“Left to himself, man is half beast and half devil.” –George Whitefield
How true is the statement in which George Whitefield made! Without the direct interposition and intervention of the Lord on the behalf of men, look what man has become without his mercy and grace.
When I look to my past and to the present, I am the first to agree.
I was a law-breaking (1 John 3:4), fatherless punk (Psalm 68: 5-6) trodding shamelessly down the wrong paths (Proverbs 14:12) and that to my own demise (1 Corinthians 6:9), living excess in an ungodly lifestyle (1 Peter 4:2) only to find the that the Lord was there the whole time, and in all of this, in spite of me to show me who He is.
Oh, how I understand the Apostle Paul when he said:
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15
Now, I am not one of those who means to gloat in how bad I was as a sinner toward the most high God and towards man. Instead, I would like to show the magnanimity (I have been redeemed by His blood Colossians 1:14) of His overwhelming mercy and His overcoming grace, which teaches us to go and sin no more (John 5:14; 8:11), and the power to overcome by faith (1 John 5:1-4). Grace defined-Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin. –Webster’s 1828) therefore in relaying my heart to you that it is right in testifying of what the Holy Ghost has done, and is doing on my part is then to magnify His goodness, not my sinfulness.
“But where sin abounded, grace does much more abound.” -Romans 5:20
In contrast, when becoming a new Christian, I would hear those who would give their testimonies, and how they would spend 45 minutes bragging and gloating in jest about how bad they were as sinners, and then spending seconds on how Christ saved their souls, only to see them fall away (Hebrews 6:6) from the faith (1 Corinthians 13:5) that they professed to possess.
Our testimonies should not be based on how bad we were-are, but on how good He is, and that to the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6).
Here, I’ll let let the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, interpose:
The heathen world at that time was sunk in the blackest darkness, and sin abounded. You have only to study ancient history and you will fetch a heavy sigh to think that men could be so vile. A poor and unlettered people were chosen of God to receive the gospel of Jesus, and they went about telling of an atoning Savior, in their own simple way, until the Roman Empire was entirely changed.
Light and peace and truth came into the world, and drove away slavery and tyranny and bestial lust. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. What wonderful characters were produced in the terrible reign of Diocletian! What consecration to God was seen in the confessors! What fearlessness in common Christians!
What invincible loyalty to Christ in the martyrs! Out of barbarians the Lord made saints and the degraded rose to holiness sublime.
If I were to ask you, now, to give the best illustrations of grace abounding in individuals, I think your impulse would be to choose men in whom sin once abounded. What characters do we preach of most, when we would magnify the grace of God? We talk of David, and Manasseh, and swearing Peter, and the dying thief, and Saul of Tarsus, and the woman that was a sinner. If we want to show where grace abounded, we naturally turn our eyes to the place where sin abounded. Is it not so? Therefore, I need not give you any more cases—it is proven that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
What a wretched being man is as a sinner against God! Unchecked by law, and allowed to do as he pleases, what will not man become?
See how Paul describes men in these progressive times—in these enlightened centuries: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Human nature was not at all slandered by Whitefield when he said, “Left to himself, man is half beast and half devil.”
He goes on:
“Human history, Assyrian, Roman, Greek, Spanish, English, and if you are a lover of holiness, you will be sick of man. Has any other creature, except the fallen angels, ever become so cruel, so mean, so false? Behold what villains, what tyrants, what monsters sin has made!
But now look on the other side, and see what the grace of God has done. Under the molding hand of the Holy Spirit a gracious man becomes the noblest work of God. Man, born again and rescued from the Fall, is now capable of virtues, to which he never could have reached before he sinned. An unfallen being could not hate sin with the intensity of abhorrence which is found in the renewed heart. We now know by personal experience the horror of sin, and there is now within us an instinctive shuddering at it. An unfallen being could not exhibit patience, for it could not suffer, and patience has its perfect work to do. When I have read the stories of the martyrs in the first ages of the Christian church, and during the Marian persecution in England, I have adored the Lord, who could enable poor feeble men and women thus to prove their love to their God and Savior. What great things they suffered out of love to God, and how grandly did they thus honor Him! O God, what a noble being Your grace has made man to be! I have felt great reverence for sanctified humanity, when I have seen how men could sing God’s praises in the fires. What noble deeds men have been capable of, when the love of God has been shed abroad in their hearts! I do not think angels, or archangels, have ever been able to exhibit so admirable an all-round character as the grace of God has worked in once-fallen men whom He has, by His grace, inspired with the divine life. In human character, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
Amen! What does grace empower us to become? It empowers us to become just like Him and that glory of His grace (Mark 8:34; Romans 13:14; James 1:12).
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