Worldly-Minded Sins

What’s the point of making bank if you’re gravely wrong in your attitude towards the Word of God? What if your attitude towards devout Christians in your family, or social network, is completely contrary because you just don’t understand the Bible and the whole thing is just too difficult for you? Yet you excel in business; and you make bank. But you would rather run away with your wife to South Florida than face your theological problems. You are running away from Scripture, from God, and from Bible-believing Christians to frame an agnostic lifestyle for yourself. What’s more, you have an abundance of people to help you do so. They don’t care about your soul: they don’t even know if souls exist. They will go on and on, in a spirit of religious tolerance, holiday observance, empty New Year’s Eve celebrations, not judging your unbelief, and remaining religiously indifferent, as you rot away on the inside, and as your soul craves nourishment from the Spirit of God. This is where your path has led you: you have a great relationship with your business and your bank, but your knowledge of the Bible, and your relationship with God is virtually non-existent. You bought into the devil’s lie that religious indifference is what “normal” people embrace to be financially successful.[1] You’re on his dope and have become part of the world system: you’ve become a worldly-minded man. Most of the empty and vain things mentioned in the book of Ecclesiastes: they describe your life.

The Broad-Minded World

When the Bible refers to the “world,” it is not referring to the globe, or when you look at a map by National Geographic and can see the oceans and continents. Maps of the world are always great educational resources, but the Bible means something else when it says the “world.” It means all the non-evangelical people, all the non-lordship salvation people, all the non-Biblical people that exist in the world. They are called the world because they are the majority party. Those who believe in the Bible, the true Biblical lordship salvation Gospel, who believe in obedience to it, and in spiritual submission to Jesus, they are “not of the world” (John 15:19). They are the minority party. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matt. 7:13). The narrow gate and the narrow road are the lordship salvation Gospel and the life of commandment keeping holiness that it requires. Those who think broad-mindedly or religiously indifferent about such matters are on the broad road “that leads to destruction.” They should be ashamed of themselves, but their friends and colleagues keep them without shame towards these things; and they effectively live in the town of Carnal Policy envisioned by Bunyan and associate with Mr. Worldly Wiseman every week.[2]

Part of the deception involves the churches they attend, which are usually mainline liberal churches, which used to be called “broad” churches, and which deny the deity of Christ, the supernatural, and embrace scientism: the idea that science has an explanation for everything, and that the Bible should submit to the assumptions of naturalistic science. But most of their deception involves the choice they have made against conservative evangelicalism; and instead have embraced a lifestyle solely marked by the economic and the hedonistic, and emphatically not by the theological and the “religious,” a word they enjoy using, to pejoratively distance themselves from practical Christianity. But the evangelical Christian shouldn’t be discouraged when he sees such worldly people having financial success. The devil is allowing them to be successful to keep them asleep in the pillows of their sin:

As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills…They say, ‘How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?’ This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth (Ps. 73:2-5, 11-12).

Materialism and the Hatred of Biblical Christianity

It is no secret that non-Christians in name and heart know how to make money. In fact, this is their primary temptation: it’s all they have to live for. It’s all that is real to them. They can’t see the spirit world, so they have no desire to become rich in God through theology and spirituality. They can see money; and that’s what they prioritize. They are naturalists who believe in what they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. They have no spiritual senses beyond these five natural senses. They are naturalistic materialists who reject the paranormal; and because of that, they are truly materialistic in every sense of the word. Being part of polite genteel society, most of these upper middle class and upper class people would never be so ill-mannered as to say, “I hate Jesus,” or “I hate Christianity,” like some scoundrel. But in their hearts, they really do. Jesus said that the world “hates me because I testify that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

He said things like, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). The apostle Paul, addressing real Christians, said, “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Cor. 2:12). He speaks of those who are lost as “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). He warns: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). I naturally think about secular capitalism, guided by the cruel philosophy of Machiavelli,[3] when I read this verse; or political enthusiasts, who make everything about politics, almost as a replacement system for the Gospel. The apostle John warns:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).

“Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them” (1 John 4:4-5). Their viewpoint is to look out for number one; lie, cheat, and steal; take advantage of customers; make as much money as quickly as they can; cuss like a sailor; fornicate like a fornicator; watch whatever they want on television; and without care, to be like Voltaire and live it up, because “you only live once.” Then there’s the more decent humanists who try to hide all these negative vices; and go to liberal churches and treat Christianity like some useful utility for the family unit. But they are all part of the same “rotten crowd,” as Nick said in The Great Gatsby:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…they’re a rotten crowd.[4]

Carelessness. Smashing up creatures. Requiring other people to clean up their mess. This is what worldly people are like. They are self-interested, hedonistic, God-haters: “conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4). They have enough money to gratify their sensuality; and just enough Christianity to relieve their guilt. They don’t take responsibility for their actions; and their lives lack meaning: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Eccl. 5:10).

Sins of the Worldly-Minded Rich

Let’s paint the picture a bit: there are vain show-offs of materialism, vain pursuits, empty plans, fake vulture friends at parties taking advantage of your hospitality, pretending everything is fine when it’s not, boring repetitive dances, boring music, boring conversations about social status, trips to the big city, owning pools without swimming, white supremacy, business talk, alma mater pride, mansions, prioritizing possessions, and the conquest of women as trophy wives. There is playing rich-only sports like polo and golf; owning luxury cars and sports cars; using condescending paternalistic tones of voice to others or talking down to them like they were a little child;[5] and a harsh, tyrannical, intimidating attitude.

There’s bragging about their luxury homes and new gadgets; a superiority complex, or being smugly obsessed with the thought that they’re better than others; gold digger women who only marry for money and social status instead of marrying for love; designer clothing; materialism: the idea that material possessions are more important than personal character or Christian virtues;[6] looking down on all classes of people who actually work for a living and praising the upper class who spend their days in idleness, pleasure-seeking, hedonism, and Epicureanism; partying and drinking to escape from their boring lifestyles; and the seven deadly sins always left unchecked: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

I could only bear to read a few chapters from William Thackeray’s The Book of Snobs, because it struck me as very dull and boring. But after reading it, I was able to determine that it was the articles published in this book that popularized our current understanding of the word “snob” in the year 1845. In his view, the word applied to anyone who had a great respect for English royalty, gentility, gentlemen, nobility, lords, ladies, dukes, earls, and other like titles that exist in the British upper class. Even if a person was in the lower class: if they in any way groveled at the feet of such people, then they were considered snobs, because they accepted the snob system as it existed in England. The word “snob” might be a related word to “snub,” which means to ignore someone as unworthy of your attention, because you are “smug,” and think yourself so much better than they are; but that is only a speculation on my part. Thackeray, however, associated “snob” with the British gentility: and aimed it at anyone who had a high regard for the social structure that elevated rank and status; or anyone who imitated the behaviors of the nobility. Here were some of his concluding thoughts on the subject:

