to show,

First. What is the general ground of this whole doctrine of justification.

Secondly. What justification is.

Thirdly. Who they are that are justified. And,

Fourthly. On what terms they are justified.

I.

I am, First, to show, what is the general ground of this whole doctrine of justification.

1. In the image of God was man made, holy as he that created him is holy; merciful as the Author of all is merciful; perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect. As God is love, so man, dwelling in love, dwelt in God, and God in him. God made him to be an “image of his own eternity,” an incorruptible picture of the God of glory. He was accordingly pure, as God is pure, from every spot of sin. He knew not evil in any kind or degree, but was inwardly and outwardly sinless and undefiled. He “loved the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength.”

2. To man thus upright and perfect, God gave a perfect law, to which he required full and perfect obedience. He required full obedience in every point, and this to be performed without any intermission, from the moment man became a living soul, till the time of his trial should be ended. No allowance was made for any falling short: As, indeed, there was no need of any; man being altogether equal to the task assigned, and thoroughly furnished for every good word and work.

3. To the entire law of love which was written in his heart, (against which, perhaps, he could not sin directly,) it seemed good to the sovereign wisdom of God to superadd one positive law: “Thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree that groweth in the midst of the garden;” annexing that penalty thereto, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”

4. Such, then, was the state of man in Paradise. By the free, unmerited love of God, he was holy and happy: He knew, loved, enjoyed God, which is, in substance, life everlasting. And in this life of love, he was to continue for ever, if he continued to obey God in all things; but, if he disobeyed him in any, he was to forfeit all. “In that day,” said God, “thou shalt surely die.”

5. Man did disobey God. He “ate of the tree, of which God commanded him, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it.” And in that day he was condemned by the righteous judgment of God. Then also the sentence whereof he was warned before, began to take place upon him. For the moment he tasted that fruit, he died. His soul died, was separated from God; separate from whom the soul has no more life than the body has when separate from the soul. His body, likewise, became corruptible and mortal; so that death then took hold on this also. And being already dead in spirit, dead to God, dead in sin, he hastened on to death everlasting; to the destruction both of body and soul, in the fire never to be quenched

6. Thus “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And so death passed upon all men,” as being contained in him who was the common father and representative of us all. Thus, “through the offence of one,” all are dead, dead to God, dead in sin, dwelling in a corruptible, mortal body, shortly to be dissolved, and under the sentence of death eternal. For as, “by one man’s disobedience,” all “were made sinners;” so, by that offence of one, “judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” (Romans v. 12, &c.)

7. In this state we were, even all mankind, when “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end we might not perish, but have everlasting life.” In the fullness of time he was made Man, another common Head of mankind, a second general Parent and Representative of the whole human race. And as such it was that “he bore our griefs,” “the Lord laying upon him the iniquities of us all.” Then was he “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” “He made his soul an offering for sin:” He poured out his blood for the transgressors: He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” that by his stripes we might be healed: And by that one oblation of himself, once offered, he hath redeemed me and all mankind; having thereby “made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”

8. In consideration of this, that the Son of God hath “tasted death for every man,” God hath now “reconciled the world to himself, not imputing to them their” former “trespasses.” And thus, “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification.” So that, for the sake of his well-beloved Son, of what he hath done and suffered for us, God now vouchsafes, on one only condition, (which himself also enables us to perform,) both to remit the punishment due to our sins, to reinstate us in his favour, and to restore our dead souls to spiritual life, as the earnest of life eternal.

9. This, therefore, is the general ground of the whole doctrine of justification. By the sin of the first Adam, who was not only the father, but likewise the representative, of us all, we all fell short of the favour of God; we all became children of wrath; or, as the Apostle expresses it, “judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” Even so, by the sacrifice for sin made by the Second Adam, as the Representative of us all, God is so far reconciled to all the world, that he hath given them a new covenant; the plain condition whereof being once fulfilled, “there is no more condemnation” for us, but “we are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/01/2012 at 10:00 AM

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