Beseech sinners to ask the Lord to enable them to believe or just to believe?

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by Pergamum, Nov 13, 2014.

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  1. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Thomas Boston, Works, 1:543: "Pray earnestly for the Spirit, Luke 11:13. God has made a promise of the Spirit, and gives that as a ground of your prayer for him; Ezek. 36:27, 37, “A new Spirit will I put within you… I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” And although God regard not prayer as performed by one without the Spirit, yet he regards it as a means and ordinance of his own appointment, whereby the Spirit is conveyed into the hearts of his elect."

    Works, 2:561-562: "Objection. But it is needless for them to pray, since they cannot pray acceptably. Answer. No: for it is a mean of grace, and an ordinance of God; and though God have no respect to it as it is their performance, yet he may have respect to it as it is his own ordinance, and do good to them by it. The matter lies here: they are neither to continue in their sinful state, nor to satisfy themselves with their praying in that condition, but come out of it, and join themselves to God’s family, and so they will come to pray acceptably."
     
  2. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    I'm with you fellers.
     
  3. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

  4. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    So much peering into the secret things of God seems pointless. Preach the Gospel. Call sinners to repentance. Proclaim Christ.

    1Co 2:1-2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
     
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Great explanation.
     
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes! Thank you so much for that quote.
     
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks for the Spurgeon sermon, gonna read it today.
     
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It is hard for me to hold this position for it seems to entail that there are some who are regenerate who lack faith or that the new birth comes first and then a long time afterwards belief may lag behind and finally catch up.

    I suppose some difficulty is relieved if we posit infant faith (which I am somewhat ready to accept). Faith is the bridge that links us to Christ. Therefore, no faith=no regeneration.
     
  9. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Did John the Baptist have 'faith' in the womb or did he acquire it under the preached word later? I guess one could argue that John's situation is not typical or God could preach to Him Himself in the womb and convert him right there, but thats not the standard we can draw from. The Presbyterian believes some of our infants are elect. Many have what is called 'seeds of faith'. Are these seeds a form of conversion? I believe that the gospel must be preached to all for conversion to occur. I say this as a general mandate. Infants dying in the womb are not saved any differently x for the fact that it is Christ Himself who delivers that message.
     
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It is hard to argue anything from John the Baptist's womb scenario, but I know John the Baptist leapt in there....which seems to be a volitional act. Luke 1:44 says that he did this out of "joy."
     
  11. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Not to belabor my point, but the scriptures do say that he was 'filled with the Holy Spirit' from the womb. The point being, even John would have needed to hear the gospel to be converted as that is exactly what the scriptures tell us. He was regenerated in the womb and later, under the preached word, converted. Men must see first before spiritual things are relevant; otherwise, they are indeed, foolishness to them.

    Thanks for the interaction, brother.
     
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    God bless Scott. Thanks for the comments. I will go back through and re-evaluate later this week and re-read your comments.
     
  13. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Glad to help you.

    What do you do with a person who has been "seeking" forty years and they still haven't come to the faith? Or worse, a church full of lifelong "seekers?" From John 3:18 it seems to be presumption to not come.

    The discussion is far more practical than it might first appear to be. The Gospel message is indeed simple as you show, but the human heart is so corrupt that if it can't get away with blatant ways to disobey the Gospel, it will catch at subtle ways. Satan is also a master of deceit, and so pastors have the hard work of untangling the mess of corrupt thoughts imposed by the flesh and by the devil. Discussing whether we should counsel an unconverted man to "ask God for a new heart" sounds like a hair-splitting distinction, but it's the difference between evangelical Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism in a very subtle form.

    Just to give an example, I do know individuals who have been "seeking" God for forty years of their lives and they are either still lost or have thick scales covering their eyes. They will say to you, "Yeah I know I have to believe," but they make a wrong application of God's sovereignty. "Because I don't have a new heart I will be presuming if I trust on Christ and deceive myself; and I know God must give me the heart so all I can do is wait." Their logic leads them to keep away from Christ, keeps them from obedience, and therefore they never attain salvation, or any real joy and peace. That makes an eternal difference; therefore, goal of discussions like this is to smoke out their refuges from obedience.