We can apply the Snob test to him, and try whether he is conceited and a quack, whether pompous and lacking humility—whether uncharitable and proud of his narrow soul?…I can bear it no longer—this diabolical invention of gentility which kills natural kindliness and honest friendship…The table of ranks and degrees is a lie, and should be flung into the fire…If this is not gospel-truth—if the world does not tend to this—if hereditary-great-man worship is not a humbug and an idolatry—let us have the Stuarts back again, and crop the Free Press’s ears in the pillory…You, who despise your neighbor, are a Snob; you, who forget your own friends, meanly to follow after those of a higher degree, are a Snob; you, who are ashamed of your poverty, and blush for your calling, are a Snob; as are you who boast of your pedigree, or are proud of your wealth.[7]

I’d say that the greatest worldly-minded sins, or those which are especially concentrated in the rich, are “greed, which is idolatry” and “the pride of life” (Col. 3:5; 1 John 2:16). Their unrestrained desire for wealth leads to its eventual accumulation; and then to a sense of pride in their accomplishments. While its completely understandable to be proud of things that you have accomplished in business through self-sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears: on the other hand, there is another kind of pride, which is unacceptable in the eyes of God. This is called arrogance and snobbery or being haughty; and essentially manifests in classism and economic discrimination against people that have less money than you do. This kind of discrimination even exists between people within the upper class. There are those at the top with “old money,” where millions of dollars have been passed down through inheritance for generations. These people tend to judge the nouveau riche or “new money” people who recently came into millions in their lifetime, often because they lack the etiquette, and the so-called refined manners of the old money people who attend country clubs.

There’s also a “keeping up with the Joneses,” or materialistic competition going on with these people; and an inability to fast and pray; and an aversion to self-denial and patience. Their preoccupation with job security and material possessions leads to idolatry,[8] self-centeredness, and a conspicuous consumption of luxury items that dazzle the eyes and distract people from faith in God, trust in God, the Word of God, and theology. Materialism as a word, attitude, and philosophy has everything to do with the god of riches replacing God with a financially related atheism, agnosticism, or deism of sorts. Their love of money and their trust in riches, at the very least, will lead them to make prosperity primary and salvation secondary, but such a “hypocrite’s hope shall perish” (Job 8:13).[9] Richard Baxter said, “Take heed lest while you pretend to live for God, and to use all that you have as his stewards for his service, you should deceitfully put him off with the leavings of your lusts, and give him only so much as your flesh can spare.”[10]

This is what Jesus was referring to when he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24). It’s all about your priorities. Is God going to be the main thing for you, and business be the footnote, or is it going to be the other way around? If you’d compartmentalize God: and make business and money the main thing in your life, it ain’t gonna fly you to Heaven so good! You’d probably not make it! The spider web of your faint religious belief would likely snap under the weight of your heavy soul! Biblical Christianity is all about love, humility, and godly fellowship; but materialism is all about making shallow worldly-minded acquaintances and being financially arrogant. Which one sounds better? Art Gish nailed it when he said:

Wealth encourages pride. It tends to make people haughty, snobbish, and arrogant. Hunger for food has never driven people to such depravity as pride has. All our vanity and pompousness is garbage. Pity the person who tries to be great and profound. That person is shallow. Simplicity is the opposite of pride. It is liberation from egoism.[11]

Biblical Faith and Obedience: The Main Solution

John Calvin’s solution to such worldly sins is Bible study and Bible obedience: studying theology, and especially committing our lives to keep God’s commandments, helps to empty “our minds of an excessive longing for wealth, or power, or human favor” and “eradicates all ambition and thirst for worldly glory…it leaves no place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or, secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices which are engendered by self-love.”[12] A true view of the Gospel—termed “lordship salvation” by theologians—goes like this: “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). The sight of the cross should humble us with such a sense of gratitude, at the thought that the Son of God would take such a punishment, instead of our eternal suffering in Hell. This then should propel us to live holy lives in obedience to the Bible. But those worldly-minded men who continue to dispute with the Word of God, relying on reason alone, and resisting all spiritual impulses for faith and righteousness, can only expect a deadening of their consciences, and a loss of any hope for salvation from Hell. So, let’s not be like them!

Telecommuting: A Way to Escape

If ever there was a man who preached righteousness about money, then it was John Wesley. Yet, Kathleen MacArthur, in her study of his economic philosophy, concluded that he didn’t really address the issue of private ethics versus public ethics; and how these two spheres can often conflict with each other. The reality of the situation is that the business world generally operates on the Machiavellian assumption that the public sphere is one of limited morality if not lawlessness; and it’s just up to individuals for how they want to behave.[13] In my view, this basically leaves the Biblical Christian with three choices: 1. Conform to the godless culture that surrounds you, in the companies you work for; and stop being a real Christian. 2. Try your best to be a real Christian, even though the company you are working for, has an ungodly culture.[14] 3. Work from home as a telecommuter: and remove yourself from the ungodly work environment.[15] To me, this third option is the most ideal. This way, your own personal ethics become the new normal; and you have little to no conflict of interest with following Jesus in your job. Either start your own work-at-home business; or seek remote employment on sites like flexjobs.com. According to a recent survey done by LinkedIn News, “Software and IT services lead the way, with 48% of respondents saying their employers will be offering a full-time remote option long-term.”[16] I personally have been able to find plenty of remote work with software companies; and the peace I’ve experienced from it has been amazing. Especially with being able to avoid frequent cussing and flirtatious monkey business at work.

[1] Religious indifference in the English business world was a rising trend in the seventeenth century, which is probably what spurred Baxter and Steele to write so much about Biblical economic ethics (see R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, pp. 23-24, 159, 229).

[2] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (London, England: Hurst, Robinson, and Co, 1820), pp. 11-24.

[3] “A political theory advocating the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli’s The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality, and craft and deceit are used to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler…behavior characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty” (The Random House Unabridged Dictionary. New York, NY: Random House, 1993, s.v. “Machiavellianism”).

[4] F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. Edited by James L. W. West III (New York, NY: Scribner, 1925, 2018), pp. 109, 154.

[5] “The system, principle, or practice of managing or governing individuals, businesses, nations, etc., in an outwardly benevolent, but often condescending or controlling way” (The Random House Unabridged Dictionary. New York, NY: Random House, 1993, s.v. “Paternalism”).

[6] Reacting against this as a young Christian, I eventually stumbled on Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972), which is apparently a historically accurate film about the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Minus a scene that shows his butt, I’d still say it’s a decent film. At one point he says, “There’s a lot one could say to an emperor…you could tell him to throw his scepter in the mud, or to fling his jewels into the river. Then he could see the glow of some new colors amongst the glistening pebbles. And you could say, ‘Otto of Brunswick, let the birds nest in your crown. Let the winds of heaven blow through your empty palaces. What good is your life to you, if your riches bring you no peace of mind and all your people starve?’” Francis’s message about materialistic dissatisfaction and charitable giving echo the book of Ecclesiastes and the four gospels. However, to have an exclusively Franciscan view of money isn’t good enough. After the birth of our second child, I started to realize that avoiding materialism was only part of the picture for Biblical economics. The other parts involve diligence, thrift, financial growth, and many financial necessities that family men are required to meet; and most of these work ethics are expressed in the book of Proverbs.

