THE SCRIPTURES AND GOOD WORKS
Dangers in the Perversion of Truth
The Truth of God may well be likened to a narrow path skirted on either side by a dangerous and destructive precipice: in other words, it lies between two gulfs of error. The aptness of this figure may be seen in our proneness to sway from one extreme to another. Only the Holy Spirit’s enabling can cause us to preserve the balance, failure to do which inevitably leads to a fall into error, for “error” is not so much the denial of Truth as the perversion of Truth, the pitting of one part of it against another. The history of theology forcibly and solemnly illustrates this fact. One generation of men have rightly and earnestly contended for that aspect of Truth which was most needed in their day. The next generation, instead of walking therein and moving forward, warred for it, intellectually, as the distinguishing mark of their party,1 and usually, in their defense of what was assaulted, have refused to listen to the balancing Truth which often their opponents were insisting upon; the result being that they lost their sense of perspective and emphasized what they believed out of its scriptural proportions. Consequently, in the next generation, the true servant of God is called on almost to ignore what was so valuable in their eyes, and emphasize that which they had, if not altogether denied, almost completely lost sight of.
It has been said: “Rays of light, whether they proceed from the sun, star, or candle, move in perfect straight lines; yet so inferior are our works to God’s that the steadiest hand cannot draw a perfectly straight line; nor, with all his skill, has man ever been able to invent an instrument capable of doing a thing apparently so simple” (T. Guthrie, 1867). Be this so or not, certain it is that men, left to themselves, have ever found it impossible to keep the even line of Truth between what appear to be conflicting doctrines: such as the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man; election by grace and the universal proclamation of the Gospel; the justifying faith of Paul and the justifying works of James. Only too often, where the absolute sovereignty of God has been insisted upon, it has been to the ignoring of man’s accountability; and where unconditional election has been held fast, the unfettered preaching of the Gospel to the unsaved has been let slip. So, on the other hand, where human accountability has been upheld and an evangelical ministry been sustained, the sovereignty of God and the truth of election have generally been whittled down or completely ignored.