Try the Books
J.C. Philpot, in a sermon we have been excerpting in Herescope for the past several days entitled "Trying the Spirits" circa 1844, concludes with a warning about books.
Books?! How harmless books must have been in 1844 compared to the open heresies of our postmodern era! Yet, he implores believers to guard themselves, to "try the spirits" of every religious book that they are tempted to put into their hands. Here is what he says:
…Now we are to "try the spirits." We are not to submit implicitly to what every man who stands up in a pulpit may choose to say. We are not to receive, as written by the Spirit, every book put into our hands that is called a religious work. We are not to believe every word that is spoke by persons professing a sound creed. We are commanded, God the Spirit calls upon us, to "try the spirits" by our own experience, and by the doctrine, experience, and precept recorded in the book of God. Now, do so, my friends. I would charge it upon your conscience. Do see what impression the things connected with religion have upon your minds. Look at the religious books you read: see what impressions they leave upon your heart. Look at the persons professing godliness that you associate with; see what effects attend their conversation. Above all, look at the ministers you hear; and see what impressions they leave by their ministry on your conscience. …
…Thus, as far as the Spirit of God is your teacher, you are called upon to "try the spirits whether they are of God." And thus, a child of God will have, more or less, perpetual cause for inward trial. Sometimes he will be trying his own heart, to see how God is dealing with him: and it will be his happiness if he can find some sweet testimony that the Lord is dealing with him in mercy. Sometimes he will try the books that come before him, (for, "the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat," Job xxxiv. 3): and he will cast aside every book, however sound in doctrine, that does not communicate grace to his soul. Those works, written by gracious men, which have power and feeling, such as Hart's Hymns, Bunyan's Grace Abounding and Pilgrim, and Huntington's Works, will be his chiefly prized books, that his soul, under the Spirit's teaching, may be imbued with some of the rain and dew that fell upon those blessed men. … [emphases added]
Sadly, it is a fact of our Christian life that we cannot trust others to guard us from bad books. Christian bookselling has become a huge industry and it has become apparent that profit$ are the ugly new reality. There is therefore no guarantee that when you walk into a Christian bookstore that you won't find terribly heretical books. And there is no guarantee that books -- even by esteemed and lauded Christian leaders -- won't be filled to the brim with leaven, corrupt doctrine or biblical errors.
As Philpot's sermon so carefully explains, individual believers have a Scriptural responsibility to "try the spirits, whether they are of God" (I John 4:1).
The other day Christian Research Service issued a statement summarizing the past few years of its efforts to see if any components of the Christian bookselling industry would be willing to clean themselves up. The response has been overwhelmingly negative:
Now online at Christian Research Service:
SPECIAL REPORT: Non-Christian Authors, Books Continue to Haunt the Christian Bookstore Industry
"The time has come when the entire Christian bookstore industry must take a serious look at who and what they are advertising and promoting, then do something about it--not six months from now or next year--but immediately."
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).
Online at: http://www.christianresearchservice.com/bookstores5.htm
It, therefore, behooves every believer to take the exhortations of Philpot to heart, and apply these Scriptures to their individual lives. And to make every attempt to warn other believers as God enables them. The shepherds have left the gates wide open for ravening wolves to come in. May God have mercy!
Another old classic, Separated Unto God by J.C. Wenger (available at 800-776-0478) concludes this matter:
"Maintaining the Truths of God's Word
"Christians of today are also living in an age of heresies. There are those who deny the deity of the Lord Jesus, who reject His unique Saviourhood, who cast away the infallibility of His Word, who deny that man was created in the image of God by a special creative act, who deny that man has an immortal soul, who reject the reality of eternal punishment in hell, who refuse to believe in the personality of the Holy Spirit, who deny the need and possibility of divine regeneration, who believe that children need little or no discipline, who refuse to believe that Jesus is coming again, who deny categorically that one can have in this world absolute religious truth. In contrast with this spirit of unbelief the Christian who is separated unto God rejoices in the revelation which God has given to us in His Word and brings 'every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.' [2 Cor. 10:5] The unbelief of many modern men is awful, but this unbelief furnishes a dark background for the light of simple Christian faith to shine in today.
"There are those who say foolishly that the truth of God's Word needs no defense. It is true that God's Word will always remain absolutely reliable, even if all men be found to be unbelievers. Defending the truth of God's Word does not mean keeping it from being annihilated, but it does mean saving men from untrue and foolish unbelief. Just as the apologists of the ancient church played a large part in the triumph of Christianity over paganism, so today God is raising up men of faith who are able to set forth clearly the grounds of theistic and Christian belief against the modernism, humanism, and secularism of our time. May God bless their effort to the salvation of many souls and to the glory of His name, and may He deliver His elect from the heresies and the unbelief of our culture." (pp. 286-287)