The great assertion of the Gospel Standard regarding ‘salvation’ – and in this they perhaps stand alone among professing Calvinists – is that it is all of God from first to last. And that is true. God is first in Election, Predestination, Faith, Propitiation, Redemption, Justification, Glorification, Calling, and Keeping. And, I might add, he is last in them as well. In Revelation chapter one – a chapter subtly perverted in the modern versions – the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last. He is all in all. Hebrews reveals that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of faith. When John the Baptist said of him that ‘he was before me’, what he was saying was, ‘he was the first of me’, John 1:15.
In the great work of salvation God is before all things in his eternal purpose. Where was man when this eternal purpose was being formulated? – as if something eternal can be formulated! Where was man to counsel the Almighty when the eternal mind purposed to send the eternal Son into the world to save sinners? Which man could conceive the very thought of God being manifest in the flesh? Who in the gospels is recorded as pleading with Jesus to go to the cross to be made sin for them and to bare away their sins? Which sinful creature ascended into heaven to command the Spirit to descend into the world to regenerate a number which no man can number? In other words, ‘Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?’ Isaiah 40:13,14; there isn’t a man, and there never could be a man.
There is no doubt, then, that ‘Salvation is of the LORD’, as both scripture and experience testify. God in three Persons saves his people, and saves them utterly; and in so doing he brings them to repentance; indeed, it is the goodness of God, no less, that leadeth them to repentance; in the light of which Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. But are they called to repentance in the Gospel Standard churches? No, they are not. And how many profess actually to have repented as in 1 Thessalonians 1:9? It is a very rare testimony. You are more likely to hear something like, ‘I was brought to feel…’ But when Jesus calls, sinners are brought to repentance. And as that is the case, then where in the churches are the real sinners, where is the ‘calling’ voice of Christ, and, indeed, where is ‘the goodness of God’ being manifest among them?
Now in one way I agree with them when they say that it is wrong to exhort anything from the pulpit which gives the idea that one dead in trespasses and sins can perform a spiritual work. That is evidently true from the testimony of scripture; for such a man can have no right thoughts of, or proper desires toward God. The word ‘cannot’ is a prime word of the GS, and verses like, ‘Without me ye can do nothing’, and, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him’, are often used to drive this point home. But is inability a reason not to call men to repentance? If it is, then where is unregenerate man’s accountability before his Creator? Well here it is in Romans 1. Paul wrote that, although ‘that which may be known of God is manifest [lit, shines] in them; for God hath showed it unto them’, they in ungodliness and unrighteousness (lit.) ‘hold down’ this truth in unrighteousness. ‘For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge…’ etc. What a catalogue of accountability that is! – cp. also Acts 13:46, 14:15-17.
Man by nature, therefore, knows, he has this witness within, that there is a God who created him, that he rebels against his Creator, that he is accountable to him as a result, and that he should turn back to him – repent. This is why ‘the way of the world’ is so bent on destroying this innate knowledge from an early age. How often have we seen a simple ‘child-like’ faith in the young – and experienced it in our early days, too – drowned out by their elders as they encourage their children in the things of this world. We must understand that it is Satan’s chief aim to silence this witness – this interior shining light of testimony – in the young as soon as possible, by amusement, entertainment, diversion, ‘education’, ambition: in short, by ‘the promise of life’ without Christ; and we willingly allow him to do so as we very quickly – even as little children – nurture this insatiable desire to fulfil the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, and to cultivate the pride of life; and if that means ‘not liking to retain God in our knowledge’ – except when we’re in chapel – then so be it.
It is no wonder then that Paul cried to those who had long been in this way, ‘God… now commandeth all men every where to repent’, for he knew their accountability, and sought to reawaken in them that God-given knowledge of what they once knew to be true. And when Paul said ‘all men every where’, he meant ‘all men every where’, not ‘all the elect every where’, otherwise his saying it to these individuals on Mars’ Hill was meaningless. And would not the apostle say the same thing in GS chapels today – much to their discomfort and displeasure? He certainly would. For even though man is totally dead towards God, he is still accountable for refusing to leave his way of sin and rebellion, and for not turning towards his Creator to seek reconciliation with an offended God.
