A Voice from the Past: Simon Magus -- By: James Inglis
JOTGES 2:1 (Spring 89) p. 45
A Voice from the Past:
Among other important parts of Scripture, that which teaches and illustrates the discipline which God maintains in His own house, and His jealous care over the purity of the Church, is often overlooked and misunderstood. Apart from the doctrine of Scripture, no inconsiderable portion of the history and narratives contained in the Old and New Testaments are practical lessons on these subjects, though their value is, in many instances, lost to us by the two-fold error of treating sin, when it is judged, as a proof that the person committing it was unregenerate; and regarding salvation by grace as excluding the exercise of discipline. We thus lose the warning which the faithful record is designed to enforce upon believers, and the instruction which it is designed to afford regarding the method of God’s dealing with His children.
The Holy Spirit has, with perfect impartiality, recorded the sins and failures which marred the earthly lives of the most eminent saints; not to perpetuate the memory of sins which God has forgiven, but to show over how great evils grace triumphs; and to warn believers of the necessity of sleepless vigilance, and of abiding dependence on Him whose strength is made perfect in weakness. The Holy Spirit also honors the holiness of our Heavenly Father by showing us that His love is not blind to the faults of His children, nor lax in the government of His family; and thus, much that would otherwise be inexplicable in our own experience as well as in the history of our brethren is made plain.
Distinct from the discipline of His children, yet allied to it, is the jealous love which He manifested over the purity of His Church and the honor of His ordinances, while the Church stood in its divine order and unity. The mistakes to which we have alluded are therefore well illustrated by the prevailing impressions regarding the case of Simon: that his sin proved that he was not a believer; and that Peter,
JOTGES 2:1 (Spring 89) p. 46
in rebuking the sin, was simply unmasking a hypocrite. This conclusion is unhesitatingly embraced, in the face of the divine testimony that Simon believed, by men who are daily dishonoring the name which they bear by their flagrant inconsistencies, and who still claim that they are not hypocrites, and who do not despair of their own salvation. Whatever difficulty there may be in determining the comparative enormity of sins committed by individuals in circumstances so various, it will at least be safe to avoid an undue leniency in judging ourselves.
Without anticipating any decision in the case before us, let us take the whole account of it, ...
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