Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 14 June 2015

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Preaching a ‘Felt’ Christ

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, former preacher at Westminster Chapel in London, became stirred up by the following incident:

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p186: I shall never forget how a few years ago a very well-known evangelical leader came to me and asked if I had been yet to a series of meetings that were being held here in London. I said, ‘No, I have not had the opportunity so far’. He said, ‘It’s marvellous, it’s wonderful. The people are streaming forward. No emotion! It’s marvellous. It’s wonderful – no emotion’. He was glorying in the fact that the people who were going forward to register their decision were not showing any emotion at all; this was something to be gloried in. It is just here that this teaching becomes so serious. Can you have saving faith without any emotion? Can you be a Christian without emotion?

 

What’s so great about a church service and people coming to faith without any of them showing or having any emotions? No tears, no joy, no feeling of burdens removed, no nothing! Is this possible especially at an outreach meeting – for instance, our Jesus Tent? Can you actually have a saving faith without any emotion, without feeling anything?

In church history, over the centuries and even now, emotions have frequently not been welcome in church. They seem to have little value and cause irritations. I remember how uncomfortable many of us were (in this congregation) when the first few people began to show emotions in their worship of God. These forerunners would lift their hands and stretch their bodies in praise of Jesus (simply didn’t care about looking foolish). Some of them would take banners and wave them to the Lord or even dance a little on the spot (go up and down with their arms, turn and twist with the words of the song). Then, others were not ashamed of their tears.

When you come to church now, do you expect to feel anything? People who are opposed to emotions are opposed to preachers like George Whitefield, perhaps the best-known preacher in Great Britain and North America during the 18th century:

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p122-123: That is preaching! I like Whitefield’s own comment about this matter. He was asked one day for a copy of the sermon he had preached in order that it might be published, and this was his reply. He said, ‘I have no objection, if you will print the lightning, thunder and rainbow with it’. You cannot put preaching into cold print; it is impossible. You can put the contents of the sermon, but you cannot put the preaching; you cannot put the ‘lightning’, you cannot put the ‘thunder’ – the roar of the thunder, the flash of the lighting – you cannot capture the ‘rainbow’. All that is in the spoken word, in the action, in everything about the preacher. You cannot put that in print …

The effect of such preaching, of course, was simply overwhelming. He tells us himself about what he observed in the past of the poor colliers [coal miners] at Kingswood. These poor men had just come up out of the mines and their faces were quite black with the coal-dust as they stood listening to Whitefield. He says, ‘As I was preaching to them I suddenly began to observe white furrows in their black faces’. What was it? Oh, the tears were streaming down their faces and making furrows in the coal dust and grime. That is preaching! These poor men who knew nothing about doctrine, who knew nothing about anything but sin, who were just living in drunkenness and even in debauchery, listening to this amazing preaching of the Word of God were weeping copious tears …

 

George Whitefield preached with deep emotions about Jesus and his listeners were impacted by what he was saying in their minds (they understood the truth) and their emotions (they felt the truth impacting their innermost being and then let the tears make white furrows in their black faces).

And George Whitefield knew what he was doing. He insisted on preaching afeltChrist:

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p196: The next thing I have to stress is the emphasis which they all placed on ‘feeling’. They were very concerned about what Whitefield once called a ‘felt’ Christ. They were not content with orthodoxy, correct belief; they wanted to ‘feel’ him. They laid tremendous emphasis upon the place of feelings in our Christian experience …

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p121: Whitefield used to denounce an unconverted ministry, and he would do so even when large numbers of ministers were listening to him. Another way in which he put that was to say that, to him, for a man to preach what he called an ‘unfelt Christ’ was a most terrible thing – to preach about Christ without feeling the Christ within. He would denounce without measure men who were guilty of that.

 

George Whitefield insisted on the importance of feelings in the Christian faith. There had to be afeltChrist (you had to feel his importance to you and what he did for you on the cross) but there has always been opposition to people like him. Why? Can you think of reasons why?

I think that you have to be careful about manipulating people. It is one thing to preach afeltChrist but you cannot just whip up a crowd or scare them into the church by graphic descriptions of hell fire and torment. You cannot just play on people’s emotions because the feelings are not to run ahead of the mind. Feelings and understanding must be in harmony. Otherwise, people respond to a faith invitation because of a momentary feeling but fail to think more deeply about what they are doing and fail to commit on account of conviction in the mind and the will.

Feelings can be manipulated and they can be unhinged from a sound mind (which is not a good thing) but, in my view, this is not the dominant reason why many Christians oppose emotions in church. The issue is control. You can control the mind (to an extent) – control your own thinking and control the group thinking (draw up liturgies and confessions, fence everything in, threaten deviants) – but feelings are less subject to your own human will and control (penetrate deeper, more personal, more intimate). I can make a decision to hold up the resurrection of Jesus and control this piece of knowledge (to an extent) but I cannot make myself happy over it. I cannot produce joy and peace at will and this can be the source of great unease – especially when others who seem to know less and understand less than me (in my humble estimation J) experience greater feelings of happiness and joy.

