“The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.” – Proverbs 3:35
Jim was a reflective young man; he was in his senior year at high school. He had been thinking about the right and the wrong of many “practical problems.” Above all he had been considering of late the profound and far-reaching implications of the covenant reality that he had been baptized “without his knowledge.” This weighed rather heavily upon his mind. Gradually this truth had dawned upon the as a wonderful reality of the Mystery of God. Yes, he saw it clearly now, that there are two pillars of truth. In the first place, he was “without his knowledge” partaker of the condemnation in Adam. And, secondly, he was now baptized “without his knowledge” as one who had been “received into the grace of Christ” before he had been able to answer a baptismal vow.
Holy vows had been spoken for him by his dear father and mother, when he was still at his mother’s breast. And vows are sacred!! They must be paid unto the Lord. And this his parents had done for him “to the utmost of their power.” He had been committed to the Lord, as an heir in Christ, and was, therefore, to be wise and not a fool!
Judy too was a God-fearing young lady. No, she was no mere moralist, old or new morality: she was a Christian! And of late in the Catechism class it had been made very clear to her, and she had pondered this deep in her heart, that to be a Christian meant far more than merely to attend church, to be an active member of the Society, or of being enrolled as an honor student in the high school. She had memorized Question 32 of the Heidelberg Catechism, exactly like Ursinus wrote in in 1563. She had found this question and answer to be a spiritual gem; it had strangely warmed her heart. Why, she was not merely reciting it. It came from her lips as the fruit of faith in her heart. She was confessing before the entire catechism class (a couple of the girls were snickering). “Because I am a member of Christ by faith and ma thus partaker of His anointing, that I may confess his name and present myself a living sacrifice of thanksgiving to him, and also with a free and good conscience, I may fight against sin and Satan in this life, and afterwards reign with him over all creatures”!
Catechism had been different that night for Judy! Here Judy found the pearl of great price. Here was the very essence and marrow of being a Christian. What is more, it is also such a clear, exact and Biblical statement of what really constitutes a Christian. Yea, she was a member by faith. Christ’s anointing of the Father was her anointing in Him! Here was the mystery: I in them, and Thou in Me, that we be perfect in one! It was all a gift of God, sovereign grace alone in all of its efficacious power which had come into her life. She had been made alive! Oh, the lines had fallen in pleasant places in her life. A goodly heritage was hers. She would inherit glory!
But life was not without its problems for both Jim and Judy. And they were a bit perplexed. Yes, Satan was tempting them with his methodical assaults, his hellish, diabolical wiles. It was the same strategy of Satan, as that old Serpent did in Paradise with Eve. Satan likes to have his preachers imitate the real preaching; these are pseudo-preachers preaching a pseudo-christ, saying here is the Christ and there is the Christ, coming with his panacea for the world’s ills from which she bleeds from a thousand wounds. All the ills of the world can and may be alleviated if only Christ and efficacious grace is not preached. There must be no real Christians, who partake of Christ’s anointing.
Yes, the drunkard, the jail-bird, the switch-blade throwing gangs of Harlem’s ghetto – all must be helped, but they must not be converted to God in true faith. They don’t need salvation, they need help to become rehabilitated, and Christ must be hitched to this wagon of humanism and self-improvement. Fools these preachers are, for they are very self-confident. Their trust is not in the Lord. Yet, shame is the promotion of fools. Yes, they will “help” the men in the ghetto from cutting each other up in their gang fights. And, really, such a preacher makes a hit. No, they would not think of insisting that the definition of a true Christian is the one which Judy learned to love from the Catechism. Nor are these preachers concerned about the “two parts” of the Covenant (Baptism Form). They do not teach that now our “part” is to cleave to this one God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; that we trust in Him and love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our mind, with all our strength, that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.”
No, what they do is material for a book, a real thriller!
In this book the preacher is not the servant, he becomes the “hero.” It becomes something when a switch-blade thrower is so much more sinner than the decent man on the street. Yes, he is a little more pugnacious and dangerous, and he catches the head-lines. The hero-preacher has sold a best-seller, and the movie industry cashes in on it, and the gullible public flocks its doors. And Satan has a “Christian” move, at least by the standards of those who have Common Grace righteousness.
Small wonder that Jim and Judy are perplexed! For John, who is an A-student in school, has a great influence. He is a bit fond of debating (even with his teachers in class) and often engages in a bit of sophistry. He does not yet really know formally what a syllogism is, but since he has a rather logical bent of mind he does, in effect, use the syllogistic form of reasoning. And, he in turn, becomes the “hero” of the gullible at school. And, of course, a little learning is a dangerous thing.
Hear John expostulate. He says to his teacher that “since it is not wrong to read the book it is not wrong to attend the movie of the same book.” He really has made a syllogism:
1. It is not wrong to read the book.
2. The book and its message is displayed in the movie.
3. We may, therefore, see what we may read.
Now John never “read” the book. He is not really seriously thinking of going to the theatre to see the movie. He is just trying to argue a point. Thus youth will do. He is trying to convince himself that, if he were to attend the movie, it would be permissible. But he is not serious. That is his trouble. He forgets that the entire matter is far more serious when he would walk consciously in his “part” of the Covenant. To this he too has been committed while a child in arms!
Both Jim and Judy have made this a matter of prayer! They prayed “Father, lead us, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.” And it became clear to them from Scripture that the matter was not so difficult after all. It was a matter of ideals, values, of walking in their “part” of the Covenant. Yes, they could read the “book” but if they once went through the agonizing trauma of finding the “book” wanting when weighed in the balances, they would have no more a problem about viewing it. They would not need to see “the depths of Satan.” That they would leave for Jezebel and for her spiritual children.
Rather they would follow the rule: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are hones, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there by any virtue, if there be any praise, think (give them all consideration and approval) on these things.”
Think on them and practice them as a way of life.
And the God of peace shall be with you to give you the glory which awaiteth the wise.
But shame shall be the promotion of fools.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 9 January 1971