Thursday, October 30, 2008

WHAT IS PRAYER?


In the preceding number of the SIGNS, sister Gentry asked for our opinion and for the views, of others, on the subject of prayer. The subject of prayer has occasioned us much reflection at times, for the last forty-five years, and yet we have been so dull a scholar in the school of Christ, if indeed we are a pupil of his school, that after almost half a century's tuition on the subject, we have now to confess the humiliating truth, that we often ask and receive not, because we ask amiss; and to this day we know not how to pray as we ought. In the year 1811, when but young in our profession, we resolved to be much engaged in prayer, and, as we had read somewhere that,

"Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees,"

We were fully resolved to make him tremble continually. We supposed then that prayer consisted in periodical forms, in which we were required to humble ourselves before God, and ask of him whatever we were in need of. To our inexperienced mind there was much virtue in prayer, that is, in the form and language of prayer, and it was our impression that the poet was right when he said,

"Restraining prayer we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the christian's armor bright,"

And we verily thought, by our constant praying, we should avoid temptation, and live above doubts and fears. We should keep the old tempter so terrified with our devotions, that he would not dare assail us with any wicked suggestions.

But we soon learned that our prayers were not the right kind to keep Satan at bay, for it was not long before it really appeared to us that we were much more annoyed with his company when performing our solemn devotions, than at any other time. Often, when the hour of prayer, which we had set, came, we were either inflated with pride that we were so devout, or crushed down with such a sense of our sinfulness that it seemed wicked and presumptuous to call upon the name of the Lord.

Sometimes, when about to rush into the presence of the Lord like the unthinking horse into battle, we found our thoughts, like the fool's eyes, were wandering to the ends of the earth, and we have been unable sometimes to utter one word of supplication. Self-abased before the Lord, we have risen up from our knees, and left the place, concluding that we could not pray, and perhaps in reality praying, or breathing forth the heart-felt and heaven-inspired desire of our inmost soul, that God would manifest himself as our God and portion and give us grace whereby we might serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

These earnest desires breathed forth to God, we hardly dared to call them prayer, for we had imbibed the idea that prayer must have more formality about it, that we must go into some closet, or secret place, literally, and fall on our knees, or prostrate our body before the Lord, and then and there utter our prayers in an appropriate utterance of words. Often like sister Gentry, we have been in great heaviness, because we could not pray, or rather because we were unable to satisfy ourself that we had prayed.

But we are now led to believe that the most fervent prayers we have ever offered to God, were indicted by groanings which we could not utter. There have been times when it has really seemed to us that the Spirit truly helped our infirmities, and made intercession for us in that way, and we were made more sensible of our entire dependence on God, than we could have been if we had believed that we had ability to pray when and as we pleased.

Volumes might be written in reply to the inquiry of our sister, "What is prayer?" without exhausting the subject. But in this short article, we can only touch briefly upon the subject. Secret prayer, or that prayer of the saint which is poured forth as a communion between God and the individual worshiper, we believe is often made when we may be in the open field, on the public highway, or when lying upon our bed, but it is always when none but God, who seeth in secret, knows the emotions of the suppliant's heart. And this is what we understand to be entering into our closet and shutting the door; here it becomes a matter between the God of heaven and that saint on whom God has graciously poured the spirit of prayer and of supplication.

Social prayer is that in which a number of christians are led by the same spirit to call upon the name of the Lord, and in which one is mouth for them all; such praying must necessarily be audibly uttered, so that all who are present may understandingly unite in the prayer. This public or social devotion is as important in its place as the secret aspirations of the praying saint in the closet. But all vain show and ostentatious parade should be avoided. We are to remember that God is in heaven, and we are on his footstool, and it is becoming that our words should be few, for his people are not heard for their much speaking, nor for their words of prayer are uttered. In the public assemblies of the saints, we do not find that every praying soul has been distinguished with the gift to be mouth for the church, but all the saints are blessed with the gift of prayer, whereby they may unite in the petitions offered, so far as they are indicted by the Spirit of God.

In regard to the answers of prayer, we are not to expect that there is either power, merit or efficacy in our prayers, in themselves considered, to entitle us to the things which we pray for. God, who has all things needful for us, either for time or eternity, in store, gives the spirit of prayer to his children, and that spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God; it knoweth what is the will of God, and it indicts within us the desire for what God designs to bestow in answer to prayer. So, instead of our bringing the Lord under obligation to bestow blessings on us for our prayers, here is an additional dependence on God, not only for the things that we need, but also for the spirit to ask hi for them.

And when we speak of our children and neighbors being quickened and born of God, in answer to our prayers, we mean to be understood that god has not only made bare his holy arm, and revealed his salvation in the conversion of sinners, and in reviving his church, but that he has made his children desire, and by the spirit of supplication, has led them to pray for the accomplishment of all these things. There are many things connected with this subject, on which, at this time, we cannot dwell.

Among others, faith is indispensable. Not a faith of human origin, that we can create or exercise, but that faith which is the fruit of the Spirit and the gift of God; that faith of which Christ is the author and the finisher, and which is called the faith of Jesus Christ, by which we live spiritually, and that faith which is of the operation of God. He that cometh unto God must believe that he is.


How can we devoutly pray to a God, the existence of whom we doubt or disbelieve?

And if we believe there is a God, how can we ask of him for blessings, unless we have faith to assure us that God has them in store for us, and that he will freely bestow them upon us through Jesus Christ our Lord?

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith lays hold on his promises, and gives us confidence that they shall all be fulfilled. Faith looks to Jesus as the only medium through whom we may approach the Father; for he says, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me."


He is also the only medium through which spiritual blessings are sent down from heaven upon the saints. God has blessed his children with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world; so we have no reason to expect any spiritual blessing out of Christ, or in any other way than according as he hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

Middletown, N.Y.,
April 1, 1856

Elder Gilbert Beebe


Sunday, October 26, 2008

JOHN GILL - ON THE INITIAL QUICKENING


Yet this instrumentality of the word in regeneration seems not so agreeable to the principle of grace implanted in the soul in regeneration, and to be understood with respect to that; since that is done by immediate infusion, and is represented as a creation; and now as God made no use of any instrument in the first and old creation, so neither does it seem so agreeable that he should use any in the new creation: wherefore this is rather to be understood of the exertion of the principle of grace, and drawing it forth into act and exercise; which is excited and encouraged by the ministry of the word, by which it appears that a man is born again; so the three thousand first converts, and the jailor, were first regenerated, or had the principle of grace wrought in their souls by the Spirit of God, and they were directed and encouraged by the ministry of the apostles to repent and believe in Christ; whereby it became manifest that they were born again.
(John Gill. A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity. Page 534 of the 1950 Turner Lassetter reprint.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

HOUSEHOLD BAPTISMS


Are Household Baptisms in the New Testament an Evidence of the Baptism of Infants?

1. In the case of the Philippian jailor, all those in his house were taught the gospel and believed the gospel (Acts 16:31-34); so in agreement with our Lord's commission, the salvation offered by Paul to his house was secured by believing first and then being baptized (Mark 16:16).

2. In the case of Lydia, there is no evidence the woman was even married or had any infant children (Acts 16:14-15), for
"household"
can easily refer to domestic servants or other employees in distinction to children (Genesis 18:19; Acts 10:7; Matthew 10:25).

IS OLD TESTAMENT CIRCUMCISION THE EVIDENCE FOR NEW TESTAMENT BAPTISM OF INFANTS?


No! For if it is, then only infant boys should be baptized (Genesis 17:10; Exodus 12:48).


No! Circumcision was a sign of a covenant based on physical descent. Baptism is a sign of conversion resulting from grace, which has nothing to do with physical descent (Matthew 3:7-12; Galatians 3:16-29).

No! John the Baptist baptized in water those who already had the sign of circumcision. This showed that the sign was different and the condition was different.

No! The children of God are not those born of certain parents or given some ritualistic application of water, but rather the result of a spiritual birth (John 1:12-13).

No! The children of God are not the natural descendants of Abraham, but rather the spiritual descendants (Romans 9:6-8). And these are not the same.

No! The only circumcision with any meaning in the New Testament is a circumcision made without hands by the cutting off of Jesus Christ, Who died for our sins (Colossians 2:11). When they start baptizing without using hands, we will reconsider their argument.

No! The only circumcision with any meaning in the New Testament is an internal operation of the Spirit upon the heart of man (Romans 2:28-29), which purifies his heart, and makes him a fit candidate for baptism (1 Peter 3:21)!

No! Scripture teaches plainly and repeatedly that faith and repentance are conditions for baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37), but circumcision had no prerequisite condition (Leveticus 12:2-3).

