In my spare time, I am working on a project. The project is “translating” a book written by Joesph Bellamy in the 1700’s – into more readable English.
If you don’t read anything else – scroll down to the opening paragraph of Bellamy’s preface.
The original title of the book is:
True Religion Delineated,
as distinguished from formality on the one hand, and
enthusiasm on the other,
set in a Scriptural and rational light.
In Two Discourses:
Some of the principle errors of both The Arminians and An-
tinomians are confuted….The foundation and super-
structure of their different schemes de-
molished…. and the truth, as it
is in Jesus, explained
The whole adapted to the weakest capacities, and designed for
the establishment, comfort, and quickening
of the people of God.
So far, I’ve only done the Preface – which is an endorsement written by Jonathan Edwards, and the first paragraph of the the Author’s own preface. I’ve given them to you below to whet your appetites. Enjoy.
The “Being” (the existence, person and attributes) of God is to be considered the first, greatest, and most fundamental of all the things to be known or believed by any intelligent creature. Second only to that, must be the nature of that “Religion” – the worship of and service to God – which God requires of us: What must be found in us in order for us to enjoy what it means to have the benefit of His favor. Put another way, this “true religion” or “authentic Christianity” (we’ll use these terms synonymously) holds as much importance for us as knowing the Being of God itself does. Once we have come to know and believe God for who and what He is, it is only right that we come to know how we can honor, please and be accepted by Him. This is a matter of infinite consequence to every single human being. Why? Because God is the supreme judge of every human being, and He will judge us according to whether or not we have this True Religion. So it is this is a matter of the utmost importance to God’s Church and how the Church is to BE the Church in this world.
Since the beginning of the Reformation, nothing has been more destructive to or impeded more – the great moves of God in revival than either a defect in our knowledge of True Religion, or a failure to preserve it or carry it on faithfully. The reason why great the moves of God in history seem to start and stop so quickly, and why there is always such a great decline immediately following God’s visitations is to be found right here. From my own limited experience and from what I have been able to research of previous generations – this seems to have always been the case from the very beginning of the Church.
Those then who can give us any additional light on the nature of True Religion and how it can be distinguished from all its counterfeits, are doing the Church of God the greatest possible service. Not only that, but we must avoid any attempts to treat this topic lightly or to discourage those who would try to bring it to light, either under the pretext of concerns over it being an arrogant pursuit (because others have arrogantly done so), or because it is imagined the last word on it has already been written by others before us and in other places. We cannot suppose that the Church already has all the light God ever intends to give us on the subject. Nor can we imagine all of Satan’s means of hindering True Religion have already been discovered. We absolutely must not fail to pursue this for fear that we’ll be accused of being vain or lacking humility because we are trying to go beyond or find the deficiencies of what was handed down to us by our superior forefathers. Who knows but that we’ll uncover and defeat previously undiscovered ways Satan uses both to trap and ruin the souls of men and to destroy the advancement of True Religion in the world? Whatever unique opportunities God gives us in His special providences just might enable us to see some things that were overlooked before.
Recently, God has allowed some remarkable things to happen among us in regards to True Religion. It is my opinion that these experiences will help the wise among us see that there are far more counterfeits of True Religion than might have been observed or suspected previously. Because this is so, we stand in great need of having True Religion ever more clearly defined and articulated to us as distinguished from these fakes. We need to be able to rightly grasp the differences between the two plainly, safely and with certainty.
The present spiritual climate both here and abroad adds to the importance of searching out this topic as well as lending a timely push to going beyond what has been discovered before. Satan’s ability to transform himself into an angel of light has been unusually evident as of late. This has helped us see the difference between his operations and those of the Spirit of Christ in salvation in much sharper contrast. Consequently, we would be much to blame if we did not take advantage of the situation.
The author of the book you are about to read has not been negligent to seize on these very opportunities. He has been a mindful and discerning observer of the events of the last ten years. Because I’ve had the good fortune to know him well personally, I’ve every reason to be confident that his motives in writing it are right ones. I know him to be a man who is not given to publishing such a book just to be well thought of, or to gain notoriety as an author. He is not seeking men’s applause. He is spurred on by deep desire for God’s glory, and for the increase and welfare of the kingdom of his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. The main assertions he makes in clearly setting before us the distinguishing nature and essence of True Religion are his own deep convictions. They are the result of careful investigation of the key facts (which he has had more than ample opportunities to observe), very clear personal experience in his own soul, a most diligent search of the Bible, and a focused examination of the nature of the entire matter. He didn’t just rush into publishing his thoughts and findings either. He analyzed his work, meditated on it, maturely weighed all the objections he could think of, and took every opportunity he could to hear everything others had to say on it – especially by opponents of his views. He took the time to converse freely (and in a friendly way) with those who were confirmed Arminians, as well as having frequent and long dialogues with those called Separatists, their preachers, and others.
It is my deepest desire that what this godly and serious writer has written will catch the attention of many. That all will read it, read it thoroughly, read it carefully considering what is put forth, and read it without preconceived prejudices. From my reading of it, I found it to be a great means of discerning the truth regarding authentic, saving Christianity and its unique, identifiable features. Features deduced from the direct, foundational teaching of the Scriptures, and by the light of them greatly increasing our understanding of this vital subject. This book not only uncovers the truth, but at the same time it exposes truth’s deep foundations. It shows us what things are true and also shows us why they are true. It explains how every part of authentic Christianity is absolutely dependent upon every other part, and how the whole can rest only on the one foundation of the Word of God. It makes all of these things easy to see. All the while, it also reveals the source behind soul-endangering errors regarding how we come to have and eternally enjoy the saving favor of God in Heaven. Errors that pervade and prevail in the Pop-Christianity of our day. It uncovers their false foundations and their incongruence with the Christianity of the Bible.
A book like this is so needed right now. And the author (by his own admission) is not writing for scholars, but for the man and woman in the pew. That aside, both the compelling nature of the subject and the way it is treated will engage every man or woman who is serious about Biblical truth – no matter how educated, sophisticated, or average.
Jonathan Edwards. Northampton, August 4, 1750.
The beginning of Bellamy’s Preface:
We are designed, by God our maker, for an endless existence. In this present life, we just begin to live. We are in the introductory phase, about to enter a never-ending life in another world. A life where we are to be – forever – unspeakably happy, or miserable. Which of those, depends upon our present mode of life. This present life is a kind of state of probation. A probation leading to a permanent state either of rewards or punishments. Right now, we are on trial. God’s eye is watching us every moment. What He sees, that picture of ourselves which we exhibit in every aspect of our conduct – the whole of it taken together (actions, motives, etc) – displays our true character and will determine our state forever. This life is designed to test us, to try us. God intends to try us so that how we live in response to all the various conditions of life reveals who we are at the core. It prepares us for the day of judgment, when God will judge every person according to their works, and render to every person their just due according to their lives. His aim for this present existence is not to give us lives of ease and enjoyment. His aim in THIS life, is to test us; to turn up the heat to see what comes to the surface. He carefully crafts the difficult circumstances we each experience. And one great end He has in view, is, that He may “prove” us; that he may know fully what is in our hearts.