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Saturday, October 23, 2010

False Convert Detected (Part 6)

Following is the penultimate instalment of Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) on The False Convert Detected.

"III. Carnal Confidence.

Whereby men attempt to save themselves by their own duties and performances.

The paths to hell are but two. The first is the path of Sin, which is a dirty way. Secondly, the path of Duties, which (rested in) is but a cleaner way. But I think thou wilt object, ' No true Christian man hopes to be saved by his good works and duties, but only by the mercy of God, and merits of Christ.' I answer, it is one thing to trust to be saved by duties, another thing to rest in duties. A man rests in duties, when he is of this opinion that only Christ can save him, but in his practice he goes about to save himself . . . But because it is hard to know when a man rests in duties, and few men find themselves guilty of this sin, which ruins so many, I will shew some signs of a man's resting in duties. (1) Those that never came to be sensible of their poverty and utter emptiness of all good rest in duties. Now did you ever feel thyself in this manner poor? viz. I am as ignorant as any beast, as vile as any Devil: Oh Lord, what sin and rebellion lurks in my heart! I once thought at least my heart and desires were good, but now I feel no spiritual life. Oh dead heart! I am the poorest, vilest, blindest creature that ever lived. If thou dost not thus feel thy self poor, thou never came out of thy duties; for when the Lord brings any man to Christ he brings him empty. (2) Those that gain no Evangelical righteousness by duties rest in duties; I say, Evangelical righteousness, that is, more prizing of acquaintance with, desire after, loving and delighting in union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Now Jesus Christ is a Christian's gain, Philip.1:21. and hence a child of God asks himself after sermon, after prayer, after sacraments. What have I gained of Christ? Have I got more knowledge of Christ, more admiring of the Lord Jesus? A carnal heart, that rests in his duties, asks only what he has dorie, as the Pharisee,' I fast twice a week, I give alms,' and the like; and thinks verily he shall be saved, because he prays, and because he reforms, and because he sorrows for his sins, that is not because of the gaining of Christ in a duty, but because of his naked pertormance of the duty. (3) Those that see little of their vile hearts in performing duties rest in their duties: for if a man be brought nearer to Christ, and to the light, by duties, he will spy out more moats; for the more a man participates of Christ, his health and life, the more he feels the vileness and sickness of sin. As Paul, when he rested in duties before his conversion, before that the Law had humbled him, 'he was alive,' Rom.7, that is, he thought himself a sound man because his duties covered his sins, like fig leaves. Therefore ask thine own heart, if it be troubled sometimes for sin, and if after thy praying and sorrowing thou dost grow well, and think thyself safe, and feel not thyself more vile: If it be thus, I tell thee, thy duties be but fig-leaves to cover thy nakedness, and the Lord will unmask thee one day."

One final instalment to follow in a couple of days.

Sam Drucker

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