Don’t Give Up On A Sinner! (Spencer)

I was recently reading part of A Pastor’s Sketches again and I found a paragraph I had marked up quite a bit.  Turns out I had blogged on this already (May 2017), so I thought I’d post it again.  Here it is:

Sometime around the middle of the 19th century a woman spoke to Rev. Ichabod Spencer about the things of the Christian faith.  After the discussion, the woman was interested in becoming a Christian.  Spencer met with her many times over the next two years.  Over and over Spencer told her about sin, repentance, faith in Christ, and what it means to be a disciple.  Over and over he showed her the verses about these truths.

For reasons only God knows, she was very slow to believe.  She just couldn’t quite commit.  Spencer had talked to her so many times he became weary of talking to her; he even was tempted to tell her, “I’ve said everything that needs to be said.  Don’t see me anymore.”  It got to the point where he was annoyed when he saw her coming to talk, which made him feel guilty about it.  He never did turn her away simply because he knew the agony she was in.  Spencer noted that he had never spent so much time talking to an unbeliever about the faith.  To make a long two-year story short, by God’s grace the woman finally did come to faith, as did her husband, her sister, and some of her friends.  After telling this story, Spencer wrote this:

“Ministers ought never to despair of the salvation of any sinner.  To despair of any one is just the way to make him despair of himself.  Many have been ruined in this way, probably.  We ought to expect sinners to repent – and treat them accordingly.  Who shall limit the Holy One of Israel?  It took me long to learn the lesson, but I have learned never to give up a sinner.  We must urge the duty of an immediate faith and repentance, as the Bible does so continually; but we must be careful to enjoin this duty in such a manner that, if it is not immediately done, the individual shall not be led or left to cease seeking God.  Many a sinner turns back, when just at the door of heaven.”

Ichabod Spencer, A Pastor’s Sketches, II.III.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Advertisements

Not Giving Up On A Sinner (Spencer)

Sometime around the middle of the 19th century, a woman spoke to Rev. Ichabod Spencer about the things of the Christian faith.  After the discussion, the woman was interested in becoming a Christian.  Spencer met with her many times over the next two years.  Over and over Spencer told her about sin, repentance, faith in Christ, and what it means to be a disciple.  Over and over he showed her the verses about these truths.

For reasons only God knows, she was very slow to believe.  She just couldn’t quite commit.  Spencer had talked to her so many times he became weary of talking to her; he even was tempted to tell her, “I’ve said everything that needs to be said.  Don’t see me anymore.”  It got to the point where he was annoyed when he saw her coming to talk, which made him feel guilty about it.  He never did turn her away simply because he knew the agony she was in.  Spencer noted that he had never spent so much time talking to an unbeliever about the faith.  To make a long two-year story short, by God’s grace the woman finally did come to faith, as did her husband, her sister, and some of her friends.  After telling this story, Spencer wrote this:

“Ministers ought never to despair of the salvation of any sinner.  To despair of any one is just the way to make him despair of himself.  Many have been ruined in this way, probably.  We ought to expect sinners to repent – and treat them accordingly.  Who shall limit the Holy One of Israel?  It took me long to learn the lesson, but I have learned never to give up a sinner.  We must urge the duty of an immediate faith and repentance, as the Bible does so continually; but we must be careful to enjoin this duty in such a manner that, if it is not immediately done, the individual shall not be led or left to cease seeking God.  Many a sinner turns back, when just at the door of heaven.”

Ichabod Spencer, A Pastor’s Sketches, II.III.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Fanaticism Is Not Faith (Or: One Conversion Will Suffice)

Ichabod Spencer’s A Pastor’s Sketches is an excellent resource of a 19th-century pastor’s deeply spiritual conversations with various people in his ministry.  In one journal entry, Spencer talked about a young woman who claimed to have been converted three times in a church that emphasized revivals, emotions, and experiences.  Her emotions and affections were excited, but she had little understanding of the Christian faith and her conscience had not been touched.  Spencer called this “fanaticism.”

The heart that has once been drunk with fanaticism is ever afterwards exposed to the same evil.  It will mistake excitement – any fancy – for true religion.  Fanaticism is not faith.

When the affections or mere sensibilities of the heart are excited and the understanding and conscience are but little employed, there is a sad preparation for false hope – for some wild delusion or fanatical faith. The judgment and conscience should take the lead of the affections; but when the affections take the lead, they will be very apt to monopolize the whole soul, judgment and conscience will be overpowered, or flung into the background; and then, the deluded mortal will have a religion of mere impressions – more feeling than truth – more sensitiveness than faith – more fancy and fanaticism, than holiness. Emotions, agitations, or sensibilities of any sort, which do not arise from

Emotions, agitations, or sensibilities of any sort, which do not arise from clear and conscientious perception of truth will be likely to be pernicious. The most clear perception of truth, the deepest conviction, is seldom accompanied by any great excitement of the sensibilities.  Under such conviction, feeling may be deep and strong, but will not be fitful, capricious and blind. To a religion of mere impressions, one may be “converted three times,” or three times three, but to a religion of truth, one conversion will suffice. In my opinion, my young friend was all along misled by the idea, that religion consisted very much in a wave of feeling. Her instructors ought to have taught her better.

Ichabod Spencer, A Pastor’s Sketches, p. 175.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015