The Bible knows how much we seem to prefer knowledge and how much easier it comes than something like love (where emotions back up the thinking and motivate the practice):

 

1 Corinthians 8:1-3: … We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.

 

Knowledge – especially when you ignore emotions (when you separate knowledge from compassion and love) – naked knowledge makes people proud. They seem to be in charge. They get a swelled head from what they seem to know but, without love and emotions of love, they do not yet know as they ought to know. In other words, the Bible seems to say (and we will expand on this later) that knowledge without corresponding emotions is incomplete knowledge. You also need to feel the truth to know the truth. [Notice also that love rather than knowledge makes us acceptable to God and known by him.]

We love to be in charge and sort everything out with our mind (rationalism, materialism, scientific mindset) and, also in church, we rely on the force of argumentation but what if uneducated coal miners have tears streaming down their faces because they are touched by the Good News of Jesus Christ and what if these same coal miners then know something about God with their heart that others of the educated ranks of church members do not seem to know. Doesn’t this upset the good order? It upsets church administration and control and asks uncomfortable questions about one’s own relationship with Jesus Christ. How real is he to me?

What is worse – what takes away control even more – you cannot even argue with people who feel so deeply about Jesus. They weep tears of repentance and then break out in the joy of salvation which (sometimes) makes themswing from chandelierswith joy inexpressible. It is very hard to argue with such people and put them back into the box of preaching anunfeltChrist because a life without emotions is not worth living. A church service without emotions is boring and how can you make God boring? [Alarm bells should ring when you are bored in church.] Once people get a glimpse that they can feel the truth about Jesus, they are not going to go back to anunfeltChrist.

According to the Bible, God has emotions – great and passionate emotions:

 

Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with His love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

 

Isaiah 62:5: … And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.

 

Jeremiah 31:3: I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

 

Luke 19:41-44: Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

 

The very essence of God is full of fiery hot emotions and, importantly, whoever does not share in God’s emotions, neither knows him nor does he know the deep truth of his nature and salvation. How can you know God if you ignore his core of deepest emotions and don’t meet him on this level?

 

Slide 1

 

1 John 4:7-16: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

 

1 John 2:3-11: Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked …

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

 

John 7:17:  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

 

John 8:31-32: Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

 

Ephesians 3:14-19: For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Therefore, knowing the truth without feeling the truth is incomplete knowledge and runs the danger of knowing nothing at all. “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar” (1 John 2:4). Therefore, knowing the truth without committing the heart to obey the truth – without experiencing the truth in the act of obedience and trying out the truth – (not just assenting to the truth with our minds) – is knowing nothing at all.

God is not a mathematical formula or a lifeless textbook which you can study with emotional detachment, with your intellect only. He is a person. He is God and you can only know him in relationship because he reveals himself to you only when you are in a relationship with him. He is the source of all truth and nothing is known unless it is revealed by him (through the Holy Spirit):

 

Slide 2

 

1 Corinthians 2:6-16: … But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned …

 

1 John 2:20: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

 

1 John 2:27: But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

 

Ephesians 1:17: The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.

 

[John 15:5: I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.]

 

Revelation that happens by the Spirit of God is a little different from just knowing something with your mind and scientific investigation. Revelation comes through understanding but also through feeling – through intuition. For instance, God often guides us into all truth through the feeling and sensation of his peace which is supernatural and surpassing human understanding. He speaks to us through our conscience which he purifies:

 

Colossians 3:15: … And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live].

 

Philippians 4:7: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

Hebrews 9:14: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

 

Romans 9:1: I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.

 

[Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control … / Romans 14:17: The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.]

 

I sum up this section before going on:

 

Slide 3

 

Preaching a ‘felt’ Christ

 

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). He who does not feel love and experience emotions of love (given by God) does not know God, for God is love.

 

He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar” (1 John 2:4). He who says, ‘I know Him,’ but has no feelings of commitment and motivation for obedience is mistaken about God.

 

“Now we have received … the Spirit who is from God, that we might know things …” (1 Corinthians 2:12). We know things by revelation which includes feelings of intuition and peace which surpasses human understanding.

 

In the Bible, people became followers with great displays of emotions:

 

Acts 2:36-37:  “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

 

1 Thessalonians 1:6: … you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

 

Acts 10:44-46: While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message … they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

 

Even in everyday living, we would doubt that someone understood the message if his emotional response was lacking. For instance, when a young man asks a woman for her hand in marriage and she answersyes”, we expect a bit of joy. If there is no joy (he may be stunned at first but joy is to come), something is wrong. Did he not understand the answer? In the same way, how can anyone hear about the almighty God sacrificing his own son for us and not be touched with conviction and gratitude?