The GS mind which says, Don’t exhort the people to do anything towards God just in case they are spiritually dead, or not one of the elect, justifies, perversely, their participation in Romans 1, and ultimately makes God accountable for their rebellion and unbelief, condemnation and damnation; for they are told that, even if they wanted to, there is nothing they can do to turn to God seeking mercy. But Paul again to the Athenians said that ‘they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him’, Acts 17:24-31; and he didn’t know if there were any of the elect among them.
So, as it is God, not the preacher, who now commandeth all men every where to repent, which minister, with the fear of God, and a right understanding of ‘repentance toward God’, is not going to repeat this directly to his congregation? He must do, it is part of ‘all the counsel of God.’ Why such reticence in this regard, when another ‘now’ is readily used in exhortation? For the young are often called upon to ‘Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth’, Eccl. 12:1. But what is the difference in exhorting presumably unregenerate youth to ‘remember their Creator’, and exhorting the unconverted to ‘repent and turn to God’?
But perhaps ministers will not call on men to repent simply because many of them have never repented themselves; as, in reality, they know nothing about it. And if some think this an outrageous thing to say, well then, ponder this: One is born and brought up to go to chapel; then in their youth, spurred on by the spirit of rebellion, they leave chapel and go off into ‘the world’. But after a while – even a few years – having found the world not to be quite the fulfilling place they thought it would be somehow – with a pricked (religious) conscience – find themselves drifting back to chapel and, much to the delight of all – many prayers having gone up for the prodigal – settling down. Perhaps some bring Proverbs 22:6 to mind and think that they now see the fulfilment of it; when all that has happened is that the young adult has returned ‘home’ – chapel; and this ‘turning’, this ‘repentance’, has indeed only been toward their upbringing, and not ‘toward God.’
Now if this returnee is a young man, he may one day find himself in the pulpit; but then what ‘repentance’ is he going to speak of? And if the above testimony has been generally accepted as a sure sign that the lost sheep was gathered back into the fold, what hope will there be of that man ever being able to preach and expound fully the true gospel doctrine of repentance? A man can only ever speak of what he knows – if he is honest – and so perhaps this is why repentance is so little exhorted from the pulpit; because ministers lack a true experience of it.
But men must be called upon to repent, that is, to turn from their wicked ways toward God seeking mercy, as the Thessalonians had done. This is also what the men of Nineveh did at the preaching of Jonah. Read Jonah 3:4-10 carefully in self-examination; is this our repentance? How many of us have ‘cried with all our might unto God’, and ‘turned from his evil way’? Notice how, like Abraham before them, they ‘believed God’, verse 5. Yes, this is real repentance toward God (despite the traditional GS line to the contrary); the very same that Paul constantly insisted upon, as he confessed in Acts 20:20,21 – testifying, testifying, testifying. And Jesus confirms this in Matthew 12:41; for those very same men, he says, ‘shall rise up in the judgment with this [unrepentant] generation, and shall condemn it’; as, says Paul, ‘the saints shall judge the world’, 1 Cor. 6:2; then these Ninevites were saints! You cannot get a much clearer testimony that Nineveh’s was a true repentance if the Son of God and his apostle said so!
Some might argue this; well, look at the last verse of Jonah and see what the LORD said to the prophet regarding the repentant Ninevites: ‘should not I spare (them)?’ The word translated ‘spare’ is the same as is translated ‘pity’ in the previous verse. This is the merciful God of whom the psalmist said, ‘He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy’, Psalm 72:13; though the same God ‘will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy’ the proud and disobedient among his professed people, Jer. 13:1-14. Should not our God then spare whom he will? Or must he only save according to the formula we have laid down in our tradition? Such arrogance.
