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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Freedom of Religion

Quoting Patrick Henry (Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution)

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” (The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii)

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Religious Freedom

Quoting George Washington:

[E]stablish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution. For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience. (“Address to the General Committee, Representing the United Baptist Church in Virginia,” May, 1789)

The Holy Spirit And Ministry

Samuel Davies

Have you ever noticed that one minister who is a scholar, an excellent orator, and is sincere in his passion for the conversion of sinners, preaches and works in vain; while another, who is less qualified, is successful in bringing many more to Christ? This cannot be accounted for except by divine grace; for if salvation was dependent upon the talents of men then the most talented would always reap the harvest. History teaches us that sometimes the reading of a sermon has been the means of awakening sinners, while at other times the most argumentative preaching moves no one at all. Where in this does the difference arise but in the grace of God? Samuel Davies offers the following explanation:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

[T]he different success of the same means of grace in different periods of the church, sufficiently shows the necessity of gracious assistances to render them efficacious. The various states of the church in various ages are but comments upon the sacred pages, and accomplishments of scripture.

Now we find that religion has flourished or declined, not so much according to external means, as according to the degree of divine influence. Alas! What could Noah, that zealous preacher of righteousness do, during the 120 years of his ministry? He might warn, he might persuade, he might weep over a secure world, in vain: they would rush upon destruction before his eyes; and he could only persuade his own family; and even among them there was a cursed Ham. How little could Moses, the favorite messenger and intimate of God, prevail to make his people dutiful! Alas! after all the astonishing wonders he wrought before their eyes, they continued obstinate and rebellious; for the Lord had not given them an heart to understand, etc., Deuteronomy 29:4. This heart to understand Moses mentions as something beyond his power and that could be effected by omnipotence only. What inconsiderable success had that zealous prophet Elijah, the eloquent Isaiah, or that tender-hearted, mourning, weeping prophet Jeremiah! Surely, many feeble servants of Christ, in all respects inferior to them, have been crowned with more extensive success!

Nay, when the Son of God descended from heaven to be a teacher to the world, who spake as never man spake, who carried omnipotence along with him to attest his doctrine by the most astonishing miracles, how few, during his life, were brought seriously to regard his doctrine! He was pleased to deter the remarkable effusion of his Spirit till his return to his native heaven. And when the Spirit was poured out, what a glorious alteration followed! Then Peter, a poor fisherman, is the happy instrument of converting three thousand with one short sermon; which is more perhaps than his divine Master had done by a hundred. Then, in spite of the united opposition of earth and hell, the humble doctrines of the cross triumphed over the nations, and subdued millions to the obedience of faith. Then the doctrines of Jesus, who was crucified at Jerusalem like an infamous malefactor, between two thieves, became the mighty, all-conquering weapons, through God, to demolish the strong-holds of Satan, II Corinthians 2:4. And whence this strange alteration? It was from the more abundant effusion of the Spirit upon the minds of men; upon their minds, I say; for as to the external evidences from miracles, prophecies, etc., they were sufficiently clear before this happy season. But there was not the same degree of internal illumination by the Spirit. It is often intimated by Christ, in his last discourses with his disciples, that the Holy Spirit was not yet given; and hence it was that he and they labored so much in vain. But upon his ascension he performed the promise he had so often repeated, and sent the Spirit both upon them and their hearers; and then the aspect of affairs was happily altered: then the word had free course, and was glorified. Then the world was convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

This point might be illustrated farther by a history of the various periods of the church from the apostolic age to the present time; but it would be too tedious; and what has been offered is sufficient to convince us that it is not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts, that the interests of religion are carried on, Zechariah 4:6. . . . (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

Patrick Henry: A Nation Founded On The Gospel Of Jesus Christ

 

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry – Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution:

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” (The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii)

“The Bible … is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed.” (Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, p. 402)

Blessings And Human Effort

Samuel Davies

The necessity for God’s blessing is clearly asserted in the Scriptures. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) This is not just a blessing of enablement, but also a blessing of free grace accomplished by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For once the inclination of the heart has been changed by grace: “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” says Jesus, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) On November 19th, 1752, Samuel Davies preached on the need for divine influence upon all the works of men at a church in Hanover County, Virginia:

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

[T]he promises of God to bestow blessings upon us, do not render needless our most vigorous endeavors to obtain them; and, on the other hand, that our most vigorous endeavors do not supersede the influences of the Spirit to work in us the dispositions we are laboring after. . . .