Another comparison. In the natural world, you need eyes to see and understand colour. In the spiritual world, you need emotions to relate and understand our God of love (who created us for love, who sacrificed his Son for us for love, who weeps over a lost world for love, who offers salvation for love, who does nothing without love, who exercises power through love). [Heidi Baker advises to meet visiting witches and warlocks with love because this confuses them because in their kingdom of darkness they do not understand and know love. Cf. John 8:42-47.]

However, what if you don’t feel anything in your faith – in your relationship with God? What are you to do? Maybe you need to repent of resisting feelings? Maybe you need to repent and open up? In the Bible, there are plenty of people that were convinced of thinking rightly about themselves but ignored the tell-tale signs of pride and loss of passion. Like them, maybe we all need to repent. We can all feel more:

 

Luke 18:9-14: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” [Cf. Luke 7.]

 

Revelation 3:17-18: You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. [Revelation 3:15-16: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.]

 

In humility, we may even acknowledge that we have moved away from our own foundational confessions of faith. We no longer fully understand what they are saying:

 

Luther (Luther as quoted in Eric Gritsch, Martin Luther: Faith in Christ and the Gospel, 37-38): My soul magnifies God, the Lord … These words express the strong ardour and exuberant joy with which all her mind and life are inwardly exalted in the Spirit. It is as if she said: “My life and all my senses float in the love and praise of God and in lofty pleasures, so that I am no longer mistress of myself; I am exalted, more than I exalt myself, to praise the Lord.”

This is the experience of all those who are saturated with the divine sweetness and Spirit: They cannot find words to utter what they feel. For to praise the Lord with gladness is not a human work; it is rather a joyful suffering and the work of God alone. It cannot be taught in words but must be learned in one’s own experience …

 

Luther, Preface to the Book of Romans: Faith is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1). It … makes altogether different people, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith …

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all His creatures.

 

Slide 4

 

Augsburg Confession, Article XX: Of Good Works, 15: But, although this doctrine [justification by faith] is despised by the inexperienced, nevertheless God-fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be pacified through any works, but only by faith, when thev are sure that, for Christ's sake, they have a gracious God. Paul teaches [Rom. 5:1]: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” This whole doctrine is to be referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience; neither can it be understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane men judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that Christian righteousness is nothing but the civil righteousness of natural reason.

 

Apology of Augsburg Confession, Article III: Of Love and the Fulfilling of the Law, 229-231: How often conscience is aroused, how often it excites, even to despair, when it brings to view sins, either old or new, or the impurity of our nature? This handwriting is not blotted out without a great struggle, in which experience testifies what a difficult matter faith is. And while we are cheered in the midst of the terrors, and receive consolation, other spiritual movements at the same time grow, the knowledge of God, fear of God, hope, love of God; and we are “regenerated,” as Paul says (Col. 3:10 and 2 Cor. 3:18) : “in the knowledge of God,” and “beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image,” i. e. we receive the true knowledge of God, so that we truly fear him, truly trust that we are cared for, and that we are hearkened to by him. This regeneration is as it were the beginning of eternal life, as Paul says (Rom. 8:10): “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” And (2 Cor. 5:2,3): “We are clothed upon, if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” For when the present sin is mortified, and when in the midst of temptations we learn to seek the aid of God, and experience God’s presence, we acknowledge more and more distrust in [our own] hearts, and comfort ourselves by faith. Thus newness of spirit increases, as Paul says: “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed”


Slide 5

 

The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, II. Free Will, or Human Powers, 70: For it is once for all true that in genuine conversion a change, new emotion [renewal] and movement in understanding, will and heart must occur, namely, that the heart perceive sin, dread God’s wrath, turn itself from sin, perceive and accept the promise of grace in Christ, have good spiritual thoughts, a Christian purpose and diligence, and strive against the flesh. For where none of these occurs or is present there is also no true conversion.

 

Repentance – admitting that we have been wrong and changing our thinking – turning to God in humility – crying out to him for renewal (fresh feelings for him and the truth) – is the key. Only he can change our heart – the mind and the emotions and our will.

 

Exit Slide 5

 

However – with God’s help and guided by the Spirit of God – we can also begin to train our emotions. We can teach them to come into alignment with the truth. We can rouse at them when they feel wrongly. [This is a key teaching and truth which came to Clark Taylor a few years ago. When he was ready to walk away from the ministry, he had a visitation of Jesus in Alaska.]

 

Psalm 43:5: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

 

We can speak to ourselves. We can question our negative emotions. We can commit to the truth, imagine its wonders and grace and immerse ourselves in God’s positive emotions:

 

Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 

2 Corinthians 1:20-22: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

 

We can train our emotions until they learn to feel Jesus – full of faith – in all circumstances.