No! Scripture teaches plainly and repeatedly that faith and repentance are conditions for baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37), and this is impossible for infants (Jonah 4:11).

No! When the New Testament church debated in Acts 15 whether circumcision should be required of Gentile believers as part of becoming a Christian, it is astonishing that not once in that entire debate did anyone say anything about baptism taking the place of circumcision. If baptism is the simple replacement of circumcision as a sign of the new covenant, and thus valid for children as well as for adults, as circumcision was, surely this would have been the time to develop the argument and so show that circumcision was no longer necessary. But it was not even mentioned.

No?

Then where did this heresy come from?

It came from the Presbyterians, who retained the baptismal heresies of their mother church, Rome. They ransacked the church fathers of the Roman Catholic Church to find a logical defense for their continuation of Rome's superstition of infant sprinkling. No apostle or early saint even considered the idea, as faith and repentance were necessary for baptism; and infant baptism was unheard of for at least 200 years.



HALLOWEEN


2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

2 Corinthians 6:15
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

2 Corinthians 6:16
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

2 Corinthians 6:17
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

2 Corinthians 6:18
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.


Is Halloween Devil Worship?

Hallowe’en. The eve of All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day celebrated the last night of October. In the Old Celtic calendar the year began on November 1, so that the last evening of October was the night of all the witches, which the Church transformed into the Eve of All Saints.
Source: The Oxford English Dictionary.



1. The Druids invented the earliest Halloween celebrations. They were an order of Celtic sorcerers. The Bible condemns all sorcery and sorcerers (Revelation 21:8; 22:15).

2. November 1, the first day of the Celtic year, was a feast day to Samhain, lord of the dead, by the Druids. But the Christian God is the God of the living (Mark 12:27)!

3. The jack-o-lantern, large fires, and apple bobbing also come from superstitious paganism, as most any encyclopedia will prove; but God condemns the use of religious practices from unbelievers (Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Jeremiah 10:1-2).

4. The only cultures and societies that masquerade religiously as evil characters around fires at night are patently pagan, God-rejecting, devil-worshipping nations, which Christians are to entirely reject (Leviticus 18:24,28; Deuteronomy 4:6; 9:5; 12:29-32; 18:9,14).

5. When God wrote the laws for Israel, all witches and any related persons were to be put to death, for He strongly hates anyone seeking to devils and witchcraft rather than to Himself (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26,31; 20:6,27; Deuteronomy 18:9-12; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14).

6. God specifically commanded not to learn the dark customs of the nations around Israel, including all forms of witchcraft (Leviticus 18:1-4; Deuteronomy 12:1-4,29-32; 18:9-12).

7. The idolatrous practices of pagans are devil worship, no matter what the worshipper thinks or intends (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:35-39; 1 Corinthians 10:20).

8. The holy God condemns any observation of the religious traditions and customs of unbelieving pagans, even if you are doing it as a Christian to Him (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).

9. The Catholic Church whitewashed the pagan customs with a new name to keep their pagan “converts” happy. But Jesus Christ declared that church to be the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth (Revelation 17:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3).

10. The worshippers of God are to come out of Roman Catholicism by special warning from heaven (Revelation 18:4), and Halloween is obviously a Roman Catholic holiday.

11. Halloween is an evil day originating with unbelievers and infidels, based on blackness, darkness, night, unrighteousness, and infidelity, which Christians should separate from and not even touch, if they want to be God’s children (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

12. Christians burn anything that has to do with witchcraft, for they are commanded not to touch any unclean thing (Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Acts 19:13-20; Galatians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

13. Halloween is a worldly religious celebration of pagan origin, and Christians are not be conformed to this world, but rather to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2).

14. When a devil or sorcerer meets God, he knows he is helpless; and one day God will cast all devils, sorcerers, and witches into the Lake of Fire (Exodus 7:11-12; 8:18-19; 9:11-12; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Revelation 21:8; 22:15).

15. The disciples of Jesus Christ and sons of God are to walk as children of light, not as the children of the darkness of this world (Acts 26:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8).

16. God’s true followers value His precepts on all subjects and hate any idea, opinion, or practice to the contrary (Psalm 119:128; Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 6:3-5).

17. Halloween is popular with the world, which is evidence that it is an abomination to God (Luke 16:15). Friendship with the world makes God your enemy (James 4:4).

