For a special Friday edition of Thesis Thursday, we look at Lecture 36, when we consider the back half of…
In the eighteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when a false distinction is made between a person’s being awakened and his being converted; moreover, when a person’s inability to believe is mistaken for his not being permitted to believe.
The so-called Pietists of former times and the preachers of the fanatical sects in our time not only made a false distinction between awakening and conversion and refused to regard those who were awakened as Christians, but they also mistook the inability to believe for not being permitted to believe.
When the Pietists had brought a person to the point where he considered himself a poor, miserable sinner, unable to help himself, and asked his minister what he must now do, the minister did not, like the apostles, answer him: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” but, as a rule, they told him the very opposite. They warned him against believing too soon and against thinking that, after having felt the effects of the Law, he might proceed to believe that his sins had been forgiven. They told him that his contrition must become more perfect, that he must feel contrite, not so much because his sins would call down upon him God’s anger and hurl him into perdition, but because he loved God. Unless he could say that he felt sorry for having angered his merciful Father in heaven, his contrition was declared null and void. He was told that he must feel that God was beginning to be merciful to him; he must get so far that he could hear an inner voice telling him: “Be of good cheer; thy will be forgiven thee; God will be merciful to thee.” He must continue struggling until his agony was over, and having rid himself of the love of sin and having been thoroughly converted, he might begin to take comfort.
Now, this is an awful method. The truth is, we are not to be converted first and after that believe; we are not to have a sensation first that we are in possession of grace; but without any feeling we are first to believe that we have received mercy, and after that will come the feeling of mercy, which God apportions to each according to His grace. Some person are without feeling of grace for along time. They behold nothing but darkness about them; they feel the hardness of their hearts and the powerful stirring and raging of evil, sinful lust within them.. Accordingly, to point a person to the way of salvation, it is not the proper procedure to tell him that, even when he feels himself a poor, lost sinner, he may not yet believe himself saved.
True, no man can produce faith in himself; God must do that. A person may be in such a condition that he cannot believer, and God is not willing to bestow faith on him. A person who still considers himself sound and righteous cannot believe. “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb.” Prov 27, 7. A soul spiritually sated and surfeited tramples on the honeycomb of evangelical consolation.