But returning to the men of Nineveh: why did they repent? For the same reason that Paul delivered God’s command to ‘all men’ to repent. Jonah’s crying to Nineveh, ‘Judgment is upon you’ – ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown’, Jon. 3:4; answers to Paul’s, ‘Because [God] hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world…’ A call to repentance, then, is the sounding of an alarm. The day of judgment is coming, reader, and you will appear on that day! Therefore turn to God your Creator, and seek that ‘repentance unto life’ which only he can work and grant; he is not far from you, said Paul.
But here is the reason why men will not repent, and it is their condemnation; and woe unto any that hold down and suppress this truth: ‘that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved’, John 3:19,20; and none could blame God for that. Men will not repent – and perhaps this is the reader, despite having been in chapel all your life – because they love their sin! For repentance is a turning from sin! And, again, Jesus quoting Isaiah says, ‘this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them’, Matt. 13:15; which words were sound enough for Paul to repeat to the Jews in Acts 28:27. And these words are true also of all in this world who will not repent, whether they be found on a Sunday in pew, pulpit or pub; there is no difference.
For those who now say, quoting Acts 11:18, Ah, but we wouldn’t presume to repent because repentance, like faith, is the work, grant and gift of God; the only answer is this: that is the doctrine of how repentance is brought about by God in his work in men. But in all those that God does such a work it is manifested by the fact that they actually do repent, they are seen to turn; not because they have had some word assuring them that they are one of the elect but, like the king of Nineveh and his people of old, the word and judgment of God has pierced into their hearts and caused them thus to turn to their Creator in the hope that he might be merciful to them: they’re not wondering if they are one of the elect, or if repentance might be being wrought in them, they’re just hoping against hope – ‘Who can tell?’ – that God might ‘turn away his fierce anger, that we perish not!’ Therefore, again we can enquire – as this is why men do repent – where is the fierce anger of Almighty God, and the belief in the judgment to come, felt in the hearts of chapel-goers who yet have no testimony of repentance?
I wonder how many members of Gospel Standard congregations, who all their lives have ‘feared to venture’, because they didn’t know whether or not they are one of the elect – even if they do not consciously reason thus now – really do expect to appear before the great white throne on the coming day and say, ‘It was thy fault, Lord, that I didn’t repent, for thou didst not make me do it.’ Being constantly told that ‘it is all of God’, and ‘there is nothing you can do’, as well as being reminded that it is a day of small things, that the power is withheld, that the Spirit in large measure is withdrawn; what other fruit can there be to this doctrine which constantly emphasises, ‘You cannot’, ‘You cannot’?
This word is also used in relation to the closely associated ‘coming to Christ’. People feel they cannot come to him unless they feel they are being drawn, again emphasising the doctrine of John 6:44,37 to justify their inertia. But one word exposes this terrible error; for again the error is in the imbalance. Whereas it is true that one cannot, it is also true that one will not. Many in the denomination love to hide behind and quote John Newton in hymn 278: ‘I would but cannot’, and that line of thinking is highly encouraged from the pulpit, and almost praised as being very humble and even God-honouring! But Jesus answers, ‘And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life’, John 5:40. There is the whole doctrine; there is the right balance in the ministry, and there is the accountability for not coming laid squarely at the feet of the rebels. ‘Ye will not come.’ No, on that day there will be no moaning against election as the reason we didn’t come, for the words stand settled and pure: ‘Ye will not come.’
So is the minister speaking the whole truth, and preaching the whole counsel with his constantly emphasising ‘We cannot, Lord’? No. But to GS ears ‘ye will not’ smacks, potentially, of ‘creature power.’ What! Engaging the will of fallen man? Never! If we go down that road we’ll end up preaching ‘duty faith’ and ‘duty repentance’ like the Fullerites! But Paul wasn’t ‘engaging the will of fallen man’ in Acts 17, he was conveying the commandment of Almighty God to his creatures! God does use ‘means’ to awaken men to their perilous condition, and calling them to repentance is one of those means. But however much some might like to employ man-made ‘duty’ phrases to deny God’s commandment, still, these are Jesus’ words: ‘Ye will not come to me.’ ‘But, Lord I would, but cannot!’ No, ‘ye will not come to me.’