[7] William Thackeray, The Book of Snobs (London, England: Robin Clark, 1993), pp. 198-200.

[8] Arthur Gish, Beyond the Rat Race (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973), p. 93: “Many people dare not lose their jobs. To keep from losing them, they suppress their deepest feelings and do what they know is wrong. Many people are so tied to the consumer status system that they are bought off from expressing dissent, affirming and rejecting the dominant values.”

[9] “So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish: whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure” (Job 8:13-15).

[10] Richard Baxter, Chapters from A Christian Directory (London, England: G. Bell & Sons, 1925), p. 53.

[11] Arthur Gish, op. cit., p. 102. “The rich boast of their riches” (Jer. 9:23); “because of your wealth your heart has grown proud” (Ezek. 28:5); “do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position” (Rom. 12:16); “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18); “my brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).

[12] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), p. 450.

[13] Kathleen MacArthur, The Economic Ethics of John Wesley (New York, NY: The Abingdon Press, 1936), pp. 149-152.

[14] “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). This is the fighting stance: in the world, not of it.

[15] “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). This is the flighting stance: separation from the world. Just be sure to set aside 20% of every paycheck into a bank account for tax money (Mark 12:17). You should also go to H&R Block four times a year for check ins on your self-employment tax status, your estimated tax payments to the IRS and the state, etc. This is because most of your work will probably come from 1099s instead of W-2s. You will have to manually pay your taxes, instead of having tax money automatically withheld from your paycheck, as with W-2 jobs. The Proverbs 31 woman in verses 18-19 is portrayed as working at home, at night, making cloth with her distaff and spindle, with the lamp on in her room. Matthew Henry: “her business lying within-doors.” Catholic monks and the Amish take an official stance of separation from the business world, to avoid its corrupting effects (the Amish rely on Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 for this). It’s easy for me to understand their reasoning: up to a certain point. Most of the Puritan tradesmen, in effect, also did this as most were owners of small family businesses or were “small masters”: they were generally not working for large companies on corporate “football teams” filled with non-Christian men. The trades of Jesus, Peter, Paul, Luke, and the other apostles probably looked more like the Puritan small business model.

[16] https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:681611586953 4494720/ – another great resource is Jason Fried and David Hansson’s Remote: Office Not Required (2013).

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Providence and Callings

William Perkins helped to develop the Puritan view that God uses divine interventions in Christian men’s lives, to guide them into certain career paths.[1] These careers or trades were termed “callings,” with the understanding that God draws, leads, or calls all men to work in certain jobs, by means of his Spirit, giving them certain talents, inclinations, or gifts for certain job occupations. There were a number of Biblical verses used to support this view. 1 Corinthians 7:17, 20: “as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk…let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” This was taken to mean, that once a tradesman has been firmly established in a certain career, and he feels that God has truly called him into that job category, then he should remain content and stay in that career. In order to create a sense of financial security, he shouldn’t be switching his job categories around left and right. However, arriving at certain knowledge, that God has called you into a certain trade, was kind of tricky. They didn’t rely so much on dreams and visions for confirming such job guidance, because they were Puritans, not Quakers or Pentecostals. But what they did do was rely on common sense, conscience, and observation: all in the view that God calls every man into a certain kind of trade.

The Father’s Trade

The first thing to consider was their father’s trade. It was customary for a Puritan father to apprentice his sons in exactly the same trade they made money by, whether they were a family of blacksmiths, shoemakers, or tailors. One thing is for certain: the clothing industry was apparently one of the primary industries in seventeenth century London. So, any young man seeking career guidance from God, would have probably been considering in what capacity he could make money in the clothing industry. Although there were plenty of other industries as well. Trades varied in London from confectioners, saddle makers, truckers (called porters), box makers, soap makers, grain suppliers, poulterers (chicken processors), etc. Then there were the merchants who owned small shops. All such men were called tradesmen. Trade was the word for business; and so the word tradesmen was effectively businessmen. England had these tradesmen all over its countryside, but London was the business center of its economy.

Apprenticeships

The second thing to consider was the young man’s aptitudes, skills, and inclinations. Puritan parents observed these things and sought to place their adolescent sons in a good internship where they could learn a trade by hands-on experience. The idea of sending your sons off to college to get a bachelor’s degree wasn’t part of their career launch. That was really only for the clergy and those involved in certain high-paying occupations, like doctors, lawyers, and scientists. These internships the young men were placed in were called apprenticeships and the interns were called apprentices. Everything was about developing hands-on job skills that would make them marketable and useful to make money in the business world. It was expected that Puritan parents even paid tradesmen and shopkeepers to train their sons in their business skills through indentured apprenticeship contracts. God was seen as supervising this whole process of apprenticeship; and the callings were seen to work their way out, either during or after this process.

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which was published in 1843, the young Scrooge was placed in an apprenticeship by his father at Fezziwig & Co. This shows that this tradition was carried on in England for centuries; and not only in the 1600s. The young Scrooge wasn’t sent off to college to choose a random bachelor’s degree: his father placed him in a business, and probably paid Fezziwig money to train Scrooge in certain job skills, and this was the beginning of his career launch. Scrooge, as we all know, became a very rich man; and might have eventually found his way into some classes on banking and finance, as he developed his money-lending business. However, while there is no question about Scrooge’s ability to make money, the story revealed that Fezziwig had better business ethics than Scrooge had, which is why he needed to have the vision to remind him. Scrooge’s business ethics had soured because, although his father looked after his business interests, he was a cold and emotionally detached man, and often left Scrooge alone at his boarding school during Christmastime. He didn’t have that godly, nurturing influence over Scrooge, which would have set him on the path to make money the godly way.

Identifying Your Job Skills and Sticking With It

Upward mobility within the same calling or career path was considered acceptable, and even necessary, as men eventually had families to provide for, and their financial responsibilities became more varied. But it was restless job hopping and constant career switching that was discouraged. Granted, some of this may have been seen as necessary early in the young man’s career, if he was uncertain about God’s job calling. But eventually it was to be recognized by some job skill that he is particularly good at, which other people said he was good at, and by which the young man could make decent money for himself.

