A Prophetic J. Gresham Machen from 1923

by Frank Jones

"The dominant tendency, even in a country like America, which formerly prided itself on its freedom from bureaucratic regulation of the details of life, is toward a drab utilitarianism in which all higher aspirations are to be lost.

Manifestations of such a tendency can easily be seen. In the state of Nebraska, for example, a law is now in force according to which no instruction in any school in the state, public or private, is to be given through the medium of a language other than English, and no language other than English is to be studied even as a language until the child has passed an examination before the county superintendent of education showing that the eighth grade has been passed. In other words, no foreign language, apparently not even Latin or Greek, is to be studied until the child is too old to learn it well. It is in this way that modern collectivism deals with a kind of study which is absolutely essential to all genuine mental advance. The minds of the people of Nebraska, and of any other states where similar laws prevail, are to be kept by the power of the state in a permanent condition of arrested development.

It might seem as though with such laws obscurantism had reached its lowest possible depths. But there are depths lower still. In the state of Oregon, on Election Day, 1922, a law was passed by a referendum vote in accordance with which all children in the state are required to attend the public schools. Christian schools and private schools, at least in the all-important lower grades, are thus wiped out of existence. Such laws, which if the present temper of the people prevails will probably soon be extended far beyond the bounds of one state, mean of course the ultimate destruction of all real education. When one considers what the public schools of America in many places already are—their materialism, their discouragement of any sustained intellectual effort, their encouragement of the dangerous pseudo-scientific fads of experimental psychology—one can only be appalled by the thought of a commonwealth in which there is no escape from such a soul-killing system. But the principle of such laws and their ultimate tendency are far worse than the immediate results. A public-school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.

The truth is that the materialistic paternalism of the present day, if allowed to go on unchecked, will rapidly make of America one huge “Main Street,” where spiritual adventure will be discouraged and democracy will be regarded as consisting in the reduction of all mankind to the proportions of the narrowest and least gifted of the citizens." (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, New Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 10–12.)

And thus we arrive today. Growing generations of Americans desiring Socialistic totalitarianism.

Hope in Our Decaying World

by Frank Jones

"We, too, live in a world of morally neutered power-brokers, who are both intoxicated and corrupted by their power. The justification by elitists of the brutality of abortion - the new fascism "back as a fad in a new intellectual garb with a new, and more helpless, victim" - and of the exploitation of children in the dark world of paedophilia is graphic evidence of the merciless savagery that has invaded our world. How are we to do ministry in this kind of world? We should live and do ministry just as the apostolic church did. Think once again for a moment of their world and the brutality they inherited in it. Kenneth E. Bailey wrestles with Herod's atrocities at the birth of Christ - 'the slaughter of the babies of Bethlehem.' Bailey's biographical sketch of Herod's atrocities demonstrates that he was both 'brilliant and brutal. ... It was a brutal world into which Jesus was born, and Herod was nothing if not a man of his times.' But why was this atrocity included in the story of the birth of Jesus? Only Matthew chose to address it; the other evangelists are silent regarding it. Bailey answers this question in a way that speaks hope to our brutal world"

How do people retain their faith under such conditions? One answer is that they remember both the Christmas story and the cross. A mindless, bloody atrocity took place at the birth of Jesus. After reading that story, the reader is not caught unawares by the human potential for terror that shows its ugly face again on the cross. At the beginning of the Gospel and at its conclusion, Matthew presents pictures of the depth of evil that Jesus came to redeem. This story heightens the reader's awareness of the willingness on the part of God to expose himself to the total vulnerability which is at the heart of the incarnation. If the Gospel can flourish in a world that produces the slaughter of the innocents and the cross, the Gospel can flourish anywhere. From this awareness the readers of the Gospels in any age can take heart.

... The gospel of Christ is triumphantly adequate for the challenge we face as it was for the first century body of Christ. (McLachlan, Douglas. Thirsting for Authenticity: Calling the Church to Robust Christianity. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018, vii-ix.)

