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Friday, October 8, 2010

The False Convert Detected (Part 1)

I propose to do a series which is an extract from writings of Thomas Shepard (1605 - 1649) who I think would be deemed a Puritan. His subject is not what we normally correspond about here and it is not something I have discussed with my colleagues first. I have decided to go feral and suffer the consequences later.

I think the subject is vital (even if one disagrees with Shepard's conclusions) because it ought to cause even dissenters to think about their relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps, even, it may detect the root cause of extensive deadness within the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney and opposition to the truth of God's word on origins.


'Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.' Matt. 7:14. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter, of my people slightly, saying Peace, peace; when there is no peace.' Jerem. 6:14.

Look to all ages, and we shall find but a handful saved. As soon as ever the Lord began to keep house, and there were but two families in it, there was a bloody Cain living, and a good Abel slain. And as the world increased in number, so in wickedness, Gen. 6:12. It is said, All flesh had corrupted their ways, and amongst so many thousand men not one righteous but Noah, and his family; and yet in the Ark there crept in a cursed Ham. Afterwards, as Abraham's posterity increased, so we see their sin abounded. When his posterity was in Egypt, where, one would think, if ever men were good, now it would appear, being so heavily afflicted by Pharaoh, being by so many miracles miraculously delivered by the hand of Moses, yet most of these God was wrath with, Heb. 3:11, and only two of them, Caleb and Joshua, went into Canaan, a type of Heaven. Look into Solomon's time: what glorious times! what great profession was there then! Yet after his death ten tribes fell to the odious sin of Idolatry. Look farther into Isaiah's time, when there were multitudes of sacrifices and prayers, Isa. 1:11. Yet then there was but a remnant, nay, a very little remnant, that should be saved. And look to the time of Christ's coming in the flesh (for I pick out the best time of all), when one would think by such sermons he preached, such miracles he wrought, such a life as he led, all the Jews would have entertained him; yet it is said, He came unto his own, and they received him not. John1:11. In the Apostle's time many indeed were converted, but few comparatively; and amongst the best churches were many bad, Philip. 3:18; Rev. 3:4. And presently after the Apostles time Many grievous wolves came in and devoured the sheep. Acts 20 :29.

Even amongst them that have the means of grace, but few shall be saved. It's a strange speech of Chrysostom in his fourth sermon to the people of Antioch, where he was much beloved, and did much good ; ' How many do you think,' he says, ' shall be saved in this city ? It will be an hard speech to you, but I will speak it ; though here be so many thousands of you, yet there cannot be found an hundred that shall be saved, and I doubt of them too.' It may be sometimes amongst ninety-nine in a parish, Christ sends a minister to call some one lost sheep among them, Luke 15. Three grounds were bad where the seed was sown, and only one ground good, Matt. 13. The number of them that shall be saved is very small, Luke 13:24. . . . This minister's exhortation to all confident people, that think they believe, and say they doubt not but to be saved; and hence do not much fear death. Oh, learn to suspect and fear your estate, and fear it so much that thou cannot be quiet until thou hast got some assurance thou shalt be saved. A confident opinion rages amongst divers sorts of people whom the Devil never troubles, because he is sure of them already, and therefore cries peace in their ears, whose conscience never troubles them, because it has shut its eyes: and hence they sleep, and sleeping dream that God is merciful unto them, and will be so; yet never see they are deceived, until they awake with the flames of Hell about their ears: and the world troubles them not, because they are friends to it, and so enemies to God. And ministers never trouble them, for they have none such as are fit for that work near them. And their friends never trouble them, because they are afraid to displease them. This one truth well thought on may damp thine heart. It may be there are better in Hell than thyself that art so confident; and therefore tell me what thou hast to say for thyself, that thou shalt be saved ?

Thou wilt say probably, first, ' I have left my sins I once lived in, and am now no drunkard, no swearer, no liar, etc'—I answer ; thou mayest be washed from thy mire (the pollution of the world), and yet be a swine in God's account, 2 Pet. 2:20. Thou mayest live a blameless, innocent, honest life, and yet be a miserable creature still, Philip. 3:6.

'But I pray, and that often.'—This thou mayest do, and yet never be saved, Isa. 1:11. 'To what purpose is your multitude of sacrifices?' Thou mayest pray with much affection, yet be a thousand miles off from being saved, Prov. 1:28.

'But I hear the Word of God, and like the best preachers.'— This thou mayest do too, and yet never be saved. Nay, thou mayest so hear, as to receive much joy, and comfort in hearing, nay, to believe and catch hold on Christ, and say and think he is thine, and yet not be saved, as the stony ground did, Matt. 13, who heard the word with joy, and for a season believed.

'I read the Scriptures often.'—This you may do too, and yet never be saved ; as the Pharisees, who were so perfect in reading the Bible, that Christ needed only to say, 'It hath been said of old times,' for they knew the text and place well enough without intimation.

'But I am grieved and sorrowful, and repent for my sins past.'—Judas did thus, Matt. 27:3, he repents himself with a legal repentance for fear of Hell, and with a natural sorrow for dealing so unkindly with Christ. True humiliation is ever accompanied with hearty reformation.

'I have very many good desires and endeavours to get to Heaven.'—These thou and thousands may have, and yet miss of Heaven, Luke 13:24.

These things thou may verily think of thyself, and yet be deceived, and damned at last. 'There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death.' Prov. 14:12. Thou mayest go fairly, and live so honestly, that all the best Christians about thee may think well of thee, and never suspect thee; and so mayest pass through the world, and die with a deluded comfort, and never know thou art counterfeit, till the Lord brings thee to thy strict and last examination, and so thou receivest that dreadful sentence, Go ye cursed. So it was with the five foolish virgins, that were never discovered by the wise, nor by themselves, until the gate of grace was shut upon them, Matt. 25. If thou hast therefore no better evidences to shew for thyself, that thine estate is good, than these, I will not give a pin's point for all thy flattering false hopes of being saved: but it may be thou hast never yet come so far as this pitch; and if not, Lord! what will become if thee? Suspect thyself much, and when in this shipwreck of souls thou seest so many thousands sink, cry out and conclude, it's a wonder of wonders, and a thousand to one, if ever thou comest safe to shore."

More from Shepard later.

Sam Drucker

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