Observation and common sense; and yes experimentation, but once a settled feeling had been arrived at, you were then expected to remain content and fixed in that calling; and make improvements on it. But never to reach such a discontented state, so that even though for 5 years or so, you made a good living for yourself as a grain processor, then just out of pure whims and curiosity, you decide to go back to college to become a professional astronomer. This kind of an idea would have been considered obscenely ludicrous back then. The providence of God had already demonstrated financial provision for you in your grain business, so why would you tempt God by suddenly aspiring to be an astronomer? Think of the risks: and think of the costs involved! No, they would say, remain content to be a meal-man, because God has obviously called you into this trade. Its something you’re good at: “abide in the same calling wherein you were called” (1 Cor. 7:20), would have been the pastor’s word to the man in such a career crisis. Martin Luther once quoted from the apocryphal book of Sirach 11:20-22 to support the notion: “Stand by your duty and stick to it; grow old at your work. Don’t be jealous of what sinners achieve; just stick to your own work, and trust the Lord. It is very easy for the Lord to make a poor person suddenly rich. Devout people will receive the Lord’s blessing as their reward, and that blessing can be given in a moment.”[2]

Calling had come to mean that when it has been firmly established what your job skills are, then it follows that you should not entertain double-minded thoughts of instability, and be radically changing your job category (e.g., Paul was a tentmaker, Jesus was a carpenter, Peter was a fisherman, Luke was a doctor). It was reasonable for a young man to change jobs for a while in order to discover what his calling was, but once it became evident what it is he was skilled at doing, and provided it was a career based on well-gotten gain, then he was expected to stick with it, though that career may be represented by different employers over time. Neither Christ nor the apostles are found radically switching their job categories–in other words, none are seen going from being a tentmaker, to being a blacksmith, or then becoming a soldier, and then a clothing manufacturer, and after that, a fisherman, and then a stonemason after that. Such a career would be confusing and unstable. Again, if your calling, vocation, or career has not been firmly established in a single category by the age of 30, that would be unfortunate and not an ideal goal. It is apparent that Jesus’ business calling as a carpenter had been firmly established by the time he was “about thirty years of age” (Mark 6:3; Luke 3:23).

Following Paul’s direction to slaves, employees should obey their employers with respect and reverence; and with sincerity of heart, just as we would obey Christ–and we should obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on us, but as servants of Christ, doing the job as the will of God from the heart–and to work wholeheartedly, as if we were serving the Lord and not people; because we know that the Lord will reward each worker for whatever good that they do (Eph. 6:5-8); employers are also directed to treat their employees with respect and in the fear of God–they should not threaten them; and should show no worldly favoritism to certain employees (Eph. 6:9). Idleness and laziness were constantly condemned and it was reminded that the pains derived from work are part of God’s discipline for our sins. Because Adam listened to Eve, and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God cursed the “ground”–that is, the business world–and made it so that it would be only through painful work that we will be able to make money, buy groceries, and eat our food–and that the “sweat of our brow”–or stress and anxiety–would attend our business activities. Adam’s calling was that of a farmer, but the principle of this cursedness on all employment applies to all employees who work for their food (Gen. 3:17-19). Since work is a means of God’s discipline for sin, then it makes one wonder whether retirement at the age of 65 is all that Biblical. That may possibly encourage idleness. Although retirement was part of the Puritan career plan.[3]

Upward Mobility Within Your Calling

Richard Baxter said, “If God show you a way in which you may lawfully get more than in another way (without wrong to your soul or to any other), if you refuse this, and choose the less gainful way, you cross one of the ends of your calling, and you refuse to be God’s steward.”[1] In other words, so long as you are staying within the framework of your calling–Paul a tentmaker, Jesus a carpenter, you a salesperson–if God shows you another employer that provides an opportunity for making more money within that same job category, and you have a good conscience about the product and the manner of dealing it out to customers–then it is in line with the will of God for you to choose the higher paying job opportunity.

Richard Steele observed that several men would work two to three jobs in order to increase their incomes, but he was reserved about the practice.[2] He viewed such men as generally lacking contentment. On the other hand, he was okay with the idea under certain conditions: 1. You are not trying to monopolize your industry, but are allowing for other people to have jobs too. 2. There is a just necessity compelling you to meet certain financial needs and make a reasonably comfortable living for yourself. 3. It should not be motivated by greed. 4. The jobs must not have conflicting schedules, nor distract you from dutifully working at each of them. 5. No job that you have by its nature should harm your neighbor, but we should love our neighbors as ourselves–we should act towards others with justice, fairness, and kindness (Mark 12:31).[3]

William Perkins said that “a man must first have some warrant and word of God to assure him of his calling, to do this or that thing, before he can do it in faith.”[4] There may even be angelic assistance in this job placement: “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps. 91:11). But, as mentioned before, callings to a specific job vocation were framed not to occur so much by dreams, visions, and voices–but by recurrent emotional impressions and the working situations we often find ourselves in, excelling at certain skills. “Labour in a calling is as precious as gold or silver…an occupation is as good as land.”[5] Financial security was linked with remaining in the same job category throughout your whole working life. Financial miracles and supernatural provisions were part of their worldview: and the word “providence” was generally invoked whenever such divine coincidences or lucky happenings occurred.[6] But God’s providence was usually seen as working in the world of business, jobs, and apprenticeships.

[1] Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (London, England: Richard Edwards, 1825), p. 585.

[2] Working two jobs was not only supported by Steele, but also by Baxter (Chapters, p. 156), and Perkins, who said, “It is good for every man to have two strings to his bow” (Treatise, p. 54), as if to say, “It is good to have a side job to fall back on if your other job falls through for you.” He pointed to Acts 10:7 as proof: one of Cornelius’ servants was also a soldier, and so he had two jobs. There’s also Proverbs 31: the woman was both a clothing manufacturer and a vineyard manager (vv. 16, 24); and her husband was a judge (v. 23)—so their family had at least three streams of income.

[3] Richard Steele, The Religious Tradesman (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1989), pp. 158-159.

[4] William Perkins, “A Treatise of the Vocations or Callings of Men,” Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1784. Edited by Edmund S. Morgan (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2003), p. 40.

[5] Ibid., p. 42.

[6] As when God provided a ram for Abraham, and he called the place, “the Lord will provide” (providence); and the time when manna and quail appeared for the Israelites (Gen. 22:13-14; Exod. 16). Providence usually comes in the form of jobs, but can also come by gifts, refunds, checks in the mail, charities, unforeseen blessings, etc. The Autobiography of George Müller is filled with many examples of providential financial miracles.

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Theological Perfectionism and Human Mistakes

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? –Galatians 3:3, ESV

In law, we understand that there are felonies and misdemeanors. There are majors and minors; and we consider the law to be just and fair when the punishments fit the magnitude of the crimes. Just as we would think it utterly absurd and abusive if a policeman were to hang a black man in 1950s Alabama for stealing a loaf of bread; or if a father beat his son with a belt 27 times for refusing to clean his plate at the dinner table. There is a sense of fairness and common sense that exists within all human beings, whether they are Christian or not. There are limits to what we will allow and disallow. When it comes to the subject of Christian theology, things are no different, or at least you would hope, that the subject would be approached with a degree of reasonableness and fairness to the Word of God, and also to the theologian.

There is theological orthodoxy, theological heresy, and then there are gray areas where the Bible is silent; and then there are minor issues in which theologians can simply make harmless theological mistakes; and which should be left open to the correction and clarification of other Christians down the road, whom might bring more clarity from the Word of God on that issue. 

