Friday, February 05, 2016

The Vision (2.5.16): An Anchor of the Soul



Hebrews 6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

In v. 19 the inspired author describes the Christian hope as “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.”  He is not thinking of an anchor in rock climbing but of an anchor that holds a ship steadfast in a storm and keeps it from crashing onto the shore.  The same word agkyra appears three times in Acts 27 in the description of Paul’s sea voyages (vv. 29, 30, 40).

In Ephesians 4:14, Paul can speak of immature Christians as like “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” 

In 1 Timothy 1, Paul could likewise warn Timothy not to be like Hymenaeus and Alexander, who, he said, “made shipwreck” of the faith they had once possessed (vv. 19-20).

The point here:  The people to whom Hebrews is written were literally drifting away from Christ.  They were doing so either due to persecution, hardships, trials, doubts, moral failings, or, perhaps, due to spiritual laziness (see v. 12a:  “That ye be not slothful”).  The admonition here:  We have an anchor for the soul.  We have what Peter calls “the exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).  Thomas Watson observed:  “Having cast anchor in heaven, a Christian’s heart never sinks” (Divine Contentment, p. 15).

So, like Abraham, we have God’s immutable counsel and his oath (Hebrews 6:17).

We have a strong consolation (v. 18).

We have a refuge (v. 18).

We have the horns of the altar.

We have the hope set before us (v. 18).

We have the anchor of our souls, sure and steadfast (v. 19a).

But notice how the metaphor shifts in vv. 19b-20.  This anchor entered “into that within the veil” (v. 19b).  He is talking about a high priest who entered into the holy of holies to make sacrifices for the sins of the people.

He is the “forerunner” who entered “for us” (v. 20).  The anchor of our soul is a person:  “even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (v. 20).  Jesus is the anchor of our souls.  It is because of Christ that we have assurance that we might persevere to the end.


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

2016 Chinese Lunar New Year Tracts


2016 Chinese Lunar New Year Tracts for "The Year of the Monkey" can be downloaded at the Gospel Highway Magazine website (look here).  Tracts are available in Chinese and in Chinese/English.

JTR

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

An Internal Argument for the Comma Johanneum



I re-read today the Trinitarian Bible Society article by G. W. Anderson and D. E. Anderson titled "Why 1 John 5:7-8 Is In The Bible?" (You can read it here).  The article reviews the comments of three interpreters from three different eras who defended the authenticity of the so-called Comma Johanneum or "Three Heavenly Witnesses" passage: Matthew Henry (1700s), Robert Lewis Dabney (1800s); and Edward F. Hills (1900s).

The external evidence for the CJ is admittedly weak, but Dabney and Hills both point out what, I believe, is one of the strongest arguments from internal evidence in favor of the CJ based, in particular, on gender agreement.

If the CJ is omitted the passage would read:

5:7a  For there are three which bear witness [hoti treis eisin hoi martyrountes]

5:8b  The Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are one [to pneuma kai to hudor kai to haima, kai hoi treis eis to hen eisen].

The problem would be that the three neuter singular nouns in v. 8b would be preceded by the masculine adjective number three [treis] and the masculine plural article and participle [hoi martyrountes] and followed by the masculine plural article and masculine adjective number three [hoi treis]. 

If, however, the CJ were original, v. 7a would be followed instead by "in the heaven, the Father, and the Word, and the Holy Spirit [en to ourano, ho pater, ho logos, kai to hagion pneuma]," which, with two masculine singular nouns [ho pater, ho logos] and one neuter singular adjective and noun [to hagion pneuma], would appear to fit better grammatically in the context.

This point is made by Dabney and cited in the article:

First, if it be made, the masculine article, numeral, and particle…are made to agree directly with three neuters—an insuperable and very bald grammatical difficulty. But if the disputed words are allowed to stand, they agree directly with two masculines and one neuter noun…where, according to a well known rule of syntax, the masculines among the group control the gender over a neuter connected with them....