I conclude with a testimony by Christmas Evans:

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p186-190: … Can you have saving faith without any emotion? Can you be a Christian without emotion? ‘It produces,’ says William Williams, ‘a coldness, it chills men’s feelings.’

But let me quote what Christmas Evans says about it. Now Christmas Evans, that great Baptist preacher, was influenced by this teaching for a number of years; he fell to it, and this is what he tells us was the effect of doing so upon him: ‘The Sandemanian heresy [Perhaps the simplest way of putting it before you is to read a short extract from Robert Sandeman’s book … ‘The sole requisite to justification or acceptance with God, in opposition to those who while they openly avow only one meritorious cause of justification do yet lead the guilty to seek after some inward motion, feelings or desires, as some way requisite in order to acceptance with God.’ … Indeed, as Principal Macleod points out rightly, the Sandemanian teaching … ‘held itself coldly aloof from any display of feelings in the exercises of a religious life’. Now that is the very essence of this matter …] affected me so far as to quench the spirit of prayer for the conversion of sinners, and it induced in my mind a greater regard for the smaller things of the Kingdom of Heaven than for the greater. I lost the strength which clothed my mind with zeal, confidence and earnestness in the pulpit for the conversion of souls to Christ. My heart retrograded in a manner, and I could not realize the testimony of a good conscience. Sabbath nights, after having been in the day exposing and vilifying with all bitterness the errors that prevailed, my conscience felt as if displeased, and reproached me that I had lost nearness to and walking with God. It would intimate that something exceeding precious was now wanting in me. I would reply that I was acting in obedience to the Word, but it continued to accuse me of the want of some precious article. I had been robbed to a great degree of the spirit of prayer and of the spirit of preaching.’

This is the point at which we examine ourselves and especially those of us who are preachers. The question is not so much, are we still praying, are we still preaching – but have we got the spirit of prayer, have we got the spirit of preaching? You can preach mechanically, you can preach coldly; you can pray mechanically, you can pray coldly. The effect of this teaching upon Christmas Evans was to rob him of the warmth and the feeling and the urgency which he had known, and to introduce this terrible coldness into him. William Williams says, ‘Love is the greatest thing in religion, and if that is forgotten nothing can take its place.’

Sandemaniasm leads to coldness of spirit, to lack of prayer; it affects very profoundly also one’s assurance of salvation, and especially the highest form of assurance … the highest form of assurance is the immediate assurance that is given by the Spirit Himself. There is a mediate assurance that one can get from the Scriptures. I am not disputing that. But that is the lowest form of assurance, that is the first form – you believe the word of the Scriptures.

But you can go to a second form of assurance which is better, and what is the application of the tests suggested in the First Epistle of John: Do you love the brethren? Do you delight in His commandments and no longer find them grievous? And so on. Test yourself by those.

But there is yet another and a higher form of assurance: ‘The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God’. … Here is something in the realm of ‘feeling’: immediate and direct, and not indirect. Sandemanian teaching does away with that.

It also does away with the spirit of brokenness, and a spirit of humility. Is not this the most serious thing about us as modern Christians? … The result is that you get a mechanical performance of duties … How can we get out of this cold and arid and mechanical type of worship and Christian living? … Let me read a glorious statement from the Life of Christmas Evans. He tells us how he came out of it. There he was, under that blighting teaching of Sandemanism for about five years. He says, “I was weary, weary of a cold heart towards Christ and His sacrifice and the work of the Spirit.’ (Are you weary of that? Do you feel anything at the Comunion Table? Do you ‘feel’ anything?) ‘I was weary of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer and study For fifteen years previously I had felt my heart burning within me, as if going to Emmaus with Jesus. On a day ever to be remembered by me as I was going from Dolgelly to Machynlleth and climbing up towards Cader Idris I considered it incumbent upon me to pray, however hard I felt in my heart and however worldly the frame of my spirit was. Having begun in the name of Jesus I soon felt as it were the fetters loosening and the old hardness of heart softening, and as I thought, mountains of frost and snow dissolving and melting within me. This engendered confidence in my soul in the promise of the Holy Spirit. I felt my whole mind relieved from some great bondage, tears flowed copiously, and I was constrained to cry out for the gracious visits of God, by restoring to my soul the joys of salvation, and that He would visit the churches in Anglesey that were under my care. I embraced in my supplications all the churches of the saints, and nearly all the ministers in the principality by their names. This struggle lasted for three hours; it arose again and again like one wave after another, on a high flowing tide driven by a strong wind, until my nature became faint by weeping and crying. Thus I resigned myself to Christ body and soul, gifts and labours, all my life, every day and every hour that remained for me; and all my cares I committed to Christ. The road was mountainous and lonely and I was wholly alone and suffered no interruption in my wrestling with God.’

