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Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Test of a Christian's Great Interest.

No-one knows the mind of the man except the spirit which is in him. It is not for me to say with any certainty that someone other than myself is Christian or not. The issue of whether trust in God's Word is a characteristic of being Christian is perplexing at times.

For example, how does one consider the condition of a man who grew up in a Christian home, goes through all the experiences of church life, goes on through theological training to be ordained a 'Cure of Souls' and then proceed to lecture at a theological seminary only to write and speak in a manner which leads others to doubt whether God is actually saying, in the Holy Bible, what He (God) appears to be saying?

It is perplexing.

Puritan, William Guthrie, when writing "The Christian's Great Interest" knew of these complexities and wrote of those who had faith but were in need of assurance and of those who were "... living under the ordinances, pretending, without ground, to a special interest in Christ ...".

The best I can do is to lay before all what I believe Guthrie had to say about the latter 'hypocrites' and leave it for them to examine themselves to see if they need to cry out to the Lord in prayer for help.

(a) The hypocrite's conviction. Guthrie recognizes the difficulty of giving sure distinctions here; what follows the conviction is a surer test of its character. But he mentions three things rarely found in the stirrings of reprobates but generally found in the person who becomes a true believer.

(i) Hypocrites' convictions are usually either of a few gross transgressions only (as Saul admits no more than persecuting David, or Judas than betraying innocent blood), or else of sinfulness in general without any specific sins; but the law-work which has a gracious ending comprehends both (cf. 1 Tim 1:13).

(ii) Hypocrites' convictions seldom reach the recognition of inner corruption, inability and helplessness; so that they still 'go about to establish their own righteousness' (Rom.10:13) by works.

(iii) Hypocrites' convictions are often put right out of mind by other matters (Gain goes and builds a city and no more is heard of his conviction; Felix waits till a more convenient time and we hear no more of his trembling). Or if conviction grows, it produces utter despair of relief (thus Judas hanged himself).

(b) The hypocrite's faith. Hypocrites may reach a kind of faith; but:

(i) They never abandon works, forsaking every other ground of confidence to close with Christ alone.

(ii) They never receive Christ ' as anointed to be a King, to rule over a man in all things; a Priest to procure pardon and to make peace upon all occasions; a Prophet, to be wisdom, and a teacher and counsellor in all cases to man : so they do not receive Christ, especially in the first and third offices' (p.12).

(iii) They are seldom prepared to accept all the inconveniences that result from following Christ, but shy back at certain points..

(c) The hypocrite's reformation. Hypocrites may appear changed men, having much knowledge (Heb. 6:4), receiving the word with joy (Matt. 13:20 f.), eschewing the practice of many sins and giving themselves to religious duties (like the Pharisees, Luke 18:11 f.), and approving in some measure the things of God (John 7:46). They 'may have a great deal of profession,' talking of the law and the covenant (Ps. 50:16), confessing their sins (1 Sam. 26:21), humbling themselves (1 Kings 21:27), giving much, perhaps all of their goods to God and to the saints (Acts 5:2, 1 Cor. 13:3), and submitting even to martyrdom (1 Cor. 13:3). They may have great convictions, tremble at the word, and find peace and quiet in the hope of Christ's return (Matt. 25:1); and they may enjoy striking experiences and ' tastings of the good word of God' (Heb. 6:4), 'the powers of the world to come, working powerfully on them, with some flashes of joy arising thence (p. 93). They may have something very like the saving graces of the Spirit - a kind of faith (Acts 8:13), great fear of God, like Balaam, a sort of hope (Job 13:13), some affection for the godly (Mark 6:26) : indeed, ' they have counterfeits of all saving graces' (p. 93). But, says Guthrie, invariably ' they want the three great essentials of religion and true Christianity : (i) They are not broken in heart, and emptied of their own righteousness, so as to loathe themselves . . . (ii) They never took up Christ Jesus as the only treasure and jewel that can enrich and satisfy . . , (iii) They never in earnest close with Christ's whole yoke without exception . . . Therefore, whoever thou art, who can lay clear and just claim to these things, thou art beyond the reach of all atheists, hypocrites and reprobates, as having answered the great ends and intents of the law and gospel' (p97).

I do encourage all to test themselves and specially implore those who, in mangling the intent of the Word of God, demonstrate a lack of faith in the Word of God.

Sam Drucker

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