This may be illustrated by various instances. God commands us strictly to circumcise the foreskins of our hearts, to make ourselves new hearts and new spirits, Jeremiah 4:4, and to cleanse ourselves from mortal pollution, Isaiah 1:16, as if this were wholly our work, and he had no efficiency in it. In the meantime, he promises us absolutely to circumcise our hearts to love him, to give us new hearts, and to purge us from all our filthiness, and from all our abominations, as though he performed all the work without our using means. Now we are sure these things are consistent; for the sacred oracles are not a heap of contradictions. And how does their consistency appear? Why, thus: It is our duty to use the most vigorous endeavors to obtain these graces promised, because it is only in the use of vigorous endeavors that we have reason to expect divine influences. And yet those endeavors of ours do not in the least work those graces in us, and therefore there is certainly as much need of the promised agency of divine grace to effect the work, as if we should do nothing at all. Our utmost endeavors fall entirely short of it, and do not entitle us to divine assistance; and this we must have an humble sense of, before we can receive the accomplishment of such promises as the effect of free grace alone. But we should continue in these endeavors, because we have no reason to hope for the accomplishment of the promises in a course of sloth and negligence.

This point may be illustrated by the consistency of the use of means and the agency of providence in the natural world. God has peremptorily promised, that while the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest shall not cease, Genesis 8:22. But this promise does not render it needless for us to cultivate the earth; nor does all our cultivation render this promise needless: for all our labor would be in vain without the influence of divine providence; and this influence is to be expected only in the use of labor. Thus, in the moral world, the efficacy belongs to God, as much as if we made no use of means at all; and the most vigorous endeavors are as much our duty as if we could effect the work ourselves, and he had no special hand in it. Were this remark attended to, it would guard us against the pernicious extremes of turning the grace of God into wantonness, and pleading it as an excuse for our idleness; and of self-righteousness, and depending upon our own endeavors. In this guarded manner does Paul handle this point: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure, Philippians 2:12-13. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

Thomas Jefferson: Liberty Is The Gift Of God

Thomas Jefferson

Quoting Thomas Jefferson – 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence:

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.” (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237)

God Gives The Increase

 

Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies was born in New Castle County, Delaware in 1723, of Welsh descent. In 1747 he was ordained by New Castle Presbytery as an evangelist to visit the newly formed congregations in Hanover County, Virginia. He itinerated in the care of seven Virginia congregations east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1753 he sailed to England and Scotland to raise funds in support of the proposed College of New Jersey, which was established at Princeton. He was elected president of the college in 1759, and served in that capacity until his death in 1761. He was often referred to as the apostle of Virginia, and what he understood Scripture to teach about human instrumentality appears in the following sermon:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7)

The design of God in all his works of creation, providence, and grace, is to advance and secure the glory of his own name; and therefore, though he makes use of secondary causes as the instruments of his operations, yet their efficacy depends upon his superintending influence. It is his hand that sustains the great chain of causes and effects, and his agency pervades and animates the worlds of nature and of grace.

In the natural world, he makes use of the instrumentality of the husbandman to till the ground, to sow the seed, and water it. But it is he that commands the clouds to drop down fatness upon it, and the sun to diffuse its vital influence. It is he that continues to the earth, and to the other principles of vegetation, their respective virtues; and without this influence of his the husbandman’s planting and watering would be in vain; and, after all his labor, he must acknowledge, that it is God that giveth the increase.

So in the world of grace, God uses a variety of suitable means to form degenerate sinners into his image, and fit them for a happy eternity. All the institutions of the gospel are intended for this purpose, and particularly the ministry of it. Ministers are sowers sent out into the wild field of the world, with the precious seed of the word. It is the grand business of their life to cultivate this barren soil, to plant trees of righteousness, and water them that they may bring forth the fruits of holiness. It is by the use of painful industry that they can expect to improve this wilderness into a fruitful field; and the Lord is pleased to pour out his spirit from on high at times to render their labors successful; so that they who went forth bearing precious seed with sorrow and tears, return bringing their sheaves with joy. But alas! They meet with disappointments enough to convince them that all their labors will be in vain, if a sovereign God deny the influences of his grace. The agency of his Holy Spirit is as necessary to fructify the word, and make it the seed of conversion, as the influences of heaven are to fructify the earth, and promote vegetation. A zealous Paul may plant the word, and an eloquent Apollos may water it; the one may attempt to convert sinners to Christianity, and the other to build them up in faith, but they are both nothing as to the success of their labors, unless God gives the increase; that is, unless he affords the influence of his grace to render their attempts successful in begetting and cherishing living religion in the hearts of men. This is the great truth contained in my text: Neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

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