‘From this time I was made to expect the goodness of God to the churches and myself. Thus the Lord delivered me, and the people of Anglesey from being swept away by the evils of Sandemanianism. In the first religious meetings after this event, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold and sterile regions of spiritual frost into the verdant fields of divine promises. The former striving with God in prayer, and the longing anxiety for the conversion of sinners which I had experienced at Lleyn were now restored. I had a hold of the promises of God. The result was, when I returned home the first thing that arrested my attention was that the Spirit was working also in the brethren of Anglesey, inducing in them a spirit of prayer, especially in two of the deacons who were particularly importunate with God, that God would visit us in mercy and render the Word of His grace effectual among us for the conversion of sinners.’

That is our only hope: ‘All coldness from my heart remove.’

 

I want to feel my faith and I am sure (that) so do you. No one wants a cold religion – no one wants ‘spiritual frost’ – but a relationship with God who is real, who is known in love – full of passion and excitement. We can feel him in prayer and then preach afeltChrist which, in the case of George Whitefield, makes white furrows in the black faces of coal miners. Amen.

 

+++

 

Appendix: More quotes by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p196-200: The next thing I have to stress is the emphasis which they all placed on ‘feeling’. They were very concerned about what Whitefield once called a ‘felt’ Christ. They were not content with orthodoxy, correct belief; they wanted to ‘feel’ him. They laid tremendous emphasis upon the place of feelings in our Christian experience …

… our assurance of salvation is not only, and not merely, something that is to be deduced from the Scriptures. ‘Whosoever believeth in him is not condemned.’ So they say, ‘Do you believe in him?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Very well, you are not condemned, and there is your assurance. Do not worry about your feelings,’ etc. etc.

Now Methodist taught the exact opposite. That is the point at which you start, and you can go on and test yourself in terms of the teaching of the first Epistle of John. As you do so you will get a better assurance, an assurance which will save you from a kind of ‘believism’, or an intellectualism that just says that it believes and accepts all this, and which emphasizes the importance of evidences of new life. But these men were concerned to go on to a further source of assurance, which to them was the one that they desired and coveted above everything else. That was the direct witness of the Spirit himself to the fact that they were the children of God. So they made much, of course, of Romans 8:15 and 16; and also of Galatians 2:20: ‘The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’, etc …

William Williams made a great deal of this. Let me give two quotations to establish this point … How, then, do you question and examine a young convert? This is one of his ways of putting it – that the examiner is to say to the young convert, ‘Though you have not yet received the testimony of the Spirit (to your salvation), nevertheless, are you seeking God with your whole heart, and with this as the main rule of your life? Not by fits and starts or occasional touches of conviction – Is this the main thing in your life?’ But notice how the starts: ‘Though you have not yet received the testimony of the Spirit.’ Then when he comes to the way in which they should question the older men he says, ‘You must examine them concerning the clarity or the clearness of their testimony, how they first received their testimony, whether they have lost any of it or not.’ Then he tells them to ask: ‘Has this testimony which you have in your own spirit been doubled by the Spirit?’ That is the term he used – ‘doubled’. In other words, that was Williams’ view of ‘the Spirit himself also beareth witness with our spirits that we are children of God’ (Romans 8:16). Our spirit tells us this, ‘the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father’. But the Spirit, as it were, doubles it, seals it, guarantees it, gives an extra, an overplus on top of it, confirms it. That is the term which he uses with regard to the older converts.

That was their teaching, and, of course, it was their own experience … I go on from this to add another vital point about them all – Methodism in England and in Wales and in all parties. They met together in little groups or classes; whatever you may like to call them. What did they do there? Well, the main thing they did was to state their experiences to one another, and to examine one another’s experiences, and to discuss them together. They told of the Lord’s dealings with them, what had happened to them, and so on. This was the main element in these societies; that is the thing that Williams treats of in that book to which I have referred – this great emphasis on experience, and on assurance, on this ‘felt’ element. They were primarily ‘experience’ meetings. Indeed I think we are justified in using this term, that the thing that characterized Methodism was this pneumatic element. Over and above what they believed there was this desire to feel and to experience the power of the Spirit in their lives.

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p174-176: The vital question is, What is the true nature of saving faith? Perhaps the simplest way of putting it before you is to read a short extract from Robert Sandeman’s book … ‘The sole requisite to justification or acceptance with God, in opposition to those who while they openly avow only one meritorious cause of justification do yet lead the guilty to seek after some inward motion, feelings or desires, as some way requisite in order to acceptance with God.’ … ‘By the sole requisite’ he understands ‘the work finished by Christ in His death, proved by His resurrection to be all-sufficient to justify the guilty.’ Now there is the point: he maintains, ‘that the whole benefit of this event is conveyed to men only by the Apostolic report concerning it, that every one who understands this report to be true, or is persuaded that the event actually happened as testified by the Apostles, is justified and finds relief to his guilty conscience. That he is relieved not by finding any favourable symptoms about his own heart, but by finding their report to be true.’ That is a very good definition of this position.

