After a couple of weeks, I still find myself going back over what Samuel Rutherford has to say about evangelism. Partly it’s due to the style of his writing; I get confused about whether its his position or an antinomian position that he is expressing untill i re-read it carefully, then it makes sense. It is interesting to see the Antinomian gospel (lawless- free from the need to obey the law) presentation being discussed by Rutherford as an issue of his day, 400 years ago, but he does so with the same hue and expression as it occurs today. Here is an example:
Objection by Saltmarsh. I will relate mine own experience. First, when I was minded to make away myself for my sin, the Lord sent into my mind this word, I have loved thee with an everlasting love. Ah, thought I then, hath God loved me with such an everlasting love, and shall I sin against such a God? Many doubts and fears arose from the examination of myself, I was afraid of being deluded. The promise, Isa. 55:1, did sweetly stay my heart, Christ in his ordinances witnessed to me that he was mine. I went on for some time full of joy. I was in fears again, that I could not pray, but I had a promise, I will fulfill the desires of them that fear me.
Answer. The method of the conversion of a deluded Antinomian is no rule to others. This man’s first step is from nature, and from thoughts of self-murder, up to the Lamb’s book of life, the secret of eternal election in the breast of God: I have loved thee with an eternal love. It is utterly false that the gospel faith commanded to all the elect and reprobate is the apprehension of God’s eternal love to me in particular. The Scripture saith no such thing. So the Antinomian way of conversion is that every soul troubled for sin, elect or reprobate, is immediately, without any foregoing preparations, or humiliation, or work of the law, to believe that God loved him with an everlasting love. A manifest lie, for so reprobates are to believe a lie, as the first gospel truth. This is I confess a honey-way, and so evangelic that all the damned are to believe that God did bear to them the same everlasting good will and love he had in heart toward Jacob.
So here Rutherford slams this guy by the name of Saltmarsh. Does Saltmarsh’s ‘testimony’ sound familiar to you? I sure have heard similar ‘testimonies’; “I was about to kill myself in the hotel, then I found a New Testament and read John 3:16 and realised that God loved me and wanted me to come to him, so I accepted Jesus into my heart.” Well Rutherford shows us that that the antinomian way is a cause for false conversion.
The sweet witnessing of the Spirit, from Isa. 55:1: Ho, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, is gospel honey; but consider if there were no law-work preparing, no needle making a hole before Christ should sew together the sides of the wound. It’s but a delusion. 1. Because, Isa. 61:1, no wholehearted sinners meet with Christ; none come at first laughing to Christ. All that come to Jesus for help, come with the tear in their eye. 2. To come dry and withered to the waters, Isa. 55:1, is the required preparation. 3. The gold in a beggar’s purse in great abundance is to be suspected for stolen gold, because he labored not for it. This I say not, because preparations, and sweatings, and running, that go before conversion, are merits or such as deserve conversion, or that conversion is due to them. Antinomians impute this to us, but unjustly.
Extract from Preparations Before Conversion, Samuel Rutherford.
The beggar with unusual amounts of money is to be suspect. So too the Christian who has come to Christ without tears of sorrow for their sin against God.