How can we distinguish all of these differences?

First, we need to read the whole Bible for ourselves, from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is the inspired Word of God and has the supreme say so in all of these matters (2 Tim. 3:16).

Second, we should read the writings of respected theological leaders from church history; and see whether the things they interpreted and applied about the Word of God sound like they make sense to us; and in that sense you begin to “all speak the same thing” as the other saints in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 1:10).

Third, you should rely on your own spiritual experiences; and look for parallels in the Word of God and in the writings of other theologians and their biographies.

Fourth, you should use the intellect that God gave you and reason through the questions and answers that you are asking yourself. Does this theological view that you are entertaining make sense? Does it make any sense? If so, then it is probably more true than a view that doesn’t make any sense at all.

In my case, I turn to The Works of John Wesley as my primary aide to Bible study; and as a result of that, a lot of other secondary theologians that he related with, such as Richard Baxter, William Law, and Adam Clarke. This is not to say that I agree with 100% of what they say. But reading their material can help me to play catch up on a lot of things. Personally, I don’t think their views on entire sanctification, infant baptism, or teetotalism make any sense. Clarke held a view that the Second Person of the Trinity didn’t become the Son of God until the first century, but that he did exist in a different form B.C. I don’t know about such views, if maintaining them makes any sense. The Puritans and their descendants have a bunch of things too, that I don’t think make much of any sense at all, such as things relating to fate and predestination, or the cessation of miraculous gifts; and often an antinomianism comes through in their view of the Christian life: which I naturally knee-jerk to as a major heresy instead of a minor theological mistake.

Theology can be confusing. But as long as we are reverential toward the Bible, careful to live by its precepts; and also read the writings of other godly theologians from the past; and we use our common sense, then I can’t see why Jesus would harshly come down on us from making a little mistake here and there. Especially if the view we hold to does not discourage us from living a holy life (Heb. 12:14). But there will always be those theological perfectionists, who strain out a gnat, make a mountain out of a molehill, and miss the weightier matters of the law: “judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matt. 23:23). I mainly have in mind those who have a slavish if not blinding adherence to the Westminster Confession. Such men would either have perfect theology or no theology at all. Such men are the types to call men hypocrites unless they are entirely, scientifically perfect like a machine going to market. Perfectionists can’t comprehend the depth of human frailty or the necessity of paranormal interventions from God to assist us in our weaknesses. They can’t see the need for a compassionate God or a comforting Holy Spirit. They think life is like a math formula, coldly calculated to operate like a smoothly running engine. This hearkens back to the deist argument that the universe is like a finely tuned clock set to run on its own. No compassionate, personal interventions of the Holy Spirit’s presence are needed. Everything is just pure math and clockwork. Stay in that way for long enough, though, and you will be the cuckoo popping out of the cuckoo clock; and you won’t even know why you’re chirping; you just are, because that’s your programming. People aren’t like that. Lives aren’t like that! There’s emotion and will involved with our souls. We’re not programs, robots, or engines. We’re souls encased in fallen human flesh; and we need the comforting guiding presence of the Holy Spirit to help us in our lives (Rom. 7-8). The Bible is the product of such a view; and when we line ourselves up with that, then we’ll find clarification about lots of things eventually. But we need to have a fair view of our human condition before we can make any progress with God.

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John Gerstner on Baptist Antinomianism

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A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Theological Liberalism – R. C. Sproul



Originally from here.

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John Wesley’s House: Take a Tour – Caleb Corneloup

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When Anything Goes at the Holidays

25 Great Movies About Terribly Dysfunctional Families | La joya de la  familia, Familia disfuncional, Peliculas

“Anything Goes”: The Meaning of the Phrase

If you look at various dictionary definitions, then you will find whenever a person says “anything goes,” what they mean is that there are no rules for behavior, or dress at this party; that anything people say or do is tolerated and considered acceptable by the party under consideration; that everything is permitted; any type of behavior is allowed; everything is okay: I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone’s okay; and there are no rules or restrictions. It’s a non-judgmental environment in which there are no virtues, house rules, or standards of etiquette–written or unwritten, tacitly or verbally agreed upon, by that rag-tag gang of folks you have wandering around your house on such an occasion.

Why Anything Often Goes at Thanksgiving and Christmas

In my observation, most American families follow an “anything goes” philosophy. This becomes especially evident around the holidays. Inside their hearts, they all believe different things: about religion, politics, economics, etc. Their individual families are governed by completely separate values. Yet, when they come together for the holiday season, they all pretend as if this were not the case. A lot of pretending is going on. Why is this? Because they want to have parties, or it’s expected of them, or it’s to give the children a positive experience by lying to them about Santa, and show off their possessions to their relatives. Maybe there’s at least one person they look forward to spending time with, even though there’s others present who could easily be classified as enemies and weeds in the family garden. They pretend that all is well at these holiday parties, but they know in their hearts that things are not well at all. There is no social alignment, no agreement, and usually no theological or spiritual unity. None of them hardly ever see eye to eye on anything. The only way to pull off holiday gatherings with such a disparate, eclectic group of people, is to create a business like environment in the dining room and family room, where anything goes. Cussing, unedited movies and music, inappropriate jokes, irreverent speeches, deceptive, cruel Machiavellian attitudes, competitive displays, and financial arrogance all find their way in though, if only through subtlety. Of course, all of these little devils can be swept under the rug while everyone tries to be on their best behavior. In some families, this may be the case, but we would be fools to assume this is the general experience of all families at Christmas; and even if it was, what value is there in that? It’s still pretending to love people you actually hate. It’s living a lie, at least on December 25th every year. One thing’s for sure: Christmas has almost become a symbol of the dysfunctional family. Take a look at our most popular Christmas movies, which almost unavoidably feel the need to address the theme of the dysfunctional family: Jingle All the Way, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Elf, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, The Family Stone, The Preacher’s Wife, The Santa Clause, Little Women, Edward Scissorhands, Die Hard, and even A Christmas Carol, Scrooge, and It’s a Wonderful Life!–which are among my personal favorites. It’s like Hollywood’s trying to tell us something about the American family. Maybe it’s stumbled upon a very unpleasant reality here: maybe the family is not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe the currently running family philosophy that many, many Americans are living by just doesn’t cut it. I think Hollywood is right about this, if this is what they’ve been trying to say through these movies, with all of their satirical and dramatic screenplays. But maybe they don’t know the answer to the problem. Maybe all they know how to do is make observations about the problem, without knowing how to fix it. The answer is in the Bible and obeying it in faith, but that’s not Hollywood’s area of expertise. All they can do is lampoon the problem, but not try to fix it with the Golden Rule or Christian theology. The only movie that comes remotely close to doing this is Scrooge.