    There are further ramifications, but could you take this as food for thought my brother?
     
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    For the long term "seeker" who is wavering in his resolve and not "closing with Christ" despite a long time period, I would urge them to come to Christ and to "close with Christ" like anyone. Praying that God would finally remove those obstacles seems also appropriate. Asking them point-blank why they have not yet believed and repented also seems appropriate, reminding them that there is no hindrance outside of themselves to coming to Christ (God is ready to receive them at any moment if they are willing).

    If they continue under conviction for a long time, we can point them to the promises of God that sin can finally be done away with and can remove the guilt. For our age, lengthy periods of time spent under conviction of sin are ab unusual problem...as soon as someone feels troubles or guilty a little bit, dozens of religious counselors are there to assure them that their souls are not truly in danger or give them some sort of false remedy to quiet their consciences. I am glad when I see those at pain over their sins, for so many in America can never be saved because they have never been lost.
     
  15. The Narrator

    The Narrator Puritan Board Freshman

    This question is not so easily answered as some suppose. Notice, in Pilgrim's Progress, that Christian was pointed to the wicket gate. Why? I assume he already knew it was his immediate duty to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but was also aware of his utter inability to do so. Whole books were written just to give counsel. The Anxious Inquirer, John Angell James, chapter 6 of William Spragues, "Lectures on Revival." TREATMENT DUE TO AWAKENED SINNERS - Or consider the various sermons in the Morning Exercises and Cripplegate... What Sinners Must and Can Do Towards Their Conversion-William Greenhill. I have three lectures on this subject on Sermon Audio called, Did the Puritans Teach Preparationism? Thomas Sullivan Is preparatory law-work necessary? and other titles. But here is the rub. God can and often does save people without any extended LEGAL conviction of sin prior to conversion. But until 1850, it appears to me - and I have studied this for 30 years, these type of conversions were more exceptional than normal like they are in our day. See Timothy Dwight's sermons, The Antecedents to Regeneration, or William Shedd's Dogmatic Theology - Witsius (Covenants, III. vi. 27), says:
    <,
    “Let none think it absurd that we now speak of means of regeneration,
    when but a little before (III. vi. 10, 12) we rejected all preparatives for it.”
    Owen, on the other hand, denies “means,” and asserts “preparatives” of
    regeneration. Yet Owen and Witsius agree in doctrine. In the Calvinistic system, a
    “preparative” to regeneration, or a “means” of it, is anything that demonstrates
    man’s total lack of holy desire and his need ofregeneration. It is consequently not
    a part of regeneration, but something prior and antecedent to it. There is a work
    performed in the soul previous to the instantaneous act of regeneration, as there is
    a work performed in the body previous to the instantaneous act of death. A man
    loses physical life in an instant, but he has been some time in coming to this instant.
    So man gains spiritual life in an instant, though he may have had days and months
    ofa foregoing experience ofconviction and sense ofspiritual death. This is the
    ordinary divine method, except in the case of infants. - Regeneration Note...it is worthwhile reading what John Owen wrote on this...
    John Owen Works Volume 3, Chapter 5... The Nature, Causes and MEANS of regeneration.
    That the use of those means unto men in the state of sin, if they are
    not complied withal, is sufficient, on the grounds before laid down, to
    leave them by whom they are rejected inexcusable: so Isaiah 5:3-5;
    Proverbs 29:1; 2 Chronicles 36:14-16.
     