18. If you must have Halloween, God has offered you a simple alternative. Become a great celebrator of Halloween and reject Christianity, because He cannot stand you polluting His name with your hypocrisy (Ezekiel 20:39; Hosea 4:17; Amos 4:4-5).

19. The past lives of Christians had enough excess and sin to cover a lifetime, so there is no need to participate in this worldly, wicked, and pagan celebration (1 Peter 4:3-5).

20. Christians do not threaten “trick or treat” to anyone for any reason, so parents should not endorse such profanity (Galatians 5:14; Ephesians 4:31-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; James 2:8), and neither do Christians deceive others with masks, even for a joke (Proverbs 26:18-19; Romans 13:13).

21. Paul condemned a compromising brand of Christianity that loves pleasure more than God and has a form of religion without authority or true discipleship (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

22. The blessed God of heaven seeks worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth, according to the apostolic faith once delivered to the saints (John 4:23-24; Jude 1:3).




Abbreviated History and Customs of Halloween


Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition)


“Hallowe’en. The eve of All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day celebrated the last night of October. In the Old Celtic calendar the year began on November 1, so that the last evening of October was ‘old years’ night’, the night of all the witches, which the Church transformed into the Eve of All Saints.”


Encyclopedia Britannica (14th Edition)

“Hallowe’en or All Hallows Eve, the name given to Oct. 31, as the vigil of Hallowmas or All Saints’ Day, now chiefly known as the eve of the Christian festival. It long antedates Christianity. The two chief characteristics of ancient Hallowe’en were the lighting of bonfires and the belief that this is the one night in the year during which ghosts and witches are most likely to wander abroad. History shows that the main celebrations of Hallowe’en were purely Druidical, and this is further proved by the fact that in parts of Ireland Oct. 31 is still known as Oidhche Shamhna, ‘Vigil of Sama’. This is directly connected with the Druidic belief in the calling together of certain wicked souls on Hallowe’en by Saman, lord of death.”


World Book Encyclopedia (1959 Edition)

“The Druids, an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain, believed that on Halloween, ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches, and elves came out to harm people. They thought the cat was sacred and believed that cats had once been human beings but were changed as a punishment for evil deeds. From these Druidic beliefs come the present-day use of witches, ghosts, and cats in Halloween festivities.”


Halloween Through Twenty Centuries (by Ralph Linton)

“The American celebration rests upon Scottish and Irish folk customs which can be traced in direct line from pre-Christian times. Although Halloween has become a night of rollicking fun, superstitious spells, and eerie games which people take only half seriously, its beginnings were quite otherwise. The earliest Halloween celebrations were held by the Druids in honor of Samhain, Lord of the dead, whose festival fell on November 1.”

World Book Encyclopedia (Quoted in the Atlanta Journal on October 16, 1977)

“It was the Celts who chose the date of October 31 as their new year’s Eve and who originally intended it as a celebration of everything wicked, evil and dead. Also during their celebration they would gather around a community bonfire and offer as sacrifice their animals, their crops, and sometime themselves. And wearing costumes made from the heads and skins of other animals, they would also tell one another’s fortunes for the coming year.
“The celebration remained much the same after the Romans conquered the Celts around 43 A.D. The Romans did, however, add a ceremony honoring their goddess of fruit and trees and thus the association with apples and the custom of bobbing for them.”


World Book Encyclopedia (1959 Edition)

“In the A.D. 800’s the church established All Saints Day on November 1 so that the people could continue a festival they had celebrated before becoming Christians. The mass that was said on this day was called Allhallowmas. The evening before became known as All Hallow e’ven or Halloween…. It means hallowed or holy evening.”


World Book Encyclopedia (1959 Edition)

“Jack-O’-Lanterns were named for a man called Jack, who could not enter heaven or hell. As a result, he was doomed to wander in darkness with his lantern until Judgment Day.”


Compton’s Encyclopedia (1978 Edition)

“Customs and superstitions gathered through the ages go into our celebration of Halloween, or ‘Holy Eve’, on October 31. The day is so named because it is the even of the festival of All Saints, but many of the beliefs and observances connected with it arose long before the Christian Era, in the autumn festivals of pagan peoples…. Even after November 1 became a Christian feast day, honoring all saints, the peasants clung to the old pagan beliefs and customs that had grown up about Halloween…. Our Halloween celebrations today keep many of these early customs unchanged.”