I feel this needs sounding again and again: despite all their traditions, protestations and feigned humility, still, Jesus says, ‘Ye will not come to me.’ Ye will not. Ye – will – not. So, again, who is speaking the whole truth, the minister, or the Lord of glory and his apostle? But if you scratch the surface of this apparently humble confession of inability, and peel away the spiritual sounding, and supposed honouring of the profound doctrine of election, and of God’s sovereignty that he must do it all, what you really find in that ‘cannot’ is naked unbelief, rebellion, something close to fatalism, and no real desire to be saved at all; and no one in that state of heart will come to Christ – just as he said.
Why else will not people come? One reason is because many are just sitting there waiting for that word to be spoken with power into their hearts. Thinking (or not thinking, as the case may be) to bypass any real striving to enter in – remember Jesus’ words of Luke 13:24 – many will not confess the Lord openly because they haven’t received the exact word they are waiting for to assure them of their ‘interest’ in him. Many men in the congregations will, in effect, deny any work the Lord may have wrought in them until they hear him say, ‘Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.’ And many women, likewise, think they will not believe fully until they hear, ‘Daughter, go in peace, thy faith hath made thee whole.’ And just those words. It is as if the only reality in the Christian pathway can be found in the hearing of those exact words, and none other; that is why, I suppose, they are quoted from the pulpits so often, and why hymn 731 seems to be given out so regularly. But Jesus said to his disciples that ‘ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you’, cp. John 15:3 and 17:17 in their relative contexts. And what is that word? ‘The word of the truth of the gospel’! ‘My words’ John 15:7, Col. 1:5.
Another verse which is often quoted to encourage people to wait for their word, or for whatever else they are expecting to receive in the way of ‘blessing’, is Habakkuk 2:3: ‘For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.’ The apostle also quotes part of this in Hebrews 10:37, where he changes the ‘it’ of Habakkuk to the ‘he’ of Christ. It is obvious then that the Old Testament prophet is speaking of the coming of Christ – a word which, among others, godly Simeon, by the Spirit and in faith, obviously saw the fulfilment of; which John the Baptist witnessed to; and which Philip testified to Nathaniel. In Hebrews however the word is applied to Christ’s coming again, not in some supposed melting blessing for individual Christians, but at the end of the world, to render unto his people ‘the promise’, which they that have ‘done the will of God’ might receive; see the context, Heb. 10:32-39. But now, as I said, this verse seems to be uniformly applied to waiting souls who long for that ‘something’ to give them ‘a good hope’. But the word of God cannot be manipulated like this – surely it is the bent of the Arminian to rend verses out of context to make them say what they want them to say!
But to return to those looking for their word. I heard of one who sat under the ministry for years, and who was evidently – or seemingly – a godly soul, who, at a baptising service was heard to say, ‘Oh, I wish it was me, I wish it was me!’ But that is plainly an unscriptural attitude; presumably she hadn’t had ‘her’ word. Another had had two or three words come, supposedly, ‘with power’ in her life (worryingly, at least one of these was a line of a hymn), and all the exercise she had now was to hear the Lord speak them again: ‘I want him to say them again’. And the result? She heard nothing else as she listened out for her words; unless they were spoken she got nothing from the services; and nothing from the preaching. Because of this desire her ears were closed completely to the idea that God might possibly say anything else. And where did she get the teaching which caused her to believe and expect that God works in such a way? Obviously from the preaching itself. But is that preaching the faith? Is that what we find in the apostles’ writings, that the Lord must speak what we want to hear before we can believe? I do not doubt that at times God so lays a word or a promise upon the hearts of his people that he stirs them up to look for its fulfilment; but this idea that he has continually to confirm the word to make it genuine, so they can believe it, is not what the apostles taught. What does that say for the power of the voice of the Son of God? Surely when he speaks his voice is unmistakable? Eccl. 8:4.
