The “Almost Christian” – Part II

This is an excerpt taken from George Whitefield’s sermon called The “Almost Christian”, continued from https://burden4souls.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/the-%e2%80%9calmost-christian%e2%80%9d/:

II.   I proceed to the second general thing proposed; to consider the reasons why so many are no more than almost Christian.

     1.   And the first reason I shall mention is, because so many set out with false notions of religion; though they live in a Christian country, yet they know not what Christianity is.  This perhaps may be esteemed a hard saying, but experience sadly evinces the truth of it.  For some place religion in being of this or that communion; more in morality; most in a round of duties, and a model of performances; and few, very few acknowledge it to be, what it really is, a thorough inward change of nature, a divine life, a vital participation of Jesus Christ, an union of the soul with God; which the apostle expresses by saying, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”  Hence it happens that so many, even of the most knowing professors, when you come to converse with them concerning the essence, the life, the soul of religion, I mean our new birth in Jesus Christ, confess themselves quite ignorant of the matter, and cry out with Nicodemus, “How can this thing be?”  And no wonder then, that so many are only almost Christian, when so many know not what Christianity is.

No marvel that so many take up with the form, when they are quite strangers to the power of godliness; or content themselves with the shadow, when they know so little about the substance of it.  And this is one cause why so many are almost, and so few are altogether, Christians.

     2.   A second reason that may be assigned why so many are no more than almost Christian is a servile fear of man.  Multitudes there are and have been, who, though awakened to a sense of the divine life, and have tasted and felt the powers of the world to come, yet out of a base sinful fear of being counted singular, or contemned by men, have suffered all those good impressions to wear off.  It is true, they have some esteem for Jesus Christ; but then, like Nicodemus, they would come to him only by night.  They are willing to serve him; but then they would do it secretly, for fear of the Jews.  They have a mind to see Jesus, but then they cannot come to Him because of the press, and for fear of being laughed at, and ridiculed by those with whom they used to sit at meat.  But well did our Saviour prophesy of such persons, “How can ye love me, who receive honour one of another?”  Alas! have they never read that “the friendship of this world is enmity with God;” and that our Lord Himself has threatened, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me or of my words, in this wicked and adulterous generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father and of his holy angels?”  No wonder that so many are no more than almost Christian, since so many “love the praise of men more than the honour which cometh of God.”

     3.   A third reason why so many are no more than almost Christian, is a reigning love of money.  This was the pitiable case of that forward young man in the gospel, who came running to our blessed Lord, and kneeling before him, inquired “what he must do to inherit eternal life?” to whom our blessed Master replied, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal:” To which the young man replied, “All these have I kept from my youth.”  But when our Lord proceeded to tell him, “Yet lackest thou one thing; Go sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor; he was grieved at that saying, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions!”  Poor youth!  He had a good mind to be a Christian, and to inherit eternal life, but thought it too dear, if it could be purchased at no less an expense than of his estate!  And thus many, both young and old, now-a-days come running to worship our blessed Lord in public, and kneel before Him in private, and inquire at His Gospel, what they must do to inherit eternal life: but when they find they must renounce the self-enjoyment of riches, and forsake all in affection to follow Him, they cry, “The Lord pardon us in this thing!  We pray thee, have us excused.”

     But is heaven so small a trifle in men’s esteem, as not to be worth a little gilded earth?  Is eternal life so mean a purchase, as not to deserve the temporary renunciation of a few transitory riches?  Surely it is.  But however inconsistent such a behaviour may be, this inordinate love of money is too evidently the common and fatal cause why so many are no more than almost Christian.

     4.   Nor is the love of pleasure a less uncommon, or a less fatal cause, why so many are no more than almost Christian.  Thousands and ten thousands there are who despise riches, and would willingly be true disciples of Jesus Christ, if parting with their money would make them so; but when they are told that our blessed Lord has said, “Whosoever will come after him must deny himself;” like the pitiable young man before-mentioned, “they go away sorrowful” for they have too great a love for sensual pleasures.  They will perhaps send for the ministers of Christ, as Herod did for John, and hear them gladly.  But touch them in their Herodias, tell them they must part with such or such a darling pleasure, and with wicked Ahab they cry out, “Hast thou found us, O our enemy?”  Tell them of the necessity of mortification and self-denial, and it is as difficult for them to hear, as if you were to bid them “cut off a right-hand, or pluck out a right-eye.”  They cannot think our blessed Lord requires so much at their hands, though an inspired apostle has commanded us to “mortify our members which are upon earth.”  And who himself, even after he had converted thousands, and was very near arrived to the end of his race, yet professed that it was his daily practice to “keep under his body, and bring it into subjection, lest after he had preached to others, he himself should be a castaway!”

     But some men would be wiser than this great apostle, and chalk out to us what they falsely imagine an easier way to happiness.  They would flatter us.  We may go to heaven without offering violence to our sensual appetites; and enter into the strait gate without striving against our carnal inclinations.  And this is another reason why so many are only almost and not altogether Christians.

     5.   The fifth and last reason I shall assign why so many are only almost Christian, is a fickleness and instability of temper.

     It has been, no doubt, a misfortune that many a minister and sincere Christian has met with, to weep and wail over numbers of promising converts, who seemingly began in the Spirit, but after a while fell away, and basely ended in the flesh, and this not for want of right notions in religion, nor out of a servile fear of man, nor from the love of money, or of sensual pleasure, but through an instability and fickleness of temper.  They looked upon religion merely for novelty, as something which pleased them for a while; but after their curiosity was satisfied, they laid it aside again—like the young man that came to see Jesus with a linen cloth about his naked body, they have followed him for a season, but when temptations came to take hold on them, for want of a little more resolution, they have been stripped of all their good intentions, and fled away naked.  They at first, like a tree planted by the water-side, grew up and flourished for a while, but having no root in themselves, no inward principle of holiness and piety, like Jonah’s gourd, they were soon dried up and withered.  Their good intentions are too like the violent motions of the animal spirits of a body newly beheaded, which, though impetuous, are not lasting.  In short, they set out well in their journey to heaven, but finding the way either narrower or longer than they expected, through an unsteadiness of temper, they have made an eternal halt, and so “returned like the dog to his vomit”, or like the sow that was washed to her “wallowing in the mire!”

     But I tremble to pronounce the fate of such unstable professors, who, having put their hands to the plough, for want of a little more resolution, shamefully look back.  How shall I repeat to them that dreadful threatening—“If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”  And again, “It is impossible (that is, exceeding difficult at least) for those that have been once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and the powers of the world to come, if they should fall away, to be renewed again unto repentance.”  But notwithstanding the Gospel is so severe against apostates, yet many that begun well, through a fickleness of temper—O that none of us here present may ever be such—have been by this means of the number of those that turn back unto perdition.  And this is the fifth, and the last reason I shall give, why so many are only almost, and not altogether Christians.

– George Whitefield

You can become an altogether Christian by coming to Jesus in faith. Pray the sinner’s prayer on the sidebar of this website, and trust Jesus for your salvation by reading the bible, praying and attending a bible-based church.

You can read the full sermon on The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, 1771-2, London, or on this link: http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/Whitefield.html

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