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Thursday, October 14, 2010

False Convert Detected (Part 4)

Following is the next instalment of Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) on The False Convert Detected. Consider it very carefully.

In my post a couple of days ago Shepard dealt with:


1. Error in the Understanding. [subsections 1, 2 and 3 provided in previous post]

(4). In judging of the sincerity of the heart by some good affection in the heart. Hence many a deluded soul reasons the case out thus with himself: Either I must be a prophane man, or an hypocrite, or an upright man. Not prophane, for I am not given to drinking, swearing; nor hypocrite, for I hate these outward shews, I cannot endure to appear better without than I am within: Therefore I am upright. Why ? Oh, because my heart is good; my affections and desires within are better than my life without, I know mine own heart, and the heart is all God desires. And thus they fool themselves, Prov. 28:26. This is one of the greatest causes and grounds of mistake amongst men: they are not able to put a difference between good desires, and strong affections that arise from the love of Jesus Christ. Self-love will make a man seek his own good and safety: hence it will pull a man out of his bed betimes in the morning, and call him up to pray; it will make him tug hard for pardon, for Christ, for mercy. But the love of Christ makes a man desire Christ and his honour for himself, and all other things for Christ.

(5). In judging of God's love to them, by aiming sometimes at the glory of God. Is this possible, that a man should aim at God's glory, and yet perish? Yes, and ordinarily too, 2 Kings 10:18. But here's the difference, though a wicked man may make God's glory in some particular things his end, yet he never makes it in his general practice his utmost and last end. A subtle heart may forsake all the world, as Judas did, may bind himself to all the duties God requires outwardly at his hands, and so do good works; but what's his last end? It's that he might gain respect or place or that Christ may have some part of the glory, and he another. There's many seek the honour of Christ, but do you seek his honour only: Is it your last end, where you rest and seek no more but that? Observe this rule; If you are more grieved for the eclipse of thine own honour, or for thine own losses, than for the loss of God's honour; it is an evident sign thou desirest it not in the prime and chiefest place. Sin troubled Paul more than all the plagues and miseries of the world. Indeed, if thy name be dashed with disgrace, and thy will be crossed, thy heart is grieved and disquieted: but the Lord may lose his honour daily by thine own sins, and those that be round about thee, but not a tear, nor a sigh, nor a groan to behold such a spectacle. As sure as the Lord lives, thou seekest not the Lord's honour as thy greatest good.

(6). In judging the power of sin to be but infirmity. For if any thing troubles an unregenerate man, and makes him call his estate into question, it is sin, either in the being, or power of it. Now sin in the being ought not, must not make a man question his estate, because the best have that left in them that will humble them, and make them live by Faith: therefore the power of sin only can justly thus trouble a man. (Which power reigns only in the unregenerate). Now if a man do judge of this to be only but infirmity, which the best are compassed about with, he cannot but think himself well. And if this error be settled in one that lives in no one known sin, it is very difficult to remove: for, let the minister denounce the terror of God against them, they are never stirred; why? Because they think, Here's for you tha' live in sin: not as for themselves, although they have sins, yet they strive against them, and so cannot leave them; for, say they, we must have sins so long as we live here. Now mark it, there's no surer sign of man under the dominion of his sins than this, that is, not to be greatly troubled for sin (for they may be little troubled) because they cannot overcome sin. I deny not but the best do sin daily: yet this is the disposition of Paul, and every child of God, he mourns not the less, but the more for sin. This is the great difference between a reigning sin and a sin of infirmity. A sin of infirmity is such a sin as a man would, but cannot, part with: and hence he mourns the more for it: a reigning sin is such a sin as a man by virtue of his conscience would sometimes part with, but cannot; and hence mourns the less for it, and gives way to it. Now for the Lord's sake take heed of this deceit; for I tell you, those sins you cannot part with, if you groan not day and night under them (saying, O Lord, help me, for I am weary of myself), will certainlv undo you. You say, you cannot but speak idly, and think vainly, and do ill, as all do sometimes: I tell you, those sins shall be everlasting chains to hold you fast in the power of the Devil.

And thus much of the understanding's corruption, whereby men are commonly deluded."

Three instalments to follow.

Sam Drucker

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