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Conscience is something, in a sense, apart from man. It has been put in him by God; it is a reminder of the voice of God within him, an inward monitor, and a man cannot really manipulate his conscience. He can go against it, but that is not manipulating it. It is possible, as this Apostle says again in writing to Timothy, for the conscience to be seared “with a hot iron”. But nevertheless it is true to say that the conscience is an independent witness.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (God’s Sovereign Purpose)

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Thursday
Jan182007

General, yet Particular

"General and Yet Particular," originally delivered on Sunday morning, April 24th, 1864, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. Spurgeon's text that morning was John 17:2 : "Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him."

I've been following the flap over the Francis Chan Video and came across this sermon at Team Pyro. It fit perfectly with my reading this week as I prepared for our first lesson in "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God."
In ESG, Packer deals with an antinomy: God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility. In Spurgeon's sermon, he deals with something related: God's Command to preach the Gospel to every creature and His calling out a particular, elect people through the preaching of the Gospel. Notice I did not write God's Sovereignty vs. Man's Responsibility or God's Command to preach the Gospel vs. His calling out a particular, elect people through the preaching of the Gospel. In the case of both of these antinomies, the two truths seem to be mutually exclusive, but both are clearly taught in Scripture.

So, what do we do with antinomies? Rather than try to explain it myself in stumbling, bumbling words I'll just say that with regard to the general and yet particular call of the gospel, Spurgeon explains it perfectly:

I have aimed in my ministry constantly to preach, as far as I can, the whole of the gospel rather than a fragment of it. Hence those brethren who are sounder than the Bible abhor me as much as if I were an Arminian; and on the other side, the enemies of the doctrines of grace often represent me as an Ultra-Calvinist. I am rejoiced to receive the censure of both sides; I am not ambitious to be numbered in the muster-roll of either party.

I have never cultivated the acquaintance nor desired the approbation of those men who shut their eyes to truths which they do not wish to see. I never desired to be reputed so excessively Calvinistic as to neglect one part of Scripture in order to maintain another. If I am thought to be inconsistent with myself, I am very glad to be so, so long as I am not inconsistent with holy Scripture. Sure I am that all truth is really consistent, but equally certain am I that it is not apparently so to our poor, finite minds. In nine cases out of ten, he who is nervously anxious to be manifestly consistent with himself in his theological system, if he gains his end, is merely consistent with a fool; he who is consistent with Scripture is consistent with perfect wisdom; he who is consistent with himself is at best consistent with imperfection, folly, and insignificance.

To keep to Scripture, even though it should involve a charge of personal inconsistency, is to be faithful to God and men's souls. My text seems to me to present that double aspect which so many people either cannot or will not see. Here is the great atonement by which the Mediator has the whole world put under his dominion; but still here is a special object for this atonement, the ingathering, or rather outgathering of a chosen and peculiar people unto eternal life.

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