Again, what ‘confirmation’ did Lazarus look for or need when he heard the command which restored his life? Wasn’t ‘neither do I condemn thee’ enough for the woman taken in adultery? It certainly was! And what of the centurion? Or of Matthew? Or the leper? Or the one sick of the palsy? The Lord spoke but once to these and it was sufficient. But I contend that with many it seems the whole of their Christian experience, or ‘religion’, is governed by this desire for ‘a word’, and that confirmed; or a token, a manifestation, a melting, etc., and nothing else really counts or matters but this. But fancy reducing the saving work of Almighty God to that! But perhaps it is reduced to that simply because they are strangers to any work of God upon them.
Some might say at this point: ‘But we don’t want to be found as hypocrites at the last.’ No, but you don’t seem so concerned about your present walk of unbelief, disobedience and denial of the Lord. Remember Thomas? He was no doubter, you know – despite the corrupt NIV introducing that myth into its text – he was without faith, in unbelief: ‘I will not believe.’ And I feel that there are many in the denomination that just will not, that is, have no will to believe.
But there is one word – and it is a simple word, really – which exposes the very subtle and possibly soul-damning error of this mentality which is so prevalent in the denomination; and it highlights the real problem, the problem of unbelief; and it is this: Old and New Testaments both declare, ‘The just shall live – by – faith.’ The child of God lives by faith. By God-given faith. By the faith of the Son of God. Not by words, by manifestations, or by blessings; but ‘by faith.’ By faith in Christ. By faith in his blood. By faith in his once-for-all sacrifice upon the cross. By faith in his word. And by faith in his promises. Our only hope – that is, our only hope – for salvation and acceptance with God, is ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified’, see Eph. 1:6. And, by the way, that too is God’s only hope of saving us! He has ordained salvation to be found in none other than in his Son; and by no other means than by his blood. Because salvation is of the Lord, and because he has ordained the sole means by which it can be brought about, then he is bound to say, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you.’ And only when we meet him there, by faith viewing the blood; knowing by revelation and the witness of the Spirit that it was shed for us; and therefore confessing it to be our only hope of acceptance before him, can we be assured of salvation at last, as we continue in the faith which he gives and keeps alive in us, looking to the blood alone. Add anything to the blood for our acceptance before God and we fall out of the way, and cease to walk by faith.
We have already seen that Satan can manufacture ‘meltings’, ‘tokens’ and ‘blessings’, and all in a religious setting and atmosphere; and he is quite happy subtly to divert our eyes and our hope from the blood of Jesus Christ to any imagined blessings, which, in our minds, might have been related to the cross, so that we verily believe our faith and hope to rest in Christ, when it doesn’t at all. And as we have said before, these ‘blessings’, based on what we presume to be the work of the cross, actually become idols, but idols – my blessings – cannot save us. If this were not true then why else would the apostle write, ‘For the Jews [the outwardly religious – chapel-goers] require a sign [there’s your blessings – a sign]… but we preach [not signs or blessings, but] Christ crucified…’ which causes the sign-seekers to stumble, for it makes their blessings of none effect; therefore he continues – and no wonder! – ‘I determined not to know any thing among you, save [except] Jesus Christ, and him crucified’; for he knew that this was all his hope, and it must be all their hope, too. Could it be clearer? Now, is Christ and his blood our only hope – blessings, or no blessings?
