Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chapter 5 quotes from Personal Declension

Here are some quotes from chapter 5 of Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. London: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853 )

Chapter 5: Declension in Connexion with Doctrinal Error

Here is unfolded one of the most solemn and affecting truths touching the character and individual responsibility of a child of God. He is a subject of truth, he is a repository of the truth, and he is a witness for the truth; yes, he is the only living witness to the truth which God has on earth. (178)

The saints who have been called out of it according to his eternal purpose and love, and by his sovereign, distinguishing, and free grace, are the only lights and the only salt in the midst of this moral darkness and corruption. Here and there a light glimmers, irradiating the gloomy sphere in which it moves; here and there a spot of verdure appears, relieving the arid and barren desolation by which it is surrounded. (178)

Let the saints of God, then, solemnly weigh this affecting fact, that though the written word and the accompanying Spirit are God's witnesses in the world, yet they are the only living exemplifications of the power of the truth, and, as such, are earnestly exhorted to be " blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Phil. ii. 15. (179)

The soul of man in its unrenewed state, is represented as spiritually dead; insensible to all holy, spiritual motion. Now upon such a mind, what impression is to be produced by the mere holding up of truth before its eye? What life, what emotion, what effect will be accomplished? As well might we spread out the pictured canvas before the glazed eye of a corpse, and expect that by the beauty of the design, and the brilliancy of the coloring, and the genius of the execution, we would animate the body with life, and heave the bosom with emotion, and cause the eye to swim with delight, as to look for similar moral effects to result from the mere holding up to view Divine truth before a carnal mind, " dead in trespasses and sins." And yet there are those who maintain the doctrine, that Divine truth, unaccompanied by any extraneous power, can effect all these wonders! Against such a theory we would simply place one passage from the sacred Word: " Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (180-81)

The sacred Word, inspired though it be, is but a dead letter, unclothed with the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Awful as are the truths it unfolds, solemn as are the revelations it discloses, touching as are the scenes it portrays, and persuasive as are the motives it supplies, yet, when left to its own unaided operation, Divine truth is utterly impotent to the production of spiritual life, love, and holiness in the soul of man. (181)

The design of the whole plan of redemption, was to secure the highest holiness and happiness of the creature; and when the gospel comes with the power of God unto the salvation of the soul, this end is pre-eminently secured. The renewed man is a pardoned man; the pardoned man becomes a holy man; and the holy man is a happy man. (184)

Take the doctrine of God's everlasting love to his people, as seen in their election to eternal life ... Received in the heart by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, it lays the pride of man in the dust, knocks from beneath the soul all ground for self-glorying, and expands the mind with the most exalted views of the glory, grace, and love of Jehovah. (184-5)

Is there not in the present day a criminal keeping back by some, and a painful undervaluing by others, of the scriptural and holy doctrines of grace? - The doctrines which unfold the eternity of God's love to his people - the sovereignty of his grace in their election - the effectual power of the Spirit in their calling - the free justification of their persons through the imputed righteousness of Christ, and the entire putting away of their sins by his atoning blood - the solemn obligation to " live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world," and the certainty of their final glorification in the world to come, - are not these Divinely-revealed truths, at the present moment, and by the great mass of Christian professors and preachers, excluded from our pulpits and exiled from our land? are they not considered mean and unfashionable? and, having lost their savor with the many, are they not cast out and trodden under foot of men? We verily and solemnly believe that it is so. By some they are professedly received, but criminally held back; by others they are professedly preached, but with such timidity and obscurity, as to render them of none effect: and by the many they are disbelieved altogether, and therefore openly and boldly denied! (195-6)

We hesitate not, then, to say that, along with the denial or the undervaluing of these doctrines of grace, there will go forth an influence that will wither the spirituality and obstruct the prosperity of the churches of our land. It is true, an outward appearance of fruitfulness may follow the exhibition of opposite and conflicting doctrines, - crowds may flock to their standard, and multitudes seem converted by their influence, - but soon these delusive appearances are seen to pass away. The time of trial and of sifting comes, and then it is found - when, alas! too late to close the floodgate against the overwhelming evils which the preaching of error has produced - that the truth, and the truth only, in the hands of the Eternal Spirit of God, can really enlighten the dark mind, regenerate the lifeless soul, and subdue and sanctify the rebellious heart: it is then discovered, that the true prosperity of a church, its stability, its spirituality, its vigor, and its holy influence, are essentially, and therefore inseparably, connected with a fearless and holy maintenance of the doctrines of grace; that where they are denied, or held back, or in any way obscured, there may indeed exist the form of godliness, but the power - the glorious, Divine, and sanctifying power - is wanting. (196-7)

What is more calculated to bring down the Holy Spirit of God upon us in all the plenitude of his awakening influence, - arousing the careless, convincing the impenitent and unbelieving of sin, annihilating the self-righteousness, prostrating the high thoughts, and slaying the pride of the human heart, - than a clear, pointed, and faithful exhibition of God's own revealed truth? (198)

On the contrary, are not human knowledge, and splendid talents, and brilliant eloquence, and moral suasion, greatly substituted for the preaching of the cross? That there should be a sad declension of vital piety, of real spirituality, and of active exertion, where Christ is not fully preached, is not to be wondered at. The cross of Jesus is the very soul of Christianity; all is death where Jesus is not. Grace decays, piety languishes, and formality takes the place of the power of the Gospel, where the person and the work of Christ are slighted, undervalued, or denied. How we should pray that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain, who is "worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing," should be more fully and simply preached through the length and breadth of our land; that the church and the pulpit should more manifestly crown him Lord of all! (202)

Let those who hold the truth, be careful to maintain good works, and so walk in all the holiness of the truth they profess; let them see that by no carelessness of deportment, by no want of integrity, by no neglect of the means of grace, by no exhibitions of unholy temper, by no worldly conformity, yes, by no inconsistency whatever, they bring a slur upon the holy doctrines they avowedly maintain and love; let them not be satisfied with maintaining a string of doctrines, unaccompanied with their sanctifying power: but let them see that with the truth in their judgments, they possess grace in the heart, and unspotted holiness in the life. (204)

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