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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Common Denominator: Downgrading the Perfect Law of God

What is it that Arminians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox adherents, followers of Finney, semi-pelagians, and pelagians all have in common? It is the doctrine that sin is merely a voluntary transgression of a known moral law. While this sounds good, at the root of it the emphasis is on human ability and not on God's grace. All of the above will say that God's perfect law does condemn us all because since Christ came we are under a lower law, the law of Christ. As if now that we are under grace we are now excused from keeping the whole of God's perfect law. While Arminians, Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox will admit prevenient grace (i.e. a semi-pelagian view where a synergistic view is taken), both pelagianism and Finneyism deny that a prevenient grace is necessary since men are born with a blank slate and possess natural ability to do what is right.


Men may now keep a law that they themselves have invented out of thin air so that they may appear before other men as sinless or in a state of entire sanctification. However, the Scriptures teach that no man is without sin and even 1 John tells born again Christians that if they deny that they have sinned they make God to be a liar (see 1 John 1:8-10).


Any time that we begin to place man at the center of our theology rather than God, there is a tendency to soft-pedal and downgrade the Bible and the doctrines of grace. And the slippery slope most always leads to a liberalism of one kind or another. I think the Down-Grade Controversy among the Presbyterians and Baptists in Spurgeon's time applies here:


Some who abandoned the faith did so openly, Shindler said. But many purposely concealed their skepticism and heresy, preferring to sow seeds of doubt while posing as orthodox believers. "These men deepened their own condemnation, and promoted the everlasting ruin of many of their followers by their hypocrisy and deceit; professing to be the ambassadors of Christ, and the heralds of his glorious gospel, their aim was to ignore his claims, deny him his rights, lower his character, rend the glorious vesture of his salvation, and trample his crown in the dust."[5]


Many of those who remained true to the faith were nevertheless reluctant to fight for what they believed in. Evangelical preaching was often cold and lifeless, and even those who held to sound doctrine were careless about where they drew the line in their associations with others: "Those who were really orthodox in their sentiments were too often lax and unfaithful as to the introduction of heretical ministers into their pulpits, either as assistants or occasional preachers. In this way the Arian and Socinian heresies were introduced into the Presbyterian congregations in the city of Exeter."[6]


Thus within only a few decades, the Puritan fervor that had so captured the soul of England gave way to dry, listless apostate teaching. Churches became lax in granting membership privileges to the unregenerate. People who were, in Shindler's words, "strangers to the work of renewing grace" nevertheless claimed to be Christians and were admitted to membership—even leadership—in the churches. These people "chose them pastors after their own hearts, men who could, and would, and did, cry 'Peace, peace,' when the only way of peace was ignored or denied."[7] The Down-Grade Controversy


This observation among the Puritans of Spurgeon's time ought to be taken seriously as a warning to Anglicans today as well. Joining in common cause with Anglo-Catholics and other semi-pelagians, who deny justification by faith alone and who also deny the bondage of the will, only opens the door for more heresies which undermine the doctrines of grace and invite a future degradation of the church and even outright apostasy.

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