“APPREHENSION OF TRUTH” - Appendix B
(From “George Muller of Bristol” by Dr. A. T. Pierson)
In 1944 while a sailor in the Canadian Navy, someone gave me a copy of George Muller's “Answers to Prayer.” This hooked me on this most unusual man of God, and led me to memorize his “6 Ways to Infallibly Ascertain the Will of God” in his Preface, and “5 Ways How to Prevail in Prayer” in Appendix B.
Later I obtained his biography noted in the heading. I suppose out of the 144 who have mentored me either in person or by book, George Muller is one of the top 4 who have most influenced me in my life. The following thoughts came to him when he was 24.
“APPREHENSION OF TRUTH”
Some points which God began to show Mr. Muller while at Teignmouth, England in 1829:
1. That the word of God alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained onlyby the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, Heis the teacher of His people. The office of the Holy Spirit I had not experimentally understood before that time. Indeed, of the office of each of the blessed persons, in what is commonly called the Trinity, I had no experimental apprehension. I had not before seen from the Scriptures that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world; that in Him that wonderful plan of our redemption originated, and that He also appointed all the means by which it was to be brought about. Further, that the Son, to save us, had fulfilled the law, to satisfy its demands, and with it also the holiness of God; that He had borne the punishment due to our sins, and had thus satisfied the justice of God. And further, that the Holy Spirit alonecan teach us about our state by nature, show us the need of a Savior, enable us to believe in Christ, explain to us the Scriptures, help us in preaching, etc.
It was my beginning to understand this latter point in particular, which had a great effect on me; for the Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, and simply reading the word of God and studying it. The result of this was, that the first evening that I shut myself into my room, to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously. But the particular difference was, that I received real strength for my soul in doing so. I now began to try by the test of Scriptures the things which I had learned and seen, and found that only those principles which stood the test were really of value.
2. Before this periodI had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and final persevering grace; so much so that, a few days after my arrival at Teignmouth I called election a devilish doctrine. I did not believe that I had brought myself to the Lord, for that was too manifestly false; but yet I held, that I might have resisted finally. And further, I knew nothing about the choice of God's people, and did not believe that the child of God, when once made so, was safe for ever. In my fleshly mind I had repeatedly said, If once I could prove that I am a child of God for ever, I might go back into the world for a year or two, and then return to the Lord, and at last be saved. But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the word of God. Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely as an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said; I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths. To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines. As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state, for God's glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period.
My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before. And for this I have been strengthened by the Lord, in a great measure, through the instrumentality of these truths. For in the time of temptation, I have been repeatedly led to say: Should I thus sin? I should only bring misery into my soul for a time, and dishonor God; for, being a son of God for ever, I should have to be brought back again, though it might be in the way of severe chastisement.
Thus, I say, the electing love of God in Christ (when I have been able to realize it) has often been the means of producing holiness, instead of leading me into sin.It is only the notional apprehension of such truths, the want of having them in the heart, while they are in the head, which is dangerous.
3. Another truth, into which, in a measure, I was led, respected the Lord's coming. My views concerning this point, up to that time, had been completely vague and unscriptural. I had believed what others told me, without trying it by the Word. I thought that things were getting better and better, and that soon the whole world would be converted. But now I found in the Word that we have not the least Scriptural warrant to look for the conversion of the world before the return of our Lord. I found in the Scriptures that that which will usher in the glory of the church, and uninterrupted joy to the saints, is the return of the Lord Jesus, and that, till then, things will be more or less in confusion.
I found in the Word, that the return of Jesus, and not death, was the hope of the apostolic Christians; and that it became me, therefore, to look for His appearing. And this truth entered so into my heart that, though I went into Devonshire exceedingly weak, scarcely expecting that I should return again to London, yet I was immediately, on seeing this truth, brought off from looking for death, and was made to look for the return of the Lord. Having seen this truth, the Lord also graciously enabled me to apply it, in some measure at least, to my own heart, and to put the solemn question to myself - What may I do for the Lord, before He returns, as He may soon come?
4. In addition to these truths, it pleased the Lord to see a higher standard of devotednessthan I had seen before. He led me, in a measure, to see what is my true glory in this world, even to be despised, and to be poor and mean with Christ. I saw then, in a measure, though I have seen it more fully since, that it ill becomes the servant to seek to be rich, and great, and honored in that world where his Lord was poor, and mean, and despised.
NOTE: Some may have noted in the various articles I have posted on our Website, that I include not only writers with a Calvinistic trend such as George Muller, but also men like John Wesley, of an Arminian stance. You may comment - “Is this not inconsistent from a theological point of view?”
My answer to such an objection is Paul's comment in 1 Corinthians 3:3-9 - “Nay, even now are you yet unable; for you are yet carnal; for whereas jealousyis among you and strife, are you not carnal, and walk you not after man's manner? 4For when one says, I am of Paul; and another, I, of Apollos; are you not men? 5What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you believed, and as the Lord gave to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered; but :God gave increase. 7
So then neither is who plants anything nor who waters; but Godwho gives increase. 8Now who plants and who waters are one: but each shall receive his own :reward according to his own :toil. 9For we are God's fellow-workers: you are God's husbandry.”
And - 1 Corinthians 3:22-23 (3:18-23) - “For all thingsare yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or world, or life, or death, or things present, or coming; all areyours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's.”
On One occasion when George Whitefield was visiting America from England, he was asked by a fellow-Calvinist, “Do you think that John Wesley as an Arminian, will make it to heaven?” His reply was, “My dear sir, when we arrive in heaven, we will scarcely be able to see John Wesley, he will be so close to the Throne of God!”
In Seminary I met some of the same spirit as the above questioner. Our intimacy with Jesusdown here will weigh more heavily with God on our behalf for our reward in heaven, not our particular theological perspectives. That is not to say that the latter is unimportant - it is merely saying that it is nothighest on God's agenda! - Jim Watt