My Dear Friends,
It is a fairly accepted fact that until we find the cause of an ailment it is
unlikely that we will ever come near to finding a cure. "Wrong notions about a
disease always bring with them wrong notions about a cure," as Bishop Ryle put
it. As we examine the ineffectiveness of the Church's work today in the light of
the small number of men and women and young people who are added
"permanently" to the Church of Christ we must, surely, conclude that
somewhere along the line we have lost the "cure" for saving souls and healing
the wounds of sin in the lives of the sinners. And yet, would it not be more
correct to say that, first and foremost, we appear to have lost the "cause?" In
other words, we have failed to appreciate the nature of the one who is going to
be saved and so, have ceased to appreciate the nature of the gospel that is going
to be necessary to save him.
You see, when Charles Darwin began to expound his theory of the
evolution of man it was embraced by many within the churches as the answer to
the true nature of man. Man was, in fact, evolving and was getting "better" with
every passing year. This teaching, sad to say, didn't pass by the evangelical
church, or leave its ranks unscarred, but a new interpretation of man's nature
entered into the evangelical church and along with it, a new type of gospel
remedy to suit that new interpretation.
Of Course, the new evangelicalism wouldn't have agreed with the
evolutionists that man was "getting better," but, perhaps – the new thought
began to run – perhaps man wasn't really as bad by nature as the old hard line
Calvinists had made him appear. His Will was "free", after all, and, surely, he
could choose salvation of his own free will if only it was set before him with
sufficient zeal and enticement.
So began the era of "decisionism" Christianity – a gospel to suit the new
doctrine of man's sinnership which had become accepted orthodoxy in the
evangelical church. Today's situation, we say, less than a hundred years after
this Darwinistic fundamentalism, is a sad and sobering indictment, both of our
views of salvation, and of our views of sin.
Now, where have we gone wrong? Well, for one thing, we have ignored
the Word of God and what the Holy Spirit of God has to say to us about this
sinner on whom salvation must work its perfect work. We have conducted our
gospel preaching and teaching as thought the Lord had never painted the nature
of the natural man for all to see. Permit one analogy alone, but one of the most
vivid that the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit ever set before us. "And you hath
he quickened," it says in the first verse of Ephesians chapter two, "who were
dead in trespasses and sins. Wherein in time past ye walked," It says,
"according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of
the air … and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." And those
last two statements alone regarding man's nature should be proof enough of the
supernatural work that is going to be necessary to save his soul and reconcile
him to God. He is, by nature, under the devil's control and under God's wrath.
But it is the first statement that conjures up the most vivid picture of all
when we enquire regarding the status of men and women outside of grace. "And
you hath he quickened (made alive)," says the Lord's Holy Spirit, "who were
dead in trespasses and sins…"
What a staggering statement that is, my friends, and if you for one
moment doubt it, then here is what you must do – you must stand in a pulpit and
preach, or speak to an unconverted man or woman about their soul's salvation,
and you will immediately find this: you will find that you are preaching or
speaking in a "graveyard" – a spiritual graveyard! You are speaking to a corpse
– a man, or a woman, or a young person "dead in trespasses and sins." May as
well hope to raise the physically dead by the power of human persuasion than
raise the spiritually dead to do themselves spiritually good.
Now, this is the one basic truth that modern-day evangelicalism has
ignored. "Oh yes," many will say, "we believe that men are sinners, but they
must take the first step in their salvation and then, Christ will do the rest." But,
let us look at that dead man – the physically dead man. Supposing he could take
the "first step" out of his grave so that a doctor by the graveside could apply his
skills and make him whole again; where would the miracle lie? With the
doctor? Or with the corpse? Surely, with the corpse, for it performed the
miracle, did it not, of making itself alive again? Ah, my friends, here is the
blight on our gospel today, it has enthroned the "corpse", and the Great
Physician of men's souls has been relegated to an accessory after the fact of
Don't you see that old mummified figure of the corpse of human nature?
There it sits, exalted on the throne of modern-day gospel preaching where the
blessed Prince of Life alone should reign.
Herein lies the root of the problem of our day; herein lies the answer to
our superficial cures for sinners; we have forgotten what the sinner is and that he
"must be born again."
Good George Whitefield was once asked why he preached so much on
that blessed verse. "Mr. Whitefield," he was asked, "Why do you preach so
much on 'Ye must be born again'? "Because," said he, "Ye must be born again."
Yet, scarcely is there a more neglected and misunderstood text in the whole of
the Bible today. You see, our Lord wasn't telling Nicodemus, in those words,
that the way to enter the Kingdom of heaven was by making a decision to be
"born again." Of course not! What our Lord was telling Nicodemus about was
the necessary process that must take place in a sinner's soul before he can be a fit
subject for the everlasting Kingdom of Jehovah. The sinner must receive a "new
nature," as it says in another place – he MUST be "born again." He is born with
the "old" nature that lies "dead in trespasses and sin," and this old nature, as the
Bible says, "cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God," and so, there must
be a "new birth" – a "new creation" – a "quickening" from the grave to life
eternal in Christ. And this isn't the corpse's work! This is the work of the
Sovereign Spirit of the Sovereign God. Can't you hear our Lord rebuking
evangelicalism today as He rebuked old Nicodemus in the darkness of that night
so long ago? "Art thou a teacher in Israel and knowest not these things?" And
then, that irrevocable word of instruction that settles for us once and for all
whose is the power in salvation and therefore, whose should be the glory: "That
which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." No man ever became
his own father in his natural birth – when he was born "of the flesh." No more
will any sinner ever become his own "spiritual" father, for to be "born of the
spirit" requires the Spirit's regenerating power and that truth lays the "corpse"
where it belongs – in the dust, beneath the Sovereign's feet.
How we need to see the King upon His Throne in our preaching and
witnessing and thinking again. How we need to see our sin – and the sin of all
men as "exceeding sinful," for once we begin to see the depth and depravity of
the iniquity of the natural man towards his God, then we will, once more, begin
to see the glories of the work of Christ that saves his soul.
Yours sincerely, W.J. Seaton (Pastors Letter June 1970)
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan