The Poor Doubting Christian Drawn to Christ - Thomas Hooker

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Von, May 29, 2017.

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  1. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    In THE POOR DOUBTING CHRISTIAN DRAWN TO CHRIST, Thomas Hooker, names these four cases which hinders people from coming to Christ (I quote the 4 cases in their entirety):
    1. Blind, Careless, or Presumptuous Security; whereby Men content themselves with their present Condition, presuming all is well with them, when there is no such matter.
    2. Being convinced of this, they bethink how to save themselves by their own Strength; and thereupon set upon a Reformation of Life, thinking to make God amends by reforming some Sins which they hear themselves reproved of by the Ministers.
    3. The Sinner being convinced of his utter inability to please God in himself, at length gets up a Stair higher, and sees all his Performances, and Prayers, and Duties to be of no power in themselves, but that he must leave all, and cleave only unto Christ by Faith; and this he thinks he can do well enough, and so thrusts himself upon Christ, thinking all the work is then done, and no more to be looked after.
    4. If he sees this fails him too, then he goes yet further, and confesseth he cannot come to Christ, except Christ give him his Hand, and help him up; therefore now he will attend on the Ordinances, and labour and bestir himself hard in the use of all good Means, conceiving thereby to hammer out at last a Faith of his own to make him happy. And here he rests, hanging as it were upon the outside of the Ark so long, till at last the waves and winds growing fierce and violent, he is beaten off, and so sinks for ever.
    My question is: I do not understand why number 4 is not saved and/or “hindered” from coming to Christ. I would think that confessing that you cannot come to Christ lest he draws you is a biblical view of salvation. I think I'm missing something.
     
  2. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

  3. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Freshman

    The problem in number 4 is that the person is doing anything but resting in Christ like he is supposed to be doing. A person who says, "I can't come to Christ so I will attend on the ordinances until God makes me come to him" is disobedient, and he makes a mistake about his inability; the reason he cannot come is because he will not come, and is stubbornly refusing the offer of mercy which is given with no conditions at all, and he could have at that very moment. God never tells anyone to wait for the Lord to come and save him, but tells him to come.

    I speak most generally, a doubting Christian who is truly saved would be someone characterized by weak faith, yet has faith nonetheless. They might have small assurance, fainter evidences, but nevertheless they do exercise at least some faith, and do sincerely strive to be holy.

    Two men go out on a bridge of ice across a lake. One is on his hands and knees, afraid that the ice will crack beneath him, but another puts on skates. Both will get to the other side, but one will have less trouble. One might be much more confident than the other, but they're both different from the one who won't venture out.

    You might want to look up the character "Little Faith" from Pilgrim's Progress. That might give you some real help on what a weak or doubting Christian is.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  4. 5ispret

    5ispret Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you Von, a very good read!

    Yes, I agree with Harley..that was very well explained.

    The problem lies with the effort apart from Christ, works alone and not works produced by faith, yet, the hand of the Lord is stretched out.

    I really like the way in which you have put it Harley. No one is told to wait, but to come. Certain act of faith, faith that will produce works.
     
  5. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Would you then say that 3 and 4 are flipsides of the same coin?
    In 3 he does nothing, because he has an empty faith. The same type we see these days with people confessing to believe in Christ, but there is no fruit to show (a twisted understanding of free grace).
    And in 4 he says: This is not working for me (due to guilt, etc?) so he falls to the other side doing good works, but expecting that Christ must of his own accord decide to save him one day (a twisted understanding of election).
     
  6. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Freshman

    I'd rather leave interpretation of Hooker on this point to others who might know him better, only because I think that without having read him I'd be in unusual danger of misunderstanding, but I will offer a comment/guess.

    I think it's interesting that he tells us that this comer "thinks [having faith] he can do well enough, and so thrusts himself upon Christ, thinking all the work is then done, and no more to be after." Who does he depend upon to believe, and so who gets the credit for salvation? Himself, not Christ. He's still a legalist. He just thinks he's found a work that's really easy to do and so makes faith to be a meriting work; but now (he thinks) he's got his salvation, so he doesn't do anymore. So he's a legalist and an antinomian. Legalist, because he tries to fulfill the law himself and think he's done it; and antinomian, because he stopped obeying once he thought he got salvation.

