Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?

Philip Henry
In this day and age, we have lost some of the valuable truths that were once preached and taught by men like Philip Henry, who was the godly father of Matthew Henry, the author of the famous Commentary on the Whole Bible.  Philip Henry was born in 1631 and died in 1696 at sixty-five years of age.  What follows is an excerpt from The Life of Rev. Philip Henry, A.M. by the Rev. Matthew Henry, V.D.M.

[Excerpt begins]

He preached the Ten Commandments
In the years 1677, and 1679, in the course of his ministry at Broad Oak, he preached over the Ten Commandments, and largely opened from other texts of Scripture, the duties required, and sins forbidden, in each commandment. For though none delighted more than he in preaching Christ and gospel-grace; yet he knew that Christ came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill; and that though, through grace, we are not under the law as a covenant, yet we are under it as a rule; under the law to Christ. He was very large and particular in pressing second-table duties, as essential to Christianity. We have known those, saith he, that have called preaching on such subjects, good moral preaching; but let them call it as they will, I am sure it is necessary, and as much now as ever. How earnestly would he press upon the people the necessity of righteousness and honesty upon their whole conversation. A good Christian, he used to say, will be a good husband, a good father, and a good master, and a good subject, and a good neighbour, and so in other relations. How often would he urge to this purpose, that it is the will and command of the great God, the character of all the citizens of Sion, the beauty and ornament of our Christian profession; and the surest way to thrive and prosper in the world. Honesty is the best policy. He would say, that these are things in which the children of this world are competent judges. They that know not what belongs to faith, and repentance and prayer, yet know what belongs to the making of an honest bargain; they are also parties concerned, and oftentimes are themselves careful in these things; and therefore, those who profess religion, should walk very circumspectly, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed, nor religion wounded through their sides.

Legal Preaching?
[How sensible he was of the dislike frequently felt to practical preaching, as well as of the importance of such preaching, appears in the following extract. Having explained, a course of sermons, the Redeemer’s sayings, as recorded in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, he pressed, in his last discourse, the importance, the necessity, of doing, as well as hearing, from the divine assurance,-- that a stormy day is coming shortly, when hearers only will be found fools, and suffer loss; whereas hearers and doers will be owned for wise people, and will have the comfort of it. What ado, he remarks, some one will object, is here about doing; doing! If I had preached, he proceeds, these sermons, I know where, I had certainly been called a legal preacher, if not a papist, a Jesuit, a preacher of works; and some would have said, we will never hear him again. If to preach on these things be legal preaching, then our Lord himself was a legal preacher, for you see they were his sayings all along that I took for my text to each sermon. Such a preacher as he was, may I be, in my poor measure. I cannot write after a better copy. I cannot tread in better steps. His sayings must be done, as well as heard, that we may answer his end in saying them, which was to promote holiness, --that we may approve ourselves his true kindred, --that God may be glorified, --that our profession may be beautified, --and that our building may stand. But they must be done aright. The tree must be good. All must be done by faith, and in the name of the Lord Jesus. Hebrews xi. 6. Colossians iii. 17. --with evenness and constancy, --with humility and self-denial, --in charity, --and with perseverance, and continuance.

Do all you do as those who are under a covenant of grace, which, though it requires perfect, yet accepts of sincere, obedience. While the hand is doing, let the eye be looking at Jesus Christ, both for assistance and acceptance. This is the life of faith. Be resolved in duty. Look often at the recompense of reward.

Thus he preached, and his constant practice was a comment upon it. One thing I remember, he was more than ordinarily enlarged in the pressing of, which was, --upon the ninth commandment, --to speak evil of no man, from Titus iii. 2. If we can say no good of persons, we must say nothing of them. He gave it as a rule, -- Never to speak of any one’s faults to others, till we have first spoken of them to the offender himself. He was himself an eminent example of this rule. Some that have conversed much with him, have said, That they never heard him speak evil of any body; nor could he bear to hear any spoken evil, but often drove away a backbiting tongue with an angry countenance. He was known to be as faithful a patron of offenders before others, as he was a faithful reprover of them to themselves.

Whenever he preached of moral duties, he would always have something of Christ in his sermon; either his life, as the great pattern of the duty, or his love, as the great motive to it; or his merit, as making atonement for the neglect of it.

[Excerpt ends]

A Bold Non-Conformist
Philip Henry was a bold non-conformist preacher.  In 1662, England enacted a new law called the Act of Uniformity that standardized acceptable doctrine, and was radically opposed to all that Puritans like Henry stood for. Philip chose to stand by the Word of God and preach the truth, being ejected as a minister from the Church of England, losing his living, rather than comply with The Act of Uniformity, and enjoy the pleasures of sin for a little while.  According to an article by the European American Evangelistic Crusades, "Philip thus left his charge at Worthenbury, Shropshire, and took up residence a few miles away at Iscoed, Flintshire...a Christian community that lay ‘under the cross’ of state harassment and persecution."