The same point is made by Hills and cited in the article:

In the third place, the omission of the Johannine comma involves a grammatical difficulty. The words spirit, water, and blood are neuter in gender, but in 1 John 5:8 they are treated as masculine. If the Johannine comma is rejected, it is hard to explain this irregularity. It is usually said that in 1 John 5.8 the spirit, the water, and the blood are personalized and that this is the reason for the adoption of the masculine gender. But it is hard to see how such personalization would involve the change from the neuter to the masculine. For in verse 6 the word Spirit plainly refers to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. Surely in this verse the word Spirit is “personalized,” and yet the neuter gender is used. Therefore, since personalization did not bring about a change of gender in verse 6, it cannot fairly be pleaded as the reason for such a change in verse 8. If, however, the Johannine comma is retained, a reason for placing the neuter nouns spirit, water, and blood in the masculine gender becomes readily apparent. It was due to the influence of the nouns Father and Word, which are masculine. Thus the hypothesis that the Johannine comma is an interpolation is full of difficulties.

This does indeed appear to represent a substantial internal argument in favor of the originality and authenticity of the CJ.

JTR  

HBU Erasmus Conference Schedule Update


The full conference schedule for the upcoming Erasmus Conference at Houston Baptist University (see my previous post here) has been posted (see the schedule here).  Looks like I'll be doing my "John Calvin and Text Criticism" paper in the 2:30 pm session on Friday, February 26.  My co-presenter in that session will be looking at Martin Luther's views on the text of the NT.  I look forward to hearing his paper.


JTR

Monday, February 01, 2016

Word Magazine # 45: Is Acts 8:37 in the New Testament?


Note:  I just posted WM # 45 Is Acts 8:37 in the New Testament? to sermonaudio.com.  Below are my notes:

1.  Three basic camps on the text of the NT:

a.  Modern critical text advocates: The best text is the modern eclectic text.

b.  Majority text advocates:  The best text is that found in the majority of extant mss. or the Byzantine text.

c.  Textus Receptus advocates:  The best text is that which was the consensus text at the time of the Reformation and which is represented in the standard printed text produced in this era.  We can also call this the “confessional text” position.

Of these three, positions b and c are closer to each other than either is to position a.  Both b and c agree, for example, that Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53—8:11 should be included in the NT text.

Views b and c are not, however, identical.  The Textus Receptus includes several passages that are minority readings which do not appear in the majority of Greek mss.  The best known of these is the Comma Johanneum, 1 John 5:7b-8a.  Another of the best known of these is Acts 8:37, the baptismal confession of the Ethiopian Eunuch.

2.  The texual issue with Acts 8:37:

This verse is omitted in the modern critical text and relegated to the footnotes, a practice followed by translations based on the modern critical text.

So, if you look at a translation like the Tyndale NT, the Geneva Bible, the KJV or NKJV you find v. 37.  Cf. the KJV:

KJV Acts 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

If you look at modern translations based on the modern critical text, like the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, etc., however, you will find the verse is missing, moving from v. 36 to v. 38 with v. 37 in the footnote with some comment about its presence being missing.  The ESV note, for example, begins, “Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37….”

3.  External evidence:

Inclusion of v. 37 is supported by the following Greek mss.:  E (Codex Laudianus), 36, 323, 453, 945, 1739, 1891, 2818 and others.  Among the versions, it is also included in the Old Latin, the Clementine Vulgate, some Harklean Syriac mss., and the Mesokemic [Middle] Egyptian.

Exclusion of v. 37 is supported by the following Greek mss.:  p45, p74, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, C, 33, 81, 614.  Among the versions, it is omitted in the Vulgate, the Peshitta and Harklean Syriac, the Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic, the Ethiopic.

Analysis:

Exclusion is supported by two papyri (p45 and p74) and by the modern critical heavyweights Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, as well as Codex Alexandrinus.  Exclusion is the Majority text reading.

In his Textual Commentary (Third Ed.), Bruce Metzger describes v. 37 as a “Western addition.”  He concludes:  “There is no reason why scribes should have omitted the material, if it had originally stood in the text” (p. 359).

He adds that Erasmus found the verse in the margin of ms. 4, from which he inserted it into the text, having “judged that it had been omitted by the carelessness of the scribes (arbitror omissum librariorum incuria)” (p. 360).

Nevertheless, the inclusion of v. 37 is found in a minority stream of the Greek NT, though the earliest ms. in which it appears is the sixth century ms. E.

Some commentators are also keen to note that even among the manuscripts which contain it, there are some variations, but this should not be overstated.  Codex E, for example includes the name “Philip” in the opening, “And Philip said to him” and adds “in the Christ” before the confession “the Son of God.”  The similarities of the verse in the manuscripts which contain it are greater than the differences.

The most important piece of evidence in support of v. 37 is the fact that it is cited in the Church Fathers:  Irenaeus (second century; bishop of Lyon from c. 177) cites v. 37 in Against Heresies (3.12.8); Cyprian (d. September 14, 258) in The Treatises of Cyprian, Treatise 12, 3.43; and Augustine (d. 430) in Homily 49.11.

Clearly v. 37 is very ancient and it was acknowledged as part of the text at a very early stage.

4.  Internal Evidence:

As noted above, Metzger has argued that if v. 37 is original there is no good reason for it to have been omitted.  He can, however, imagine how it might have been added.  In his Textual Commentary [emphasis added], he observes that “the formula” was “doubtless used by the early church in baptismal ceremonies, and may have been written in the margin of the copy.  Its insertion into the text seems to have been due to the feeling that Philip could not have baptized the Ethiopian without securing a confession of faith, which needed to be expressed in the narrative.”

The challenge to this view comes in the fact that it appears so early in the Church Fathers.

Can we not imagine any reasons why there might have been doctrinal controversy over this verse that might have led to its omission?  Though it was common in the nineteenth century to argue that the NT text was not affected by doctrinal controversy (see Westcott and Hort), that view began to be toppled by Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (English ed., 1971).  Bauer’s influence is seen in Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture:  The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of Scripture (1993).

Surely, we can see that there might have been some controversy over the Ethiopian’s declaration:  “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

There might also have been controversy over baptism.  This is something that J. A. Alexander noted in his 1857 commentary on Acts when he defended v. 37 as genuine and suggested it was omitted by many scribes, “as unfriendly to the practice of delaying baptism, which had become common, if not prevalent, before the end of the 3rd century” (as cited in Hills, The King James Version Defended, p. 201).

5.  Cottrel R. Carson’s arguments for Acts 8:37:

Let me add that at least one modern critic has challenged the status quo and argued for reconsideration of Acts 8:37.  Cottrel Carson, former NT Professor at Mercer University, is the author of “Acts 8:37—A Textual Reexamination” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 51:1-2 (1997):  pp. 57-78.  Again, Carson is by no means a TR advocate.  Still, among other points, he made the following observations regarding the critical text omission of Acts 8:37:

a.  The critical text reflects over-reliance on the uncial mss. and under-reliance on the Church Fathers and papyri.

b.  In the case of Acts 8:37 he notes that while p45 is dated to the third century, p74 is dated to the seventh century.

c.  He suggests that Acts 8:26-39 might have been “an independent document”  used as a source by Luke in which “the baptismal formula, including v. 37, was integral to the independent document” (p. 66).

d.  He suggests that p50 (dated to the third century) might be an example of this “independent document” though, unfortunately, the fragment of the passage only contains Acts 8:26-32 (p. 67).

e.  He suggests historical reasons why v. 37 might have been omitted in the fourth century, including an attempt to remove the practice of a direct declaration (pp. 71-72) and an effort to put the focus on Cornelius  as the first Gentile convert, rather than the Ethiopian Eunuch (pp. 72-75).  These are speculative, but they provide attempts to explains how and why v. 37 might have come under suspicion.

f.  Carson concludes that “in the final analysis, there is a strong case for verse 37’s being part of a tradition earlier than that found in the fourth-century manuscripts” (p. 75).  As to the NA and UBS Greek NTs, he says “there is not sufficient evidence to justify the certainty with which these two texts reject verse 37.  At the very least, verse 37 should be moved from the textual apparatus into the text, perhaps with brackets” (p. 76).


6.  Providential inclusion:

We would go further than Carson and argue that Acts 8:37 should be acknowledged as part of the inspired text (i.e., not in the footnotes and without brackets).  Acts 8:37 was providentially included in the first and subsequent editions of Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum.  It was then included in the Protestant printed editions of the Textus Receptus like those of Stephanus and Beza.  From this it was included in the Reformation era vernacular translations of the Bible.

Of particular significance is the fact that the framers of the great confessional statements, like the 2LBCF 1689, cited Acts 8:37 as a prooftext (see the 1689 confession, chapter 29 of Baptism, paragraph 2).  There is a confessional issue if one rejects the traditional text (MT of OT; TR of NT).

This is a problem not only for those who hold to the modern critical text but also for those who hold to the Majority/Byzantine text.  In conversation with a fellow RB pastor who is Majority/Byzantine advocate, I offered these challenges to that text:

1.  It is basically a modern development (19th-20th century).

2.  Its advocates have generally not been Reformed men (Burgon was a high Anglican; Farstand and Hodges were dispensationalists; Robinson is a broad evangelical SB).

3.  It is the basis of no standard or widely used translation in any language.

4.  It is a restorationist approach which does not exist in any standard format (whether Farstad/Hodges, Robinson/Pierpont, or Wilbur Pickering's edition based on family 35).

In the end, on a practical and pastoral level, Acts 8:37 is a very significant passage, especially for Reformed Baptists.  Our NT would be severely diminished if it were absent from the text or relegated to a footnote.


JTR

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Vision (1.29.16): More Gleanings from Watson on Contentment


Image:  Sunset in North Garden, Virginia, January 2016

Nearly two feet of snow in Central Virginia resulted in cancelled services at CRBC on Sunday.  Though we watched some livestream services at home over sermonaudio.com it just wasn’t the same as being physically present with the saints.  Looking forward to a reunion with the brethren in worship this Sunday, God willing.

With no sermon last Sunday, there was no manuscript from which to cull a devotion this week.  Here, instead, are a few citations from Thomas Watson’s The Art of Divine Contentment (original 1653; Soli Deo Gloria reprint, 2001):

“Having cast anchor in heaven, a Christian’s heart never sinks” (p. 15).

“The child’s sin is sometimes the parent’s sermon” (p. 37).

“Better to deserve respect and not have it than to have it and not deserve it” (p. 45).

“It is better that God should approve than that men should applaud” (p. 46).

“When the devil cannot destroy the church by violence, he endeavors to poison it” (p. 50).

“A sanctified heart is better than a silver tongue” (p. 54).

“Christ is in the ship of His church:  do not fear sinking” (p. 55).

“Atheism is the fruit that grows out of the blossom of discontent” (p. 68).

“Sickness, says contentment, is God’s furnace to refine His gold, and make it sparkle all the more” (p. 69).

“God makes our adversity our university” (p. 74).

“The discontented person thinks that everything he does for God is too much, and everything God does for him is too little” (p. 84).

“The house of the godly is a little heaven, the house of the wicked a little hell” (p. 102).

“If we do not have what we desire, we have more than we deserve” (p. 121).

May the Lord grant us a contented spirit.


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Note: Poh Boon Sing's "A Garden Enclosed"



Note:  The first book I finished reading this year was Pastor Poh Boon Sing's "A Garden Enclosed" (Good News Enterprise, 2013). I have completed a draft of an extended review of the book that I hope to refine and share somewhere in the future.  This is an important work on Baptist ecclesiology that has not gotten the attention it deserves (whether one agrees with Poh's thesis or not).  Below are the opening couple of sections in the draft of my review:

Boon Sing Poh, A Garden Enclosed:  A historical study and evaluation of the form of church government practiced by the Particular Baptists in the 17th and 18th centuries (Good News Enterprise, 2013):  330 pp.


Introduction

Poh Boon Sing is a Reformed Baptist Pastor in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia who has studied and written extensively in the area of ecclesiology.  A Garden Enclosed (hereafter AGE) is a work of historical theology tracing the form of church government practiced by the early Particular Baptists, the doctrinal forerunners to today’s Reformed Baptists.  The title is taken from Song of Solomon 4:12, 16.  This work served as Poh’s 2012 PhD thesis in Church History from North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Background to the work

In many ways, this work is a continuation and expansion of Poh’s previous studies in ecclesiology and his dialogue with other pastors and scholars on this topic.  Poh’s important 1995 book The Keys of the Kingdom presented his Reformed Baptistic “Independency” view of church government, inspired by the ecclesiology of the influential Puritan John Owen. Among other things, Poh argued in that work for a distinction within the one office of elder between the teaching elder and the ruling elder, for a distinct and singular leading role for the minister or pastor (teaching elder) among the elders, and for elder rule with congregational consent (as opposed to democratic congregationalism) in the church.