  16. The Narrator

    The Narrator Puritan Board Freshman

    This question is not so easily answered as some suppose. Notice, in Pilgrim's Progress, that Christian was pointed to the wicket gate. Why? I assume he already knew it was his immediate duty to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but was also aware of his utter inability to do so. Whole books were written just to give counsel. The Anxious Inquirer, John Angell James, chapter 6 of William Spragues, "Lectures on Revival." TREATMENT DUE TO AWAKENED SINNERS - Or consider the various sermons in the Morning Exercises and Cripplegate... What Sinners Must and Can Do Towards Their Conversion-William Greenhill. I have three lectures on this subject on Sermon Audio called, Did the Puritans Teach Preparationism? Is preparatory law-work necessary? Thomas Sullivan and other titles. But here is the rub. God can and often does save people without any extended LEGAL conviction of sin prior to conversion. But until 1850, it appears to me - and I have studied this for 30 years, these type of conversions were more exceptional than normal like they are in our day. See Timothy Dwight's sermons, The Antecedents to Regeneration, or William Shedd's Dogmatic Theology - Witsius (Covenants, III. vi. 27), says:
    <,
    “Let none think it absurd that we now speak of means of regeneration,
    when but a little before (III. vi. 10, 12) we rejected all preparatives for it.”
    Owen, on the other hand, denies “means,” and asserts “preparatives” of
    regeneration. Yet Owen and Witsius agree in doctrine. In the Calvinistic system, a
    “preparative” to regeneration, or a “means” of it, is anything that demonstrates
    man’s total lack of holy desire and his need ofregeneration. It is consequently not
    a part of regeneration, but something prior and antecedent to it. There is a work
    performed in the soul previous to the instantaneous act of regeneration, as there is
    a work performed in the body previous to the instantaneous act of death. A man
    loses physical life in an instant, but he has been some time in coming to this instant.
    So man gains spiritual life in an instant, though he may have had days and months
    ofa foregoing experience ofconviction and sense ofspiritual death. This is the
    ordinary divine method, except in the case of infants. - Regeneration Note...it is worthwhile reading what John Owen wrote on this...
    John Owen Works Volume 3, Chapter 5... The Nature, Causes and MEANS of regeneration.
    That the use of those means unto men in the state of sin, if they are
    not complied withal, is sufficient, on the grounds before laid down, to
    leave them by whom they are rejected inexcusable: so Isaiah 5:3-5;
    Proverbs 29:1; 2 Chronicles 36:14-16.
     
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, thanks for the comments:

    I had The Anxious Inquirer and also some of Sprague's lectures on revival in mind.
     
  18. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    I agree with Spurgeon's "criticism" of Christian being pointed to the Wicket Gate first instead of the Cross. He mentions this in a few places, one of which is contained in this sermon: http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols58-60/chs3332.pdf.

    All of this lends itself to easy misunderstanding and creates a whole category of "awakened sinner" in which one remains for years. There is no proper biblical precept (or even example) of such. To be sure, law and gospel need to be preached: the law to show us our sin in the light of God's holiness and the gospel to show us our Savior as the only hope for sinners who see their need. And we can certainly look back as Christians and see all that God brought us through in our coming to Him, all preparatory, we might say, to faith and repentance.

    And yet, that's all quite different than creating this category of persons ("awakened sinners") in which people may stay for some time while we urge them to Christ. If they are not truly trusting Christ, they need to be urged to to do so at once (in terms, as I've argued herein, of "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy"). Perhaps they are trusting Him (and they are if they are looking to Him and Him alone) and need to be assured. It is the case that it is no humility on our parts to question His love for us, or the like--it's simply unbelief. All of us need to be challenged in this unbelief and to receive Him and His love, simply resting and trusting in Him.

    I call all sinners (all those who see their desparate condition) to look away from all that they are and have and do to the only One who can do their souls any good and to receive Him, whether for the first or the ten-thousandeth time. This is what needs to be preached to this needy, dying world.

    Peace,
    Alan
     
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Dr. Strange,

    Thanks so much for the link on Spurgeon's criticism of this portion of Pilgrim's Progress. I am reading it now. Spurgeon's criticism makes a lot of sense. Though, I hate to think there is any major theological flaw in Pilgrim's Progress since I love it so and have read it so much to my son.