    Such a man has no right to peace because he's still outside of Christ, and so his case evolves into #4. Despite the fact that he (thinks that he) believed and did what he was told he knows he is not reconciled he throws his hands up and says, "Well God, I did what I was supposed to. Your turn." So yes, it's hiding behind election as an excuse to not obey. The tragedy too is that his subsequent attendance on means is sinful, and is not inducing God to save him, since there is no obedience without faith. "Even the plowing of the wicked is an abomination." The same for his Bible reading.
     
  7. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    But then there is a fine line between trusting in Christ producing works and thinking you are trusting in Christ and doing works. But now how would you know whether you are just making up works or producing fruit as a consequence of your salvation? Isn't it that even if you don't feel like praying, reading your bible, etc, the fact that you go against feeling is showing that you are obedient even though you don't feel like it - ie the best kind of faith?
     
  8. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Freshman

    Such a person should start by examining their understanding of the Gospel. Do you believe that it's free, that you may be justified without having performed one righteous deed or having killed off one single sin? Do you believe that no works, feelings, dispositions, attitudes, certain level of faith, etc. are prerequisite to coming to Christ? The only one qualification is that you are a wicked, unrighteous sinner.

    If that is what you believe it will govern why you do things. If one believes there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus then they won't obey or kill sin out of fear of going to hell, for fear that God will beat them like a slave master, or in order to gain favor, or to win mercy; but they will obey because they love God, they love Christ, they know they are not condemned, God's law is good, and like children who want to make their father happy they obey. Does the Gospel produce this effect, or like #3 do they just stop and do nothing else? As for feelings, they come on the heels of understanding and believing truth.

    Now, no Christian is perfectly free from legalism, and no work is ever done with perfectly evangelical motives, and many times we as Christians obey unfeelingly and just to get the duty done and over with (shame on us!); but a test of sincerity is if a person strives and presses toward evangelical motives in his obedience, and fights off his legalistic dispositions, and would be fully obedient out of love and godly fear and be free of all legalistic fears were perfection possible. If a person has none of these motives, then the problem is that they don't believe the Gospel, and Christ is not in them (Galatians 5:2).

    If one is saved but their works have little evangelical disposition, the way to get it is to commune with Christ. The way to do that is to exercise faith in Him, and use the means to help you in the exercise of faith: bible study, prayer, meditation, fellowship, preaching, etc. But even then, your trust is not in yourself or in your faith or in the means, but your faith is in Christ to work them in you; and believing, go and do them.

    "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus ,who has become to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." - 1 Corinthians 1:30

    And suppose this person looked into their heart and determined that all they've ever done as a professing Christian was self-righteous, wicked legalism, the best thing to do is believe Christ to save them right then and there, and they will be saved, and Christ will free them both from the guilt and the power of sin.
     
  9. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you, Harley, your response clarified several issues for me. Just for interest sake, I found this poem by George Herbert ("The Holdfast") expressing almost the same things that was mentioned by Hooker:

    I threatened to observe the strict decree
    Of my deare God with all my power & might.
    But I was told by one, it could not be;
    Yet I might trust in God to be my light.

    Then will I trust, said I, in him alone.
    Nay, ev’n to trust in him, was also his:
    We must confesse that nothing is our own.
    Then I confesse that he my succour is:

    But to have nought is ours, not to confesse
    That we have nought. I stood amaz’d at this,
    Much troubled, till I heard a friend expresse,
    That all things were more ours by being his.
    What Adam had, and forfeited for all,
    Christ keepeth now, who cannot fail or fall.
     
  10. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Freshman

    That's a wonderful piece! Thank you for sharing it :)
     
  11. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Freshman

    May I also recommend the following?

    "The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification" by Walter Marshall
    "The Marrow of Modern Divinity" by Edward Fisher (notes by Thomas Boston)
    "The Whole Christ" by Sinclair Ferguson

    At least, you can go and get Sinclair Ferguson's lectures on the Marrow Controversy online, but you'll get that and more from his book.
     
  12. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    My pastor also encouraged me to read "The Whole Christ" a while back. So maybe this is a sign;). Thank you for your time and clear explanation!
     
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