Come Out From Among Them

In John Wesley’s sermon “On Friendship with the World,” which is one of my favorites, he makes several Biblical applications to socializing that could easily apply to the holidays. For starters, he quotes James 4:4 where he says it is spiritual adultery for a Christian to seek friendship with worldly-minded people. It goes without saying that Christians should not seek a close, intimate attachment or friendship with non-Christians, even in this age of so-called “friendship evangelism,” which is an antinomian idea. This includes liberal Christians, agnostics, and atheists, or really just anyone who is non-Biblical and non-evangelical. He believed, and I think rightly, that people easily backslide in their faith and commitment to God, when they seek a close attachment to earthly-minded people who don’t fear God or Hell. He points to John 15:18-19, and tells godly Christians not to be surprised if worldly people hate them. This is to be expected, since none of them live by values other than self-interest, competition, deception, and cruelty, just like they do when they are in the office during the work week. Having conversations with worldly-minded people during the work week at places of business cannot be very much avoided–especially if you’re not a telecommuter–and should be kept to a bare minimum (1 Cor. 5:10). But to make it a normative experience is to become desensitized to sin and a “partaker of other men’s sins” (1 Tim. 5:22). Christmas parties and get-togethers, are just the kind of places, where such unprofitable conversations are made a little bit more normal (2 Tim. 2:16). It is here, as with those who partake in that abominable practice called missionary dating, where Biblical Christians can become “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). Spiritual contagion and infection are contracted there. Pride, self-sufficiency, self-indulgence, Epicureanism, vanity, hot temper, lust, and other “foolish and harmful desires” can be acquired there (1 Tim. 6:9). Nine times out of ten, such holiday parties come down to playing with fire, and getting burned. Humanists, liberal Christians, deists, and people like this populate Christmas parties–family and non-family parties–because Christ is not in the center of these families. They are taking part in a secularized activity. Mr. Worldly Wiseman from The Pilgrim’s Progress: you can see him sitting over there in the rocking chair by the fire, puffing his pipe. Wesley says, “Beware of them!” Because they are the most spiritually dangerous people you can talk with. Generally polite in the business sense, but total anti-Christians at heart! 2 Corinthians 6:17: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord!” You should not seek a friendship with such a man, but only what is necessary at your place of business “lest even by that converse with them which is necessary, while your fortune in the world increases, the grace of God should decrease in your soul” (1.23).

But what SHOULD be done around the holidays? Well, the holidays should not occasion any inconsistency in your Christian walk. You should follow the same Biblical rules for socializing that you live by for the rest of the year. Wesley gives two directions for this. 1. Psalm 16:3: “The saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.” Koinonia, or fellowship with real Christians, should be the objective of all holiday gatherings. It is only in this that there ever is any grace of God or true love of your neighbor in the gathering. The word holiday comes from the old expression “holy day,” and hearkens back to the Old Testament, when God commanded the Jews through Moses to celebrate an array of Jewish holidays for family recreation, extended Sabbaths, and reverence for God’s providence through the year. 2. Psalm 39:1: “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” It’s hard to talk about God and the Christian life when you are surrounded with people who don’t fear God. What can you do in such a situation, but render yourself a mute, or else someone who throws pearls to swine? (Matt. 7:6). Wesley, echoing what Richard Baxter said a century before in A Christian Directory 3.18.2.8, said this about family members that do not have any fear of God: “In general, if they do not fear God, you should leave them as soon as is convenient. But wherever you are, take care (if it be in your power) that they do not want the necessaries or conveniences of life. As for all other relations, even brothers or sisters, if they are of the world you are under no obligation, to be intimate with them: You may be civil and friendly at a distance” (1.25).

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Ministerial Pride – Richard Baxter

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The Pride, Vanity, and Peevishness of Ministers

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. –Matthew 23:24

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. –John 8:44

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The Rich Man and Lazarus – Charles Finney

Originally from here.

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day; and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried: and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you, cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” –Luke 16:19-31.

A parable is a little anecdote or a case of supposed history, designed to illustrate some truth. A simple and striking mode of illustration–it makes no attempt at reasoning; indeed it takes the place of all reasoning by at once revealing truth to the mind. In general, parables assume certain truths–a thing which they have an ample right to do, for some truths need no proof, and in other cases, a teacher may speak from his perfect knowledge, and in such a case, there can be no reason for demanding that he stop to prove all he asserts.

In the case of parables it is often interesting to notice what truths they do assume. This is especially true of the parables of Christ for none were ever more rich by virtue both of the truths directly taught and also by virtue of the truths they assume. I may also remark here that truths are taught in Christ’s parables both directly and incidentally. Some one great truth is the leading object of the illustration, yet other truths of the highest importance may be taught incidentally, not being embraced in his direct design.

The passage which I have read to you this morning, is probably a parable though not distinctly affirmed to be so. The nature of the case seems to show this; although these very circumstances might have all actually occurred in fact and in the same order as here related.

In discussing the passage, I propose,

I. To notice some truths that are assumed in it;

II. To present some that are intentionally taught.

I. 1. Christ assumes in this passage the direct opposite of annihilation. He assumes that men are not annihilated at death, nor indeed ever. For he speaks of things that take place immediately after death. The men who lived on earth live beyond death and receive according to the things they have done here in the body. It was no part of his direct object to affirm this doctrine; yet his statements imply it. Being himself the Great Teacher, it is not without reason that He should assume the fundamental truths that pertain to man’s future existence under God’s moral government.

2. He assumes that the state into which both good and bad men pass at death is one of real and intense consciousness. This of course denies the assumption that this state is an unconscious one. You are aware that some do not hold to annihilation, yet hold to unconsciousness in the intermediate state between death and the resurrection. This doctrine, whether applied to saints or sinners, is entirely set aside by our Saviour’s teachings in this narrative.

3. He assumes that the righteous and the wicked recognize each other after death. The rich man knew both Abraham and Lazarus. Abraham knew him. They all respectively knew each other. The statements represent the colloquy to have been held between the rich man and Abraham. Abraham, though long since in heaven, knew both this rich man and Lazarus. It was not our Lord’s design directly to affirm this, yet he obviously implies it.

4. It is also assumed that they are acquainted with each other’s state and history. All these matters were entirely familiar to their minds.

5. It is fully assumed that at death the righteous go immediately to a state of bliss and the wicked to a place of torment. This lies out undeniably on the face of the passage.

II. I am next to notice some of the truths distinctly and directly taught in this passage.

1. That at death angels conduct the righteous to their place of blessedness. It is expressly said of Lazarus that he was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. Dogs were his companions here up to his death; angels immediately thereafter. When the dogs could minister to his wants no longer, angels stepped in and took his case in charge. They bore him away to the home of the blessed.

We may infer that this is the common employment of angels. Paul in Hebrews 1:12 strengthens this position, in his question, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”

2. Saints after death are sensible of no want. They have nothing left to desire. They are sensible of wanting nothing that can be needful to their highest happiness. In this life they may have had their cup filled with bitterest grief; but at death, this cup is removed forever away, and quite another cup is placed to their lips–forever. Lazarus had his evil things in this world; poverty, pain, sores, and want, were his portion here; but after death, he knew these things no more at all. They passed away forever.

