We’re in the home stretch; this is lecture 30 of 39.
In the fourteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the universal corruption of mankind is described in such a manner as to create the impression that even true believers are still under the spell of ruling sins and are sinning purposely.
You will observe that I am speaking of the claim that the universal corruption of mankind embraces living in dominant and wilful sins on the part of believers. No one who is conversant with the pure doctrine will make the unqualified assertion that a christian can be a fornicator and an adulterer. Such a thought would not enter the mind of a true teacher of the Word of God. but a preacher trying to give a very drastic description of the universal corruption of mankind is easily tempted to deviate from the pure doctrine. I am speaking of mistakes that are frequently made by zealous ministers and also by theological students. In their first sermons submitted for review they quite frequently say that all mankind lives in this or that sin, mentioning manifest sins unto death as though Christians also were living in sins of that kind. What damage can be done when people are made to hear that we human beings are living in every abomination, shame, and vice, without the qualifying statement: “as we are by nature” or “as long as a person is still in the state of natural depravity and is unregenerate.” With these qualifiers, of course, you cannot overdraw the horrible qualities of man’s natural condition. However, when addressing a Christian congregation, you will have to be very careful not to speak as if also all Christians were living in shame and vice. It was a harmful and dangerous attempt on the part of the Pietists to divide mankind into so many classes that nobody was able to tell in which class he belonged. But this must not keep us from pointing out in our sermons the two great classes into which mankind is really divided, viz., believers and unbelievers, godly and ungodly, converted and unconverted, regenerate and unregenerate persons. This classification is current throughout the Scriptures. Christ always preached: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16, 16. “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matt. 9, 13. God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt. 5, 45. In each one of these texts Christ recognizes only two classes of human beings. Matt. 13, 38 He speaks of “the children of the Kingdom” and “the children of the Wicked One,” of wheat and tares. This thorough division, this aut-aut, either-or, must appear in every sermon of a sincere preacher. This is what your hearers must learn, viz., that they are either spiritually dead or spiritually alive, either converted or unconverted, either under the wrath of God or in a state of grace, either Christians or unchristians, either asleep in sin or quickened unto a new life in God, subjects in either the devil’s or God’s kingdom. It is a damnable heresy to speak of Hades, as modern theologians do, where man will have another chance to be converted. Incalculable harm is done by this doctrine. May God keep you from embracing it!
Make plain to your hearers in all your sermons that there are but two goals at the end of this life — heaven and hell. There will be only two sentences pronounced on men, either unto damnation or unto eternal life. Accordingly, there are only two classes of men in the present life; those of the one class are headed direct for hell, those of the other, straight for heaven. For Christ says distinctly: “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt. 7, 13–14. There are but two gates, two roads, and two terminals. To confound the two classes of men that are concerned in these two ways is an abominable mingling of Law and Gospel. The Law produces reprobate sinners, the Gospel free and blessed men.
Now, lest you think that we are vainly arguing about self-evident matters and to prove that the Calvinists have received into their doctrinal system the error rejected in our thesis, I wish to cite from the decrees of the Synod of Dort the following statement: “God, who is rich in mercy, according to His immutable purpose of election, does not wholly remove the Holy Spirit from His own even when they sin grievously, nor does He permit them to fall entirely out of the grace of adoption as children of God and out of the state of justification.” Now, any one who falls into a mortal sin slips — back entirely into the state of sin. According to the confession of the Reformed, then, Peter, David, and others were justified sinners while they committed mortal sins, remained in a state of grace as children of God, and retained the Holy Spirit. This we reject, while we indeed assert that the elect cannot until their death remain in a reprobate state, otherwise they could not be elect.