Redeeming the Culture

by Frank Jones

Social exercise as an opportunity to present the gospel is contrary both to the Great Commission with its divinely mandated heralding or preaching ministry of the church and to the complete sovereignty of God in personal salvation. Such a technique reflects an Arminian, woefully inadequate view of human depravity and inability. Biblical witnessing, preaching, or presenting the good news of saving grace is addressed to people in their lostness and their absolute inability to respond or make any kind of overture to God of their own unaided free will (Rom 3:11; 1 Cor 2:14). The gospel is not addressed to mankind in its physical, social, or emotional turmoil; these are but the symptoms of the problem, which is the innate hostility of the natural man to the living God (Rom 8:6–8). Society’s injustices and inequities are due to the total depravity of individual human beings, and the gospel remedy is the unilateral divine intervention of saving grace that results in total surrender to Christ and complete abandonment to the truth-claims of Christianity. The gospel is the only solution to social ills, and this is the church’s message to a mixed society (i.e., saved and unsaved) of hurting people. Repentance is a gift from God (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:24–25; Zech 12:10) and so is faith (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 1:9; Heb 12:2; 2 Pet 1:3), and these both come by hearing the proclamation of the Word of God (Rom 10:8, 17) as it is accompanied by the transforming work of God’s Spirit (John 6:65; 1 Cor 2:1–5). The belief that the natural man with an empty belly cannot respond to the call for repentance and faith is strange theology indeed. It is Arminian, if not Pelagian, in content; it assumes that one’s stomach ultimately controls his response to the gospel, or else it presupposes some form of volitional equilibrium by which a person has no inclination for or against the gospel except through the glands. This is not only unscriptural, it is inherently unstable and self-destructive because it has no limiting notion. How much hunger must be satisfied before someone will respond to the gospel? Perhaps a chilly or cold person cannot exercise faith until he is given warm clothing or a heated house; if so, how warm must he be? This is to say nothing of his diminished self-esteem that must be shored up and his hierarchy of needs correctly aligned before the natural man is ready to surrender to Christ. But how psychologically adjusted must he be? In other words, the felt needs that must be satisfied before the gospel can be presented are endless, and evangelism based on meeting such needs is totally unproductive and thus of no use. Such an approach is an insult to God’s sovereign grace and unlimited power to save whom He will by the means He has clearly established. (McCune, Rolland. Promise Unfulfilled: the Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism, 273.)

Rethinking "Missions"

by Frank Jones

"If social activism is not a legitimate evangelistic technique, fundamentalism itself is in need of rethinking its long practice of institutional missions. "Missions" (home and foreign) now covers activities far removed from preaching the gospel and establishing local churches. Doctors, nurses, lab technicians, crisis pregnancy centers, diesel engineers, radio technicians, pilots, mechanics, music teachers, English teachers, karate experts, magicians, and many others have for a long time been using the label "missionaries" or "Christian workers," whose fundamental rationale seems purely social. Local church missionary budgets are bloated and clogged with those whose real New Testament ministry is non-existent, obscure, or at best "on the side." It is incongruous for fundamentalists to critique new evangelical social agitation when their own missionary/evangelism philosophy is often bereft of a consistent proclamation, local church establishing motif." (McCune, Rolland. Promise Unfulfilled: the Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism, 273-274.)

Bunhill Fields

by Frank Jones

There is probably no greater collection of the bodies of saints, both known and unknown, than in Bunhill Fields in London. A brief mapping is located here. I hope to visit it in person one day, Lord willing.

Here is a succinct paragraph of description.

"To a lover of liberty of conscience, of freedom of thoughts, or an open Bible and of spiritual religion, it is, however, hallowed ground, for beneath its turf there are resting thousands of brave men and women who counted not their lives dear unto them, but who 'contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.' The principles of Scriptural Dissent are here magnified, whilst thoughts of cruel and wicked persecutions by spiritually ignorant clerics, magistrates, and evil princes crowd into the mind. Here are buried some 120,000 persons. Many of these died in poverty and distress, some even within prison walls, whilst had they been willing to comply with the regulations and to accept blindly the teachings of such popish bishops as Laud, many would have occupied positions of national distinction." (Alfred W, Light)


A Cloud of Witnesses

by Frank Jones

Give me the wings of faith to rise
     Within the veil, and see
The saints above, how great their joys,
     How bright their glories be.