But let me, to make it still more plain and clear, give you Principal John Macleod’s view of it. He says that the teaching of Glas ‘is fitted to put a premium upon what is held to be orthodox doctrine, and to lay less stress than is called for on the reaction of the emotional nature to the truth of the gospel, and on the activity of the will as that goes out in the trust of the heart and its attendant obedience in the life.’

The Westminster Confession, as you know, puts great emphasis upon this ‘trust of the heart’, that it is not merely an intellectual acceptance of the facts. Indeed, as Principal Macleod points out rightly, the Sandemanian teaching … ‘held itself coldly aloof from any display of feelings in the exercises of a religious life’. Now that is the very essence of this matter …

You may well ask, how was it that able men like this should ever have made such a point of this? What was their object in doing this; what led them to do this? Their answer was that they were trying to safeguard the doctrine of justification by faith only; and they felt that the others were re-introducing works. They were particularly opposed to those whom they called ‘the popular preachers’, like Wesley and Whitefield, and the others whom I have mentioned. The same thing was true of their followers in Wales. They were particularly opposed to the popular Calvinistic Methodist travelling preachers, who preached in a very emotional manner, and who provoked visible results in their congregations in the matter of emotions and so on. This was the thing which they disliked so much. They said that these men were turning faith into a work by introducing other elements.

This was put very plainly and clearly by Maclean himself. He said that to include good dispositions, holy affections, and pious exercises of the heart as demanded by law was to re-introduce works. That was the essence of their difficulty. They said that if you introduced any element of feeling, any kind of holy affections or desires you were introducing works, and that the only way to safeguard ‘justification by faith only’ was to say that faith was something solely in the intellect. It was ‘naked’ belief by the intellect …

On what grounds did they do so? Their great text, of course, was Romans 4:5: ‘But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly’. And they interpreted the word ‘ungodly’ as meaning ‘those who were enemies of God’, who at the very time they believed were enemies of God. They argued that it was the only possible meaning you can give to this word ‘ungodly’. Thus you have got to say that when they believed they were ungodly. That was their great text.

The other text they used a good deal was, ‘Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and everyone that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him’ (1 John 5:1). That was their position, that it had to be ‘naked faith’. That might well lead perhaps to feelings and to actions by the will later, but you must exclude everything like that entirely from your definition of faith.

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritans, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust 1987, p176-190: The questions, therefore, that are raised for us are these. What is the nature of saving faith, it is naked and notional only; or are feelings and the will included? That is the first question. The second is, does faith precede or follow repentance? And thirdly, does faith precede or follow regeneration?

Those questions show clearly why I suggest that this is a very contemporary subject. Indeed I would go further and suggest that it is one of the main problems before us at the present time … The first question, obviously, is this – the exegesis of Romans 4:5. What is meant by ‘the ungodly’? As these protagonists, and especially Andrew Fuller, pointed out very clearly, the very cases quoted by Paul in Romans 4 made the Sandemanian interpretation quite impossible. The apostle is actually dealing at that point with the case of Abraham in the first instance. He is showing how this teaching of justification by faith only, which he has been elaborating in the first three chapters of that epistle to the Romans and especially as he summed it up in chapter 3, is not anything new, but that this is what happened in the case of Abraham.

They went on to show quite clearly that all this happened, not when he was in Ur of the Chaldees, but long afterwards when for some time he had been a godly and a God-fearing man. It is, therefore, ridiculous to describe Abraham at the point when this term is used with respect to him, as ‘ungodly’ in the sense of meaning an enemy of God. In the same way Andrew Fuller pointed out that the case of David, which Paul also quotes in that chapter, is exactly parallel with that of Abraham, and that, if you take the trouble to turn up the Scriptures, you will find that both Abraham and David cannot at any point be described as ‘enemies of God’. They were both godly men.

What Paul is concerned to show and to emphasize is that they were not justified by their works. He is not trying to say that they were enemies of God at this point, but he is saying that it is not their works that save them. It is through the faith which has been given t them that they are justified; that is how it comes to them. It is the action of God, and not their action. As Fuller and others point out, verse 20 of that chapter really settles the matter. There, the apostle, coming back to the case of Abraham, actually says about him, ‘He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; he gave God the glory’. ‘He gave God the glory!’ The argument is that in no sense can this be described as something ‘notional’, ‘purely intellectual’, or ‘naked faith’, but that of necessity it includes these other qualities of heart and will.