According to Wikipedia, the act, "Prescribed the form of public prayers, administration of sacraments, and other rites of the Established Church of England, following all the rites and ceremonies and doctrines prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. Adherence to this was required in order to hold any office in government or the church...An immediate result of this Act, over 2,000 clergymen refused to take the oath and were expelled from the Church of England in what became known as the Great Ejection of 1662. Although there had already been ministers outside the established church, this created the concept of non-conformity, with a substantial section of English society excluded from public affairs for a century and a half."

As a matter of fact, that act was still partly in force in Great Britain at the end of 2010.  And look how far they have fallen!  According to Wikipedia, " The Church of England, the mother church of the Communion, currently maintains (according to the statement Issues in Human Sexuality) that same-sex partnerships are acceptable for laypersons but gay clergy are expected to be abstinent."  On the other hand, in 2003 the Episcopal Church, which is the American body (province) of the Anglican Communion, approved Gene Robinson to the bishopric of the diocese of New Hampshire. Bishop Gene Robinson is the first openly gay (non-celibate) clergy to be ordained to the episcopate..."  Moreover, the article continues, "The Anglican Church of New Zealand has decided to allow non-celibate homosexuals to become clergy."  They are no different from the apostate Roman Catholic Church, whose own Pope Frances Supports Homosexuality.

The reason that the Church of England and the Episcopal Church have fallen so far away from Scripture is because the foundation was faulty all the way back to the seventeenth century.  It was not built upon the foundation of the Jesus Christ and His Word, which Philip Henry had based his life and ministry upon.  Therefore, if you have a problem with Philip Henry's life and ministry, then take heed to what has now become of the Church that once rejected him and men like him.

Putting it All Together
I want to meet this great man of God some day in heaven.  As Tim Challies states, "Matthew Henry was raised by godly parents in the Puritan way (daily Bible reading, prayer, self-examination, etc.)."  As you can see, I underlined almost everything in this excerpt for emphasis.  I highly recommend reading the entire book.  Although I have not read every page, I would like to, if I had the time, and have read portions of it, which are extremely edifying.

Philip Henry preached over the Ten Commandments, the duties required, and sins forbidden, in each commandment. He delighted more than anyone else in preaching Christ and gospel-grace. "Yet he knew that Christ came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill; and that though, through grace, we are not under the law as a covenant, yet we are under it as a rule; under the law to Christ."  Such good moral preaching is necessary, and as much now as ever!

He was very sensitive to the dislike his listeners frequently felt to such preaching on the need to practice righteousness.  But he was also keenly aware of the importance of such preaching.  He taught a sermon series on the hard sayings of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7).  And he concluded by emphasizing the importance, the necessity, of doing, as well as hearing.  We can be sure that a stormy day is coming shortly, when those who only hear and do not act upon the Words of Christ will be found fools, and suffer loss; whereas hearers and doers will be revealed to all as wise people, and they will enjoy the comfort of it.

He knew that some one would object to all this preaching on "Doing; doing!"  In 1662, the year his son Matthew was born, England had passed the Act of Uniformity, which forbid the preaching of any doctrine that did not comply with the Church of England.  But Philip was a non-conformist.  He was aware that if he had preached such sermons from the pulpit in the Church of England, he certainly would have been called a legal preacher, and a preacher of works.  He knew that some would have said, "We will never hear him again." But as he said, if to preach on these things be legal preaching, then our Lord himself was a legal preacher.  For you see they were our Lord's sayings all along that Philip took for his text to each sermon. He wanted to be such a preacher as Jesus was, and so do I.

Let those who consider legalistic the articles I have written take heed to this wise man's words, who lived so many centuries ago.  I refuse to preach the cheap grace that is uniformly preached in churches throughout the world, which is used by so many as a license to sin.  I will preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is Costly Grace.  He is the source of salvation for all who obey Him (Heb 5:9).

Obey the Gospel of God (1 Pe 4:17).  Live for the will of God (1 Pe 4:2).  It is hard for the righteous to be saved (1 Pe 4:18a).  That is why we must live for God and for His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us and rose again (2 Co 5:15), which means we now live for righteousness (1 Pe 2:24).  The end of all things is near (1 Pe 4:7), therefore, we ought to live holy and godly lives (2 Pe 3:11b). Always remember that we can do nothing apart from the Lord Jesus (Jn 15:5), and if you keep His commandments, you will abide in His love (Jn 15:10).

I encourage you to read the other articles I have written on the need for obedience in Working God's Way and Eternal Destinations, as well as in Seeking the Lord, which provide a clear and biblical response to the concerns that some of my teaching is legalism, especially the following ones, beginning with the first three articles in the left-hand column:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
Faith Works!
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
The New Covenant
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross?
Righteousness by Faith not Law
The Law is Good if Used Lawfully    
The Obedience of Faith
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God
Aim for Perfection
Righteous Deeds and White Robes
Doing What is Right
Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
Partaking of the Divine Nature
Walking in the Perfect Will of God
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Obedience by the Spirit
What Then Must We Observe?

Author's note Also see The Spirit's Law of Life, The Spirit of the Law, as well as Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him. And see my other articles called, Restored Truth, Practicing Your Righteousness, Obedience by the Spirit, Pleasing the Lord, The Person of the Holy Spirit, and Baptized with the Spirit. You can access the Main Directory for Working God's Way, or my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."  Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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