    About the "awakened sinner."...

    Are you saying that there is no such category as an "awakened sinner" who is awakened to his sense of sinfulness and yet remains in this state for a time? Are you saying that all such "awakened sinners" really have the seed of regeneration in them already or else they would not seek? (i.e. sinners do not seek)...

    Right now, I still believe there is such a category called "awakened sinners" and I even believe there exist "seekers" or "inquirers" who have their minds awakened to the truthfulness of the facts of the Gospel and who feel their sinfulness, and yet who are not saved. I even believe there are some of these who will be lost after having tasted/nibbled of the truth of the Gospel (Hebrews 6). Does this place me into the camp of those who hold to "preparationism" then? And how serious of an error is such preparationism? It seems a lot of Puritans expressed preparationist sentiments.

    What are we to make of Jonathan Edwards sermons on "pressing into the kingdom of God" and "What Seeking Sinners Can and Must Do": What Seeking Sinners Can and Must Do: Pressing Into the Kingdom of God 1 of 2 | SermonAudio.com



    Do you have any reviews of this book by Joel Beeke? Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Way of Leading Sinners to Christ - Reformation Heritage Books

    A final note: Also, there seems to be a difference in positing that the sinner can do preliminary steps to more greatly dispose himself to the grace of God (which is how some define preparationism), and the view (mine) that there is often a "pre-conversion ploughing of the Spirit" by which the sinner is awakened and becomes interested in the things of God prior to conversion.
     
  20. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    If I can answer for Dr. Strange; I do not believe anyone, outside of God giving sight, i.e. John 3 see anything spiritual; it is 'foolishness' to them....

    The scriptures tell us that no one seeks after God, outside of regeneration.

    Trevor,
    I recommend that you read 'A Treatise on Regeneration' by Van Mastricht; the pothole you are hitting seems to be in the idea that regeneration and conversion are instantaneous.
     
  21. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Scott:

    Yes, I believe that regeneration and conversion occur at the same chronological period of time. Otherwise, you would have to assert that there are regenerate folks who lack true faith and true repentance. Faith joins us to Christ; therefore, everywhere the New Birth is present, faith is also present. Are there any "New Creations in Christ" who are yet faithless? In a previous post this week I think we spoke of John the Baptist's faith (he leapt and had joy, even in the womb) such that I would say that even there, regeneration is joined to faith/repentance. God moves the wheel, but all the spokes move at once such that a logical priority of regeneration "before" faith does not entail a chronological gap.

    Do you know where I can get Van Mastricht's work? A link?
     
  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    How are we to understand this passage from John Owen from Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (in the chapter "Works of the Holy Spirit Preparatory Unto Regeneration"):

     
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Also William Guthrie in The Christian's Great Interest speaks of the religious stirrings found in many, which he calls "preparatory work":

    Here is Joseph Alleine in his Alarm to the Unconverted [bolding is mine to emphasis how the quote relates to the OP]:

     
  24. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    As long as they are urged to come to Christ I don't see anything wrong with the category. It appears to be a necessary consequence of preaching the need to be awakened to a sense of sin and inability. To quote Thomas Boston again (Works, 6:372):

     
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Murray writing about Thomas Hooker here: http://www.puritansermons.com/pdf/murray4.pdf

     
  26. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    I heartily agree with the Boston quote. Boston urges those who have no sense of their sin to see their need, without which conviction of sin (at some level), they will not come to Christ. And he urges all those who see their sin to come to Christ, not to exist comfortably--note that I said I oppose the notion that this is a condition in which one may stay "for some time," not that there is such a thing as Boston calls a "sensible sinner"--in some category other than "resting and trusting in Christ alone."

    So I agree with Boston, though I differ with Hooker (as D. Murray cites): I think that Hooker does create a category that Boston does not. Some of us have been a part of such churches that required something akin to a narrative of grace in order to convince ourselves and others that we are "truly saved": in such, the emphasis comes to be my religious experience and not Christ and Him alone. I do not find this emphasis in the WCF, either in its treatment of ordo salutis or God's decrees (see especially, and think about, the warning in WCF 3.8).

    Item ii. in Murray's list is quite a delicate matter and can be easily mishandled to the detriment of sensitive souls. Is it true? Are those who say that they've received Christ who haven't? Yes, we encounter such not infrequently. But if you don't handle that truth carefully, it is the bruised reed that you are likely to break and the smoking flax to quench, and the presumptuous, and perhaps brutish, souls at which you aim these comments are likely to continue on in their ways, unheedful of such statements. It's not that this stuff is not true and it's not that we don't have religious experience. But we must always be careful to point people away from their religious experience to Christ. This is what the Bible does again and again.

    Peace,
    Alan
     
  27. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Forgive me, but call me stupid. How can anything done outside of the HS and regeneration (sight) be at all profitable? If the unbeliever, prior to regeneration sees and understands scripture as 'foolishness', how can one see this as a ramping up towards regeneration? This thinking that a preparatory work is of any value is a difficulty I cannot find supported in scripture. The only distinction I can see is that men, in their morality are pricked; however, this concious burden is not a burden from God but from a fleshly burden much akin to the repentance Judas felt.
     
  28. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Scott:

    I appreciate your conundrum.

    Here is the answer, I think: we hold forth Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel. He is received by faith alone, i.e., only someone in the exercise of faith (the fruit of regeneration) will profitably receive Him.

    What if someone says, however, "I do not yet see these things or trust in Him?" How do we counsel them? We tell them both to continue to place themselves under the means of grace and we urge upon them, as desparate sinners, their need of Christ. We try to convince them of their sin and need and of the sole remedy for such in Jesus Christ. We urge them not to rest until they rest in Him.

    We understand that only the regenerate will believe and repent and so we keep urging that upon them, praying that God would bring them to Himself, always pointing to the only One who can do them any good. You are right, though, that only the regenerate can properly see any of these things, since the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, neither indeed can he, for they are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:14) and "no one seeks for God" (Romans 3: 10-18) apart from a saving work of the Spirit.

    Peace,
    Alan
     
  29. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Amen Dr. Strange.

    In regard to the ordo: The presbyterian holds that infants, much like John can be regenerated as God sees fit. In the womb, it would be what we call, 'seeds of faith'. It is akin to a form of faith; it is not absolute. When we consider John 3, men are given sight. Faith comes via the word: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. This sight allows for the processing of spiritual data. If regeneration and conversion happens simultaneously, it would then follow what Pergamum is saying. The process would have had to start prior to regeneration and the data processed could not be considered 'foolishness' as it is being stored for future kingdom business. But that is not what scripture tells us. As Dr. Strange noted, ' the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, neither indeed can he'. The flesh profiteth nothing. As well, we know Romans tells us that men must have the gospel preached to them to be saved. If we hold to an idea that in every case, the order happens all at one time, that would exclude any hope of our infants being regenerated prior to them being able to comprehend the data preached, to which we firmly reject.
     
  30. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Spurgeon once said:

    (Faith Essential to Pleasing God, MTP, Sermon #2100, Vol. 35, 446).

    Right now I believe he is correct. This seems to accord with I John, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and everyone that loveth him that begot loveth him also that is begotten of him."—1 John 5:1. Regeneration and faith are not to be separated, even if regeneration logically (though not chronologically) "precedes" faith.

    Spurgeon's view is that regeneration neither precedes faith nor follows after faith -- rather, regeneration is the very creation of faith itself. This is my current position as well.

    Also, Calvin's comments on 1 Corinthians 13:13 seems to accord with my views, for he states, "In fine, it is by faith that we are born again, that we become the sons of God -- that we obtain eternal life, and that Christ dwells in us." All the Confessions as well speak of the instrumentality of the Word of God. To state that regeneration can occur where faith does not exist is to deny these instrumentalities.
     
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