Then, of course, you have to deal with a statement like that in Romans 10, verses 9 and 10. This statement inevitably played a great part in the whole contention, ‘That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’ Of course, the followers of Glas and Sandeman had to say that the ‘heart’ there simply means the mind. But it was pointed out to them that this is not the way which the Scripture uses the term ‘heart’. It does not confine it to the affections, but it means the centre of the personality, the centre of man’s being including all these various faculties, not exclusively the mind but including the others also …

That is the general answer to the Sandemanian view of faith. But we must get a little closer to this and examine more clearly what the Scripture tells us directly about the nature of faith. Here are the answers which these men gave between them. They pointed out, in the first instance, that faith is a duty, and therefore of necessity the will is included.

Secondly, they pointed out that faith is a grace given by the Holy Spirit. Here, they quoted 1 Corinthians 13, ‘Now abideth faith, hope, charity …’ As it is a grace, it cannot be confined to the head only and to the intellect; it is not merely something notional …

[John 5:38-44] There they were able to show clearly that a question of choice is involved, and that that is determined by the state of the heart towards God.

In addition to that, they said that the whole idea of faith is expressed in terms which indicate the exercise of affection. They produced many examples of this … [2 Thessalonians 2:10; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37: “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”]

Another most powerful argument, it seems to me, is that want of faith is generally ascribed to moral causes, or to a want of a right disposition. Take again those verses at the end of John 5, and still more striking, the series of statements in John 8 from verse 33 onwards. You remember our Lord had just said, ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’ and then the Jews answered Him, ‘We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?’ Here is the conflict, here is the unbelief; and what our Lord says to them is this: ‘I know that ye are Abraham’s seed, but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father; and ye do that which ye have seen with your father’ (verses 37, 38). They objected to this and said, ‘Abraham is our father’. And He said, ‘If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God … Ye do the deeds of your father’, and so on. ‘Jesus said unto them, if God were your Father, ye would love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God’ (verses 39-42). Their whole unbelief is based upon their not loving Him, their antagonism to Him in fact, and that is something, of course, that we can link up with various other statements also. You have the phrase in Hebrews 3 about ‘an evil heart of unbelief’. An evil ‘heart’ of unbelief!

Moreover, there are those statements which are to be found in Ephesians 4, verse 17, and following: ‘This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness’, and so on.

All these statements show that unbelief is due always to a state of the heart. That is what produces it and governs it. It is not a mere error of the understanding; indeed it is what Paul says in Romans 8:7: ‘It is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ The trouble with the unbeliever is not simply in his mind; it is much deeper, it is an ‘enmity against God’, it is ‘an evil heart of unbelief’. There is the essential trouble.

Those were the main arguments that were brought against the Sandemanians to show the true nature of faith – saving faith – and that it clearly, in the light of all these Scriptures, is not something that you can confine to the mind or the intellect.

Then what about that second question about the relationship between repentance and faith? … Sandeman and the rest taught that faith comes first and is followed by repentance. Others in their replies were concerned to show that it is the other way round, that faith implies repentance, and that therefore if there is no repentance, there is no true faith … Fuller puts it in a phrase. ‘Faith without repentance is not genuine’ …

What conclusions do we draw from all this? … Clearly it immediately affects evangelism. These men were much opposed to Boston and the Erskines and Flavel in the previous century, and all who preached the Law and called to repentance. They said that they were trying to create feelings in their listeners, and that you must not do that. You must just give them the evidence that God has sent His Son into the world to save them. You must not preach the Law, and you must not call men to repentance.

There is a good deal of that kind of teaching in our age … Christmas Evans pointed out how these people were bitterly opposed to what was called ‘warm preaching’. They did not like that. You see, you simply had to present the evidence, and you did it more or less like a barrister … Those holding Sandemanian views are always opposed to warm, emotional preaching, and any preaching which would have the effect of bringing people to a feeling, and a sensible knowledge, of the fact that they were sinners, and the terrors of the Law, and that they were to face a holy God, and that they would have to be holy before they could face Him …

But it also has a great effect, obviously, upon the type of Christian that it produces, and this was the thing that so concerned William Williams. He said, ‘It chills one’s feelings until they despise Heaven’s pure breezes’. They were against emotion as such, and in particular at the point of believing. This is something that concerns us. I shall never forget how a few years ago a very well-known evangelical leader came to me and asked if I had been yet to a series of meetings that were being held here in London. I said, ‘No, I have not had the opportunity so far’. He said, ‘It’s marvelous, it’s wonderful. The people are streaming forward. No emotion! It’s marvelous. It’s wonderful – no emotion’. He was glorying in the fact that the people who were going forward to register their decision were not showing any emotion at all; this was something to be gloried in. It is just here that this teaching becomes so serious. Can you have saving faith without any emotion? Can you be a Christian without emotion? ‘It produces,’ says William Williams, ‘a coldness, it chills men’s feelings.’

