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← I Can't Feel - Ichabod Spencer (A Pastor's Sketches)

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Showing Revision 2 created 09/28/2017 by Carrie Spradlin.

  1. From early spring down to the autumn of the year,
  2. A very sedate and contemplative man
  3. had been accustomed to call upon me
  4. in respect to his religious thoughts and anxieties.
  5. At first, he seemed to have thoughts only,
  6. but they ripened by degrees into anxieties.
  7. He began by asking about theories or doctrines
  8. apparently without any idea of
  9. making an application of the truth to himself.
  10. He had points of difficulty which he wished to have explained.
  11. And then he found other points,
  12. and these gradually changed in character
  13. from abstract questions to those of the application of the truth.
  14. From the first, I tried to lead him on to the personal application.
  15. But months passed away before
  16. he appeared to have much sense of his sin
  17. or much anxiety about himself.
  18. But he came to this, and after quite
  19. a struggle of mind as it appeared to me,
  20. to lead himself to believe in salvation by personal merit,
  21. he gave that up. He said to me,
  22. "I had become convinced that sinners are saved
  23. not by their own goodness,
  24. but because they are pardoned on account of Jesus Christ.
  25. Faith in Him is the only way for them."
  26. After this, I conversed with him several times
  27. when he appeared to me to be not far from the Kingdom of God.
  28. But, I was as often disappointed,
  29. for he would come back to me again
  30. in as much trouble and unbelief as before.
  31. Again and again, I had answered all his inquiries,
  32. teaching him out of the Scriptures,
  33. had brought up to his mind all the doctrines of truth,
  34. the divine promises and directions,
  35. sin and salvation, but all in vain.
  36. He had become very solemn
  37. and seemed to be entirely candid and really in earnest.
  38. His Bible had become his constant study.
  39. He was a man of prayer.
  40. He attended upon all our religious services with manifest interest.
  41. He appeared to have a deep sense of his sin and danger,
  42. but he had no hope in Christ.
  43. I finally said to him one evening, "I do not know, my dear sir,
  44. what more can be said to you.
  45. I have told you all that I know.
  46. Your state as a sinner lost,
  47. exposed to the righteous penalty of God's law,
  48. and having a heart alienated from God,
  49. and the free offer of redemption by Christ,
  50. and your instant duty to repent of sin
  51. and give up the world and give God your heart,
  52. and the source of your help
  53. through the power of the Holy Spirit assured to you,
  54. if you will receive Christ, all these things have become
  55. as familiar to you as household words.
  56. What more can I say?
  57. I know not what more there is to be said.
  58. I cannot read your heart. God can. And you can by His aid.
  59. Some things you have said almost made me think you a Christian,
  60. and others again have destroyed that hope.
  61. I now put it to your own heart.
  62. If you are not a Christian, what hinders you?"
  63. He thought a moment. Said he, "I can't feel."
  64. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"
  65. "I never thought of it before, sir."
  66. "How do you know this hinders you?"
  67. "I can think of nothing else, but I am sure
  68. I shall never be converted to God
  69. if I have no more feeling than I have now.
  70. But that is my own fault.
  71. I know you cannot help me."
  72. "No, sir, I cannot. Nor can you help yourself.
  73. Your heart will not feel at your bidding."
  74. "What then can I do?" said he with much anxiety.
  75. "Come to Christ now. Trust Him. Give up your darling world.
  76. Repent, so iniquity shall not be your ruin."
  77. He seemed perplexed, annoyed, vexed.
  78. And with an accent of impatience,
  79. such as I had never witnessed in him before, he replied,
  80. "That is impossible. I want the feeling
  81. to bring me to that, and I can't feel."
  82. "Hear me, sir," said I, "and heed well what I say.
  83. I have several points:
  84. One, the Bible never tells you that you must feel,
  85. but that you must repent and believe.
  86. Two, your complaint that you can't feel
  87. is just an excuse by which your wicked heart
  88. would justify you for not coming to Christ now.
  89. Three, this complaint that you can't feel
  90. is the complaint of a self-righteous spirit."
  91. "How is it?" said he.
  92. "Because you look to the desired feeling to commend you to God,
  93. or to make you fit to come, or to enable you to come."
  94. "Yes, to enable me," said he.
  95. "Well, that is self-righteousness in the shape of
  96. self-justification for not coming.
  97. Or in the shape of self-reliance if you attempt to come.
  98. That is all legalism and not the acceptance of gracious Christianity.
  99. You cannot be saved by the Law.
  100. Four, your complaint is the language of the most profound ignorance.
  101. To feel would do you no good.
  102. Devils feel. Lost spirits feel.
  103. Five, your complaint that you can't feel
  104. tends to lead you to a false religion.
  105. A religion of mere self-righteous feeling.
  106. Religion is duty.
  107. "But sir," said he, "there is feeling in religion."
  108. "But sir," said I, "there is duty in religion, and which shall come first?
  109. You ought to feel.
  110. You ought to love God
  111. and grieve that you are such a senseless sinner."
  112. "I know I am a sinner, but I can't feel
  113. any confidence to turn to God, to draw me to Him."
  114. "You are like the prodigal in the 15th of Luke
  115. when he thought of saying to his father,
  116. 'make me as one of the hired servants.'"
  117. "Poor fool, to say that to his father,
  118. why the very idea is a libel on his father's heart.
  119. But he didn't think so. Poor fool, he knew no better.
  120. And you are a greater fool than he.
  121. He went home.
  122. And where he met his father, he found his heart.
  123. He could feel when he found his father's arms around him
  124. and felt the strong beatings of his father's heart.
  125. Do as he did. Go home.
  126. And you will feel, if you've never felt before.
  127. You will starve where you are. Your husks will not save you."
  128. As I was uttering this, he hung his head, cast his eyes upon the floor
  129. and stood like a statue of stone.
  130. I let him think.
  131. There he stood for some minutes. Then, turning suddenly to me,
  132. reaching to me his hand, he said,
  133. "I'm very much obliged to you. Good night."
  134. I let him go.
  135. About a month afterwards, I met him riding alone in his wagon,
  136. and he insisted upon my taking a seat with him,
  137. for he had something to say to me.
  138. And he would drive wherever I wanted to go.
  139. I was no sooner seated in the wagon than he said to me,
  140. "the human heart is the greatest mystery in the world,
  141. inexplicable, contradictory to itself. It is absurd.
  142. The sinner says, as I said to you that last night,
  143. 'I can't feel' as an excuse
  144. for holding on to the world.
  145. I found as soon as I was willing to 'go home'
  146. as you called it, the road was plain enough."
  147. "Were you hindered long with that want of feeling?"
  148. "No. I never thought of it till that night.
  149. It came upon me like a flash.
  150. And then just as I was thinking it was a good reason in my favor,
  151. you dashed it all into shivers."
  152. "And can you feel now?"
  153. "Oh, yes. I have no trouble about that.
  154. I find that if a poor creature will turn to God,
  155. in the name of Jesus, he will learn to feel as he never felt before."
  156. Sinners not willing to give up the world
  157. and wanting an excuse for their irreligion exclaim,
  158. "I can't feel."
  159. This chapter is from "A Pastor's Sketches: Conversations with Anxious Souls Concerning the Way of Salvation."
  160. by Ichabod Spencer, originally published in the mid-19th century.