Once they were mourning here below
     And wet their couch with tears;
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
     With sins, and doubts, and fears.

I ask them whence their victory came,
     They, with united breath,
Ascribe their conquest to the Lamb,
     Their triumph to His death.

They mark’d the footsteps that He trod
     (His zeal inspired their breast;)
And, following their incarnate God,
     Possess the promised rest.

Our glorious Leader claims our praise
     For His own pattern given;
While the long cloud of witnesses
     Shows the same path to heaven.
— Isaac Watts

Darkness of Error

by Frank Jones

Error has always desired to avoid investigation, for it loves silence more than speaking, and darkness more than light.
— Alfred W. Light

A Matter of Life & Death

by Frank Jones

“Sin is a matter of life and death. We cannot toss God a little bribe to forget the whole thing. When a Hebrew brought an offering, he put his hands on that perfect, innocent lamb’s head, and said over and over, ‘My sin costs a life, an innocent, spotless life.’

Across the centuries, how much innocent blood has cascaded down that altar onto the temple pavement! Morning and evening on normal days, and ever so much more on feast days, it poured down. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that in Roman times up to 250,000 lambs were slain on Passover Day! There had to be special gutters to carry the blood away into the Kidron Brook. Jesus waded through that bloody stream on His way to Gethsemane. And through the pre-Christian years, as sensitive Jews viewed the endless parade of doomed animals, some of them must have cried out, ‘How can an animal carry my sins? Oh, what can wash away my sins?’ And the voice of God whispered across eternity, ‘He is coming!’” (Oswalt, John. Where are You, God? 53-54)

Jesus has Come!

Light Rejected, Greater Judgment

by Frank Jones

"Undoubtedly the Hebrew people considered the Assyrians to be the most “godless” and “profane” people they knew. Yet, Isaiah has the audacity to say that the Assyrians are God’s tool to punish them and that they are the godless and profane ones! How could this be? First, it is plain that the prophet considers all peoples to be instruments of the Sovereign. Even the vilest of persons is serving God’s purposes, if only to illustrate the ultimate results of evil. This is not to say that God manipulates people in a cynical way. It is to say that God is present in and through the processes of history, bringing out of them that which will most effectively serve goodness and truth. But second, there is a relativity of accountability. Relatively speaking, Israel is more profane and godless than Assyria because she has had more light to reject. If her moral state is still higher than Assyria’s, it is also true that she has fallen the farther distance. So Jesus’ words, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48), apply to Israel and Assyria; they also apply to the modern West."

(Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986, 263.)

Speaking of Depravity Unawares

by Frank Jones

"In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it perhaps often in my history; for even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility." (Benjamin Franklin)

J.C. Ryle on Devotional Life

by Frank Jones

"Great falls seldom happen to a saint, without a previous course of secret backsliding. The church and the world are sometimes shocked by the sudden misconduct of some great professor of religion. Believers are discouraged and stumbled by it. The enemies of God rejoice and blaspheme. But if the truth could be known, the explanation of such cases would generally be found to have been private departure from God. Men fall in private, long before they fall in public."

J.C. Ryle on Worship

by Frank Jones

"Men take readily to 'a sensuous, histrionic [theatrical, melodramatic] religion.' 'It is the religion that the natural heart likes, but it is not the religion of God.'

There is a natural proneness and tendency in us all to give God a sensual, carnal worship, and not that which is commanded in His Word. We are ever ready, by reason of our sloth and unbelief, to devise visible helps and stepping-stones in our approaches to Him ... Any worship whatsoever is more pleasing to the natural heart, than worshipping God in the way which our Lord Jesus Christ describes, 'in spirit and in truth' (John 4:23)."

(Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 226)