Poh’s views in Keys of the Kingdom met with approval in some corners.  The book is used, for example, in theological education courses by London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon’s former church, where Peter Masters is now pastor) and distributed through their bookshop.  It also met with critique and criticism from some corners.  Sam Waldron and others argued against Poh’s distinction in the office of elder in the booklet In Defense of Parity (1997).  Poh, in turn, responded to Waldron, et al in his booklet Against Parity (2006).  James Renihan challenged Poh’s assertion that this view of church government had been widespread among the early Particular Baptists in England (see Edification and Beauty, pp. 63-87).  Thus, AGE might be considered a continuation and expansion of the issues addressed in The Keys of the Kingdom, with particular attention to Particular Baptist history and a defense of his views, especially against the historical objections raised by Renihan.

Overview of content

AGE has a helpful abstract and preface which introduce the work.  This is followed by seven chapters:  (1) Introduction; (2) Autonomy; (3) The Headship of Christ; (4) Rule by Elders; (5) The Byways; (6) The Communion of Churches; and (7) Conclusion (including a discussion of unsettled issues and recommendations for moving forward).
Poh’s central thesis is that the likely majority practice of the earliest Particular Baptists (c. 1650-1750), under the influence of John Owen and others, was that of the “Independency” view of church government, including the existence and recognition of both teaching and ruling elders, a leading role for a singular pastor among the other elders, and elder rule with congregational consent.  Such a view is not contradicted by the Second London Baptist Confession (1689) but underlies it.  Later Particular Baptists, however, beginning especially with Benjamin Keach in the late seventeenth century, through to John Gill in the eighteenth century, altered this form of church government, in favor of the single pastor/multiple deacons model of democratic congregationalism.  Poh furthermore urges that the early Independent model of Particular Baptist ecclesiology be reclaimed in the modern context.  He also appeals to contemporary Reformed Baptists to reclaim the practice of “communion” among like-minded churches.
JTR

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Vision (1.22.16): That ye be not slothful


Image:  New members sign membership covenant at CRBC (1.17.16)

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 6:11-15.

“That ye be not slothful….” (Hebrews 6:12)

True Christians are not to be the equivalent of spiritual slackers or spiritual lazy bones.  The ethicists of the middle ages identified sloth or laziness as one of the seven deadly sins.  Warnings against slothfulness are especially abundant in the Proverbs (cf. Proverbs 12:24; 15:19; 19:24; 21:25; 22:13; 26:14).

These Proverbs are about the practical, earthly dangers of laziness.  It is, in part, attention to passages like these by Bible-believing Christians that resulted in what is called the Protestant work ethic.  It is a vice to be slothful, but it is a virtue to be diligent, alert, active, and hard-working.

Here in Hebrews 6:12 that sort of practical advice is turned to spiritual matters:  “that ye be not slothful.”  Some of the problems with the Hebrews to whom this letter was addressed, professed believers who were shrinking back from Christ, might well have been caused by fear brought about by persecution, by discouragement, and by doubt.  Some of it, however, might have been brought about by their own sheer laziness and lack of diligence.

The spiritually lazy person might well understand in theory the importance of corporate worship, of daily Bible reading, of constant prayer, of spiritual meditation, of secret fasting, of tangible expressions of love for the brethren and love of neighbor.  He might even imagine in his mind that he has been diligent about such things, when he has not.  I have sometimes exhorted persons who have forsaken the assemblies of God’s people without providential cause who have protested, “But I am there every Sunday!”  The spiritually slothful often lack critical self-awareness.

Consider this image in the Proverbs:

Proverbs 24:30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. 33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

What does your spiritual house look like?  Is it cultivated, well maintained, handsome, sound, and circumspect?  Or, is it broken down, overgrown, dilapidated, suffering from lack of attention?