3. On the other hand sinners after death are full of want, and have no good at all. The rich man asked for only the very smallest favour. He had fared sumptuously every day; but now he is reduced so low, he can only beg for one drop of water to cool his tongue. He asks for only so much as might adhere to the tip of one’s finger when taken from the water. You have seen persons lie under a burning fever–prostrate, parched, can’t say a word, can only beckon for water–water–one drop to cool their burning tongue. See the man dying;–he tries to move a little, towards the water;–ah he fails; he sinks back in his bed for the last time, and the burning fever has used up all his strength. You who have suffered from fever know what this means–to have a consuming fire shut up within you. Here mark. The Great Teacher makes the rich man cry out, “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” –Why did he not ask for an ocean of water, or a pail-full at least, or a pitcher-full; why restrict himself to the least drop? Plainly he knew himself to be placed beyond all good. He knew this was the utmost he could ask, and even this is denied him! What could our Lord have designed but to teach this? How irresistibly is this taught and with what overpowering force! What remarkable facts are these! How obviously and how forcibly is the truth taught here that saints at death pass into a state all joyful, but the wicked into one of unutterable torment!

4. We learn the state of mind in which the wicked are. This man asks for only the very slightest mitigation. He says not one word about pardon; this he knows to be impossible. How small the boon he dares to ask! How very small if he could have had it, would have been the boon of one small drop of water on a tongue tormented in flame! Yet he does not dare to ask for anything beyond this;–nor even this of God! He knew and he most deeply felt that he had cast off God and God in turn had cast off him. He could not think of speaking to God. He could venture to speak only to Abraham, and this solitary Bible case of prayer to saints in heaven surely affords no very plausible foundation for the Romish practice. This rich man had not the least hope of release from his woe. He did not ask so great a boon as this. Deep in his soul he felt that such a request was for ever precluded.

It is remarkable too that though the boon he did ask was so trifling and his need so great, yet even this pittance was denied him. Abraham gave him plainly to understand that this was impossible. Son, said he, remember that thou in thy lifetime hast received thy good things; thou hast had thine all; there are no more for thee to enjoy!

5. Besides this, there is a great gulf fixed–parting forever the saved from the damned: we cannot go to you if we would; you cannot come to us, however much you may desire it. Most plainly does Christ teach in this representation that the state of both the righteous and the wicked is fixed, fixed forever, and forever changeless. There can be no passage open therefore as some would fain have it, from one world to the other. They who are in heaven can never get to hell to help the suffering ones there if they would; and on the other hand, the miserable in hell can never get to heaven. What less than this could the Saviour have intended to teach–that each class enter at death upon another state which is to each alike unchangeable? The righteous cannot pass the great gulf to hell; the wicked cannot pass it to heaven. Once heaven’s gate was open to even the sinner on his repentance; now it is open to him no more. He has passed away from the world where his moral state can be changed. He has entered on one where no change can reach him any more at all forever.

6. The wicked dread to have their friends come to them in this place of torment. You see this feeling most distinctly manifested in this parable. The reason of the feeling is obvious. They are still human beings and therefore it can be no joy to them to have their earthly friends come into their place of woe. They have human feelings. They know they can look for no alleviation of their own woe from the presence of their friends. They know that if those friends come there as they did they can never escape; therefore they beg that those friends may never come. Therefore this rich man prays that Abraham would send Lazarus to his five brethren, to testify to them, lest they also come into that place of torment.

7. The state of mind that rejects the Bible would reject any testimony that could be given. This is plainly taught here, and can be proved. It can be proved that the testimony of one who should rise from the dead is no better or stronger than that of the Bible. Paul said he had been caught up to the third heaven, but men would not believe him. Or take the case of Lazarus, raised beyond all question from the dead. We are not told what he taught, nor is it said that his instructions made any special impressions on the living unbelievers of that generation. Those of you who have read the history of William Tennant–a co-labourer with Whitfield and Edwards, know how he apparently died; how after death he went to heaven; how he too like Paul, saw there unspeakable things which no man could utter; how he returned again and lived several years as one who had seen the glories of heaven; but was this stronger evidence than the Bible itself? Did it surpass in strength of demonstration the teachings of Moses and of the prophets? Yet more, did it surpass the force and evidence with which Jesus spake and also his apostles? No verily. When unbelief has taken possession of the mind, you may pile miracle on miracle; men will not believe it. Suppose ever so many should rise from the dead. Men who reject the Bible would not believe their testimony. They would insist either that they had not been really dead, or that if they had been, they did not bring back a reliable report from that other country. They would make a thousand objections, as they do now, against the Bible, and with much more plausibility then than now. Now, they only know their objections are really unfounded; then they would have more plausible objections to make, and would be sure to give them credit enough to refuse to repent under their teachings. They would not be persuaded even then.

8. The estimation in which God holds men may not be learned from their outward circumstances. His favor cannot be inferred from the trappings of wealth; nor is it precluded by any amount of poverty. These external things neither prove nor disprove God’s approbation of the hearts and the life of men.

9. The righteous need not envy rich sinners. Lazarus did not envy the rich man. He saw that he was petted for his great wealth, but pitied rather than envied him. He doubtless understood that this man was having his good things in this world. So good men, if they have faith, understand that those rich and wicked men are receiving all their good things in this world therefore are far from being objects of envy.

10. The former poverty of the righteous poor will give a keener relish to the joys of heaven. Think of the abject poverty of this man–wandering about with no home, no place even to lay his head. So multitudes in Eastern countries may be seen lying around the city walls like the swine of the streets. I saw them in Malta when I was there, and in Sicily also. They had no home to go to, no resources against a sick or stormy day. So Lazarus lived and it was from such a life and such scenes that he was transferred to the royal palace of Jehovah. Take the case of some poor beggar lying helpless outside the palace-walls of Queen Victoria. Suppose him suddenly taken up and exalted to the highest honors of the palace itself. How would his joy intoxicate his brain–too much for flesh and blood to bear! So poor saints passing from the dunghill on earth to the golden palaces of heaven. It is well they lose their nerves in the change, for surely nerves of flesh could not bear so great a change. See Lazarus, sick and sore, perhaps putrid–licked by dogs; but he reached at length the crisis of his sorrows, and all suddenly the mortal coil drops, and his spirit takes wings–angels receive him; he soars away and heaven opens wide its gates of pearl to make him welcome! Sometimes when I have stood and seen the Christian die–have seen him struggle and pant and gasp and pass away, I have said, What a wonderful change is this! See how that eye grows glassy and dark; then it closes; it sees no more of earth, but all suddenly it opens on the glories of the upper world to be closed no more forever!