Over all I suspect that the reasons people will not come can be summed up by their handling of the man who came to the Lord Jesus pleading, ‘Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.’ This verse always seems to be quoted in the context of one’s lack of faith, and this poor man is brought forward so we can hear him say, ‘(Lord I believe), help thou mine unbelief.’ It is as if he can only be used as an example of one under the trial of unbelief; and so many in the congregations walk, mostly, in this frame of mind. But what did the Lord Jesus hear the man say? And indeed, what did he say? Not, ‘Lord, I would believe’, but, ‘Lord, I believe.’ He had faith! The quantity of faith isn’t disclosed. The Lord didn’t reply, ‘Man, even though thou hast but little faith nevertheless be it unto thee even as thou wilt; but how much more could I do for thee if thy faith was greater!’ No. The Lord saw and heard faith in exercise and it was enough. The rest was an acknowledgement of sin within, for unbelief is sin, which the Lord graciously overlooked until he bore it away upon the cross.
But I feel that, generally speaking, many love their unbelief, despite all their groanings in public to the contrary. And therefore I fear that they are at times dangerously close to being like those who Paul calls ‘enemies of the cross of Christ… whose glory is in their shame’, Phil. 3:18,19. Why is it that most will readily join in singing Newton’s aforementioned ‘’Tis a point I long to know… Am I his or am I not’, hymn 283 – even after all these years, and yet if the same author’s ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound’, were given out an instant tension would be felt with many tongues remaining silent? Why is it deemed almost a sin to presume to sing the latter but delightful to sing the former? Likewise, why does one often hear an organ solo when words like ‘And matchless grace has made that treasure mine’ come up? Surely these are not the Spirit-taught attitudes of a New Testament, God-honouring, Christ-exalting people in the faith.
Again I ask, where is the power of God in all this? I say, it is drowned in love of ease, love of non-commitment, desire for ‘safety’ among the many in the congregations, and in plain disobedience, rebellion and unbelief. And where will a walk like that lead them? The Lord Jesus plainly stated that ‘whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven’, Matt. 10:33; which Paul reiterated to Timothy, ‘If we deny him, he also will deny us’, 2 Tim. 2:12.
Now, no doubt some are going to shout at me here and say, But our ministers don’t preach like that! Don’t they? Then why haven’t you come? Why do you still moan in your self-pity, false humility and unbelief? Why will you not repent and turn to God? Why don’t you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of your soul? I asked someone that question once and she replied, Well, I don’t know if I am one of the elect! And where did she get that reasoning? Well, from preachers who are obviously keeping you from coming, in that they won’t tell you that you can come, regardless of whether or not you know you are one of the elect.
But your election will be known by your calling. And if the Lord is truly calling you this will be manifested by your coming to him. And your coming will be a fruit of your believing with that God-given faith, as the apostle says, ‘How then shall they call on him in whom they have not [first] believed’, Rom. 10:14. So if you believe on him you will call on him. And if you’re calling on him it’s because you believe in him. In this sense none call on him for faith, but from faith. Only true believers call. That is the testimony of scripture, and any preaching which leads you to think otherwise is false.
And so I would say to those ministers to whom these things apply: Restore the balance. It is perverse to imply that the sinner’s unbelief is stronger than the power of God to save! This is evidently what many are hearing. Say directly to the people in front of you: If you feel your need of Christ, then come to him, and he will receive you. If you call upon his name, he will save you. If you ask of him, you will receive of him. This is the truth. In none of these exhortations, with their accompanying promises, will you hear mention of election or of the elect: Jesus never cried, ‘Come unto me all ye elected of my Father, and I will give you rest.’ Paul didn’t add caution to the Philippian jailer’s cry of, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ with, ‘If you’re one of the elect God will manifest himself to you and bring you to faith; just hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ Peter on the day of Pentecost didn’t reply to the criers, ‘Seek ye the Lord for the witness in your hearts that you are one of the elect, and then repent and be baptised!’ You know what they said.