The counterpart to spiritual laziness is what we sometimes call the spiritual disciplines.  These are the ordinary practices of Christian discipleship, or what our catechism calls the outward and ordinary means of grace, including things like the intake of God’s Word, the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), prayer and meditation, to which it adds, “by all of which the believers are further edified in their most holy faith.”

These are the spiritual workouts which keep us lean and fit for running the race of the Christian life.  Consider the exhortations of the apostle Paul and his description of the Christian life as like running a race (cf. Phil 3:13-14; 1 Cor 9:24-27).

The Christian, then, is like an elite athlete who must always be training and submitting himself to the personal and corporate disciplines so that he might, by God’s grace, cultivate the stamina and the endurance needed to run and to finish the race that is set before him.

Friends, let us avoid spiritual slothfulness and be diligent to the end.


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Thomas Boston on the "balance of the sanctuary"


Note:  I finished reading today the last chapter in Thomas Boston's Human Nature in its Fourfold State (1720) [read online here].  The final chapter is a sober address titled "Hell."  At the close, Boston admonishes the reader to use the "balance of the sanctuary" to weigh his life:

Here is a balance of the sanctuary, by which we may understand the lightness of what is falsely thought weighty; and the weight of some things, by many reckoned to be very light.

Some things seem very weighty, which, weighed in this balance, will be found very light–

(a) Weigh the world, and all that is in it, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and the whole will be found light in the balance of eternity.

Weigh herein all worldly profits, gains, and advantages; and you will quickly see, that a thousand worlds will not compensate for an eternity of woe! 'For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' (Matt 16:26). Weigh the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season, with the fire that is everlasting, and you show yourself to be fools and madmen, to run the hazard of losing the one for the other.

(b) Weigh your afflictions in this balance, and you will find the heaviest of them very light, in respect of the weight of eternal anguish. Impatience under affliction, especially when worldly troubles so embitter men's spirits that they cannot relish the glad tidings of the Gospel, speaks great regardlessness of eternity.

As a small and inconsiderable loss will be very little at heart with him who sees himself in danger of losing his whole estate; so troubles in the world will appear but light to him who has a lively view of eternity. Such a one will stoop and take up his cross, whatever it be, thinking it enough to escape eternal wrath.

(c) Weigh the most difficult and uneasy duties of religion here, and you will no more reckon the yoke of Christ insupportable.

Repentance and bitter mourning for sin, on earth, are very light in comparison of eternal weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in hell! To wrestle with God in prayer, weeping and making supplication for the blessing in time, is far easier than to lie under the curse through all eternity! Mortification of the most beloved lust is a light thing in comparison with the second death in hell!

(d) Weigh your convictions in this balance. O how heavy do those lie upon many until they get them shaken off! They are not disposed to continue with them, but strive to get clear of them as of a mighty burden. But the worm of a bad conscience will neither die nor sleep in hell, though we may now lull it asleep for a time.

And certainly it is easier to entertain the sharpest convictions in this life, so that they lead us to Christ, than to have them fixed forever in the conscience, and to be in hell totally and finally separated from Him.

But, on the other hand, weigh sin in this balance, and, though now it seems but a light thing to you, you will find it a weight sufficient to turn up an eternal weight of wrath upon you.

Even idle words, vain thoughts, and unprofitable actions, weighed in this balance, and considered as following the sinner into eternity, will each of them be heavier than the sand of the sea! Time idly spent will make a weary eternity!

Now is your seedtime; thoughts, words, and actions, are the seed sown, eternity is the harvest. Though the seed now lies under the clod, disregarded by most men, even the least grain shall spring up at length; and the fruit will be according to the seed (Gal 6:8), 'For he that sows to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption, (that is, destruction), but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.'


Weigh in this balance your time and opportunities of grace and salvation, and you will find them very weighty. Precious time and seasons of grace, Sabbaths, communions, prayers, sermons, and the like, are by many, now-a-days made light of; but the day is coming when one of these will be reckoned more valuable than a thousand worlds by those who now have the least value for them! When they are gone forever, and the loss cannot be retrieved, those will see the worth of them who will not now see it.