But let me quote what Christmas Evans says about it. Now Christmas Evans, that great Baptist preacher, was influenced by this teaching for a number of years; he fell to it, and this is what he tells us was the effect of doing so upon him: ‘The Sandemanian heresy affected me so far as to quench the spirit of prayer for the conversion of sinners, and it induced in my mind a greater regard for the smaller things of the Kingdom of Heaven than for the greater. I lost the strength which clothed my mind with zeal, confidence and earnestness in the pulpit for the conversion of souls to Christ. My heart retrograded in a manner, and I could not realize the testimony of a good conscience. Sabbath nights, after having been in the day exposing and vilifying with all bitterness the errors that prevailed, my conscience felt as if displeased, and reproached me that I had lost nearness to and walking with God. It would intimate that something exceeding precious was now wanting in me. I would reply that I was acting in obedience to the Word, but it continued to accuse me of the want of some precious article. I had been robbed to a great degree of the spirit of prayer and of the spirit of preaching.’

This is the point at which we examine ourselves and especially those of us who are preachers. The question is not so much, are we still praying, are we still preaching – but have we got the spirit of prayer, have we got the spirit of preaching? You can preach mechanically, you can preach coldly; you can pray mechanically, you can pray coldly. The effect of this teaching upon Christmas Evans was to rob him of the warmth and the feeling and the urgency which he had known, and to introduce this terrible coldness into him. William Williams says, ‘Love is the greatest thing in religion, and if that is forgotten nothing can take its place.’

Sandemaniasm leads to coldness of spirit, to lack of prayer; it affects very profoundly also one’s assurance of salvation, and especially the highest form of assurance … the highest form of assurance is the immediate assurance that is given by the Spirit Himself. There is a mediate assurance that one can get from the Scriptures. I am not disputing that. But that is the lowest form of assurance, that is the first form – you believe the word of the Scriptures.

But you can go to a second form of assurance which is better, and what is the application of the tests suggested in the First Epistle of John: Do you love the brethren? Do you delight in His commandments and no longer find them grievous? And so on. Test yourself by those.

But there is yet another and a higher form of assurance: ‘The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God’. … Here is something in the realm of ‘feeling’: immediate and direct, and not indirect. Sandemanian teaching does away with that.

It also does away with the spirit of brokenness, and a spirit of humility. Is not this the most serious thing about us as modern Christians? … The result is that you get a mechanical performance of duties … How can we get out of this cold and arid and mechanical type of worship and Christian living? … Let me read a glorious statement from the Life of Christmas Evans. He tells us how he came out of it. There he was, under that blighting teaching of Sandemanism for about five years. He says, “I was weary, weary of a cold heart towards Christ and His sacrifice and the work of the Spirit.’ (Are you weary of that? Do you feel anything at the Comunion Table? Do you ‘feel’ anything?) ‘I was weary of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer and study For fifteen years previously I had felt my heart burning within me, as if going to Emmaus with Jesus. On a day ever to be remembered by me as I was going from Dolgelly to Machynlleth and climbing up towards Cader Idris I considered it incumbent upon me to pray, however hard I felt in my heart and however worldly the frame of my spirit was. Having begun in the name of Jesus I soon felt as it were the fetters loosening and the old hardness of heart softening, and as I thought, mountains of frost and snow dissolving and melting within me. This engendered confidence in my soul in the promise of the Holy Spirit. I felt my whole mind relieved from some great bondage, tears flowed copiously, and I was constrained to cry out for the gracious visits of God, by restoring to my soul the joys of salvation, and that He would visit the churches in Anglesey that were under my care. I embraced in my supplications all the churches of the saints, and nearly all the ministers in the principality by their names. This struggle lasted for three hours; it arose again and again like one wave after another, on a high flowing tide driven by a strong wind, until my nature became faint by weeping and crying. Thus I resigned myself to Christ body and soul, gifts and labours, all my life, every day and every hour that remained for me; and all my cares I committed to Christ. The road was mountainous and lonely and I was wholly alone and suffered no interruption in my wrestling with God.’

‘From this time I was made to expect the goodness of God to the churches and myself. Thus the Lord delivered me, and the people of Anglesey from being swept away by the evils of Sandemanianism. In the first religious meetings after this event, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold and sterile regions of spiritual frost into the verdant fields of divine promises. The former striving with God in prayer, and the longing anxiety for the conversion of sinners which I had experienced at Lleyn were now restored. I had a hold of the promises of God. The result was, when I returned home the first thing that arrested my attention was that the Spirit was working also in the brethren of Anglesey, inducing in them a spirit of prayer, especially in two of the deacons who were particularly importunate with God, that God would visit us in mercy and render the Word of His grace effectual among us for the conversion of sinners.’

That is our only hope: ‘All coldness from my heart remove.’