And dear GS reader, (truly my heart aches for you): Do you, as they say, ‘labour under sin’s heavy load’? Are you heavy laden because of your transgressions and inability to save yourself, and yet believe that the Lord Jesus can save you solely by his blood? If that is your only plea, then call upon him, and the promise is that he will save you! For Jesus says, ‘Come unto me such an one, and’, now listen to this, dear soul, ‘and I will give you rest.’ Do you hear him? Do you believe it? Then obey him – fall under the word – and come; it is his will to give you rest! But if Satan or your minister cautions you about being too presumptuous, and brings forth an unlawful use of the doctrine of election to cause you to hesitate, then ignore them: for thus saith the scripture: ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Never mind faithless excuses or traditional denominational reasonings which hold you back, Come. Ask the leper if he sat pondering whether or not he was one of the elect before he came to Christ in faith saying, ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst.’ There is no record of him thinking such a thing. Do you have a ‘thou canst’ in your heart when you look to Christ? Then it is enough. He will! And that is faith.
Remember, you won’t get away with the ‘I didn’t know whether I was one of the elect’ excuse on that day. Why is Belshazzar in hell now? Because he wasn’t one of the elect? What was the judgment of Daniel the man of God? Belshazzar is in torments at this very moment because he ‘humbled not his heart’ in the light of all that had befallen Nebuchadnezzar his father; had ‘lifted up himself against the Lord of heaven’, and had ‘not glorified the God in whose hand his breath was, and in whom were all his ways’, Dan. 5:17-30. Again, what was the judgment of Paul the man of God regarding the Jews in Acts 13 that would not believe? They ‘put the word of God from them’, and ‘judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life’. What raging pride! Is that the reader? Are you in Matthew 13:15? These are prime characteristics of all those that ‘will not’ believe, even to this day, whether they be found in chapel or not.
Listen to Jesus again, ‘Whosoever believeth and is baptised shall be saved; whosoever believeth not shall be damned.’ Your damnation is sealed, and you add sin to sin, by your not believing when you hear this gospel. Despite all their ‘blessings’ in the wilderness the vast majority of the children of Israel perished in that wilderness, and entered not into the promised land because of their unbelief, Heb. 3:15-4:2, Jude 5. O beware of taking the glorious doctrines of the gospel regarding the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, perverting them, and using them as a rod with which to beat yourself, to keep you from coming to Christ, even though you feel your need of him. Along with your accountability as revealed in Romans 1, hearing this gospel also renders you without excuse if you will not fall under it, for you will be counted among those that ‘obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’; and that will be a word of condemnation to you in that day, 2 Thes. 1:7-10, 1 Peter 4:17. I suspect there are a thousand scriptures that, rightly expounded, make the same point, thus confounding the imbalance of the GS ‘gospel’ presentation.
But in conclusion one point needs to be clarified, which, although having been alluded to throughout this chapter, has not been stated plainly and concisely; and is the ultimate reason why people will not come, will not repent, will not believe, and why they cannot receive a knowledge of salvation: it is simply because they just don’t feel their need. Where among all the chapel-goers, who are waiting for their word or blessing, is the fear of the Lord? Where are those evidently under the condemnation of the law? To whom has ‘the commandment come’, who thus have been ‘slain thereby’? Where are those truly ‘poor in spirit’? Indeed, where are the sinners? There are plenty who are ‘alive without the law’; they being dead, asleep, careless, unconcerned, and content in their chapel religion; but none of these – though they were to sit in chapel until they were a hundred years old – will ever receive any thing from the Lord, because they don’t need him; they don’t need his Son, and are totally ignorant of the salvation he came to bring to his people. The Almighty God bestows no blessing to the unconcerned! He has no words of eternal life for the careless. The needy, not the untroubled, cry, and are heard of the Lord. Let all those who really have no desire at all for salvation be assured of this: the Lord will surely fulfil that desire!
But for those that do reel under the weight and bondage of their sin; being under the curse of the law; who know their sinnership before a holy, pure, and just God; whose only hope is that he will come and ‘justify the ungodly’ purely by grace: be encouraged to continue seeking him, and of giving him no rest until you find him; for the word of God to such is this: Jeremiah 29:10-14: ‘Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD…’; and that’s a promise.