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Monday, April 18, 2011

The Life and Sermons of Jessie Sewell

Among the many false doctrines that have occupied the minds of men is that of the necessity of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of an individual in order to procure salvation.   Such are the fruits of Calvinism.  Once you adopt John Calvin's doctrine of election, the outgrowth of such false doctrine is the necessity of God to somehow operate directly upon those who have been "predestined" to salvation so as to "get them saved."  It is what the Quakers and Pentecostals refer to as a "religious experience."   David Lipscomb, in "The Life and Sermons of Jessie Sewell" demonstrated the absurdity of relying upon a spiritual experience for one's assurance of salvation.  It seems that a fair, honest working famer of remote Tennessee had come in contact with brother J.J. Trott, a gospel preacher.  This famer had just returned from a "revival" where he had shared his "experience" with those present.  He told them that he had a vision wherein he was taken up by a great bird to the top of a high mountain.  The bird had held him over a precipice and let him go.  The man fell upon a bed of downy softness, and a feeling of his sins being forgiven overcame him.  Such was the man's "experience" upon which his confidence in forgiveness rested.  Brother Trott asked, "Do you mean a large bird actually took you up?" to which the farmer replied, "Oh, no sir; it was only imagination…a vision if you will."  Brother Trott responded: "Imagination of something that was not actually true?"  "Yes sir," replied the farmer.   Brother Trot then asked him, "Were you really carried to the top of a high mountain?"  "Oh, no sir; again, I only imagined I was."  Again brother Trott replied, "You again imagined what was not actually true?" "Yes sir," the man replied.  Continuing, brother Trott asked, "Did you really find yourself on a bed of downy softness?"  Again came the farmer's reply, "Oh, no sir, I only imagined I was."  Quickly brother Trott responded, "You again imagined what was not true?"  "Yes sir," the farmer replied.  Brother Trott then concluded, "Then your experience consists of imagining four things you know to be falsehoods or imagination.  How do you know but that the fifth item, that is that your sins were forgiven, is not also a mere imagination?" 


This story shows the absurdity of relying upon one's feelings to determine whether one can be certain of his salvation.  Yet there are untold thousands, yea millions who rely upon such religious "experiences" in one form or another.   The subjective approach to spiritual matters is scattered across the landscape of every imaginable form of religion that the fertile minds of men have created.   Many a diluted soul will take the "feeling in his heart" over the rock sold truth that is recorded in the Bible.   I once had a man with whom I was studying, and before whom I had placed an open Bible, push my Bible back at me and tell me that he would not trade the feeling he had in his heart for all the Bibles in the world.   Mormons pray for that warm feeling in the heart; Pentecostals seek the overwhelming of the Holy Spirit; and much of the denominational world seeks for the "religious experience" so prominently upheld by false teachers as the panacea for the soul's hope and assurance of a heavenly home that awaits the faithful. 


The Lord's church has not escaped the ravages of Calvinism.  Twice in my lifetime I have witnessed movements within the churches of Christ that we would label Post-Calvinism.  The misunderstanding of the work and nature of the Holy Spirit has driven otherwise sensible thinking brethren into the same kind of mind set addressed above.  Rather than rely upon the word, they depend upon how they "feel" at the moment.   How else can you explain the actions of those who, knowing the will of God, plunge headlong into doctrinal and moral error?  Casting the word of God aside, they trust in their emotions, all the while exclaiming, "The Holy Spirit is leading me in this direction."  Such is simple tomfoolery and sophisticated silliness.  The Scriptures never once encourage the honest seeker of God to search for a "feeling" or "experience."  Quite the contrary, the Bible warns us, "that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23).   Again, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death" (Pro. 16:25).  Rather than rely upon feelings, or some tingling sensation within, it seems more reasonable and much smarter to trust in the Lord (Pro. 3:3-5).   "Be ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:15).


Let us remain loyal to the word of God, for therein is the power unto salvation and the only means by which the man of God can be complete, furnished completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16017).

--by Tom Wacaster


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