But to have the luxuries of this life superseded by the poverty and woe of hell–how awful! This rich man had royal wealth. We are told that he fared sumptuously every day–not only on special occasions, but every day! Every day too he was clad in purple and fine linen; but now how wonderful the contrast! Nothing is said of the burial of Lazarus; perhaps he had none worth noticing; but this man had a funeral. It was a noticeable fact. Perhaps thousands gathered round his remains to do him honor–but where is he? Lifting up his eyes in hell, being in torments! What a change! From his table and his palace, to hell! Lazarus passed from his sores and beggary to heaven; the rich man, from his pomp and pride and feasting, to hell. As the great poverty of Lazarus, so set off in contrast with heaven, must have given great edge and keenness to the joys of that world, so on the reverse scale, how dreadful the contrast which this rich man experiences! If we always get clearer and stronger views by contrast, surely we have a picture drawn here that is adapted to teach us awful truth and force it home on the soul with telling power.

If it be true that angels convey saints to heaven, as we are taught both here and elsewhere in God’s word, then it is not irrational to suppose that what many saints say in their dying hours of the things they see is strictly true. Gathering darkness clouds the senses, and the mind becomes greatly spiritual as their looks plainly show; those looks–the eye, the countenance, the melting whisper, these tell the story better than any words can do it; indeed no words can describe those looks–no language can paint what you can stand by and see and hear–a peace so deep and so divine; this shows that the soul is almost in heaven. In all ages it has been common for some dying saints to hear music which they supposed to be of heaven and to see angels near and around them. With eyes that see what others cannot see, they recognize their attending angels as already come, “Don’t you hear that music?” say they. “Don’t you see those shinning ones? they come, they come!” But attending friends are yet too carnal to see such objects and to hear such sounds; for it is the mind and not the body that has eyes. It is the mind that sees, and not the body. No doubt in such cases, they do really see angelic forms and hear angelic voices. The Bible says–“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” How gloriously do these closing scenes illustrate this truth.

If this be true of saints, then doubtless wicked spirits are allowed to drag the wicked down from their dying beds to hell. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that they too really see awful shapes and hear dreadful sounds. “Who is that weeping and wailing? Did I not hear a groan? Is there not some one weeping as if in awful agony? O, that awful thing; take him away, take him away! He will seize me and drag me down; take him away, away?”

So the wicked are sometimes affected in their dying moments. There is no good reason to doubt that these objects seen and sounds heard, by saints and sinners in their last earthly moments, are realities. You who have read Dr. Nelson’s book on infidelity, cannot but have noticed especially what he says of the experience of persons near death. These things passed under his observation chiefly while he was a physician, and while yet an infidel himself. Dying sinners would cry out, “O, that awful creature! take him away, away; why don’t you take him away?” Ye who know Dr. Nelson, must have known that he did not say these things at random. He did not admit them without evidence or state them without due consideration.

We are left to infer the character of this rich man from his worldly-mindedness. Christ did not seem to deem it necessary to state that he was a wicked man, but left this to be inferred from his self-indulgent life. He needed only to say of him that he lived for self-gratification; that he used his wealth for himself only, and not for the good of man, or for the glory of God. This explained his character sufficiently.

People act very much in this world, as if they supposed poverty would disqualify them for heaven. They would seem to hold the exact opposite of the truth. Christ said, “How hardly shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven”; and yet, who seems to have the least fear of losing heaven by means of the snare of wealth! How wonderful is the course that men pursue, and indeed a great many Christian men are pursuing! A Christian mother, writing to me from New York, said, “All, even Christians, are giving themselves up to making money, MONEY, MONEY! They are wholly given up to stocks, and banks, and getting rich.” There is a great deal of this spirit all over the country, and even here. But look at it in the light of this parable and of our Saviour’s assumption in regard to the character of this rich man, and what a fearful state is this to live and to die in?

What can Universalists say or believe when they read such passages as this? What miserable shifts they must make to interpret these words! I recollect when I tried and wanted to be Universalist, and for this purpose went to their meetings and heard their arguments; I said to myself, “For very shame, I could never use such arguments; no, not for the shame of admitting and avowing such absurdities!” What can be more absurd than to resort to such sophistry and special pleading to set aside statements so clear and direct to the point as these in this chapter.

God is giving to all sinners–to you sinners in this place–a great many rich gifts. What use are you making of them? What are you doing with these gifts? What are you doing with these things which God comes down each day to bring to you? Are you cavilling, to prevent Christ from saving you if you can? Many act as if they meant to avoid being saved if by any means they can. You act just like reprobates. –But I must explain myself. I often meet with persons whose spirit makes me believe they are reprobates. You know that all things are eternally present to the mind of God. He saw how these sinners would treat the gospel. He saw they would repel and hate Christ–would not love his service nor accept the offers of his great salvation. He saw all this in his past eternity; therefore he reprobated them; therefore he gave them over to their own hearts’ lusts. Those things which God saw in the depths of his eternity, we only see as they boil up upon the surface of actual present life. You see them resist the Spirit; you see them cavil and fight against God’s truth; you know they are fighting against God. So strongly does the conviction fasten on the minds of Christians in some cases, that they cannot pray for those who they are assured are reprobates. Said a very pious woman, “For ten years, I have not prayed for that son.” Why? She saw that he was set against God, and she could not pray for him. It is indeed an awful thing to find such cases in Christian families. Nobody can tell the agony of a parent’s heart to see a son setting at naught all the claims and all the mercies of God, and working his dismal way obstinately down to the depths of an eternal hell. Some of you before me to-day, know that you have children who give awful evidence of being reprobate!

Hear that man across the street sighing as he moves along. What is the matter? He is in agony for a hardened, reprobate son.

You call at a neighbor’s door; you ring the bell; the mother comes. You see the tear in her eye; she can scarcely speak. What is the matter? She has a son, and she fears he is a reprobate. All his conduct heightens the awful fear that he is given over of God.

But let those who have not gone so far, take warning. Some of those whom you have mocked and reviled, you may by and by see in glory. They may be in Abraham’s bosom, and you afar off! You may cry to them for help, but all in vain. Will they rush to your help? No. You see your father, your mother, afar off in that spirit land,–you think they will fly to succor you, and bring you at least one drop of water,–they used to do so many a time when you were in pain. Ah! many a time has that mother watched over your suffering frame, and rushed to your relief; but will she do so now? “My son, hear this: there is no passing from this place to that. You once lived in my house and lay in my bosom, but I cannot bring you one drop of water now!” And has it come to this? Must it come to this? Ah, yes, it must come to this!

Christian parents, one word to you. Suppose you conceive of this as your case. You see one of your children crying, “O give me one drop of water to cool my burning tongue!” I know what Universalists would say to this. They say, “Can a parent be happy, and see this? And do you think a parent is more compassionate than God?”

But in that hour of retribution, those Christian parents will say even of the sons and daughters they have borne, “Let them perish, they are the enemies of God and of his kingdom! Let them perish, since they would not have salvation! They must perish, for God’s throne must stand and ought to stand, though all the race go down to hell!

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