Ichabod Spencer, Evangelism, and Total Depravity

In my devotional reading, I am working through A Pastor’s Sketches by Ichabod Spencer, a faithful pastor in 19th Century New England. The subtitle is “Conversations with Anxious Souls Concerning the Way of Salvation,” and it is a collection of his personal evangelistic encounters, many of them only 3 or 4 pages long. It has given me a great deal of help as I strive to be a Biblically faithful evangelist in my community and church. There is much that could be said here, but I wanted draw attention to one quote in particular that has resonated with me:

I have often thought that a truly regenerate man cannot have any doubt of the entire depravity of the heart. If he does not see that, it is probable that he does not see his heart. And hence his repentance, his faith in Christ, and his reliance upon the Holy Spirit, will probably, all of them, be only deceptions. (127)

This is quite a claim, but one I have also become convinced of in my own experience. Those who are quick to say, “Of course I never really was all that bad,” or, “I was always a pretty good guy,” when you ask them about first trusting Christ, are always a concern to me. The complete inability of the natural man to love God or do good should have been the first truth they were confronted with when they heard the Gospel! Sadly, the doctrine of total depravity may be admitted when we back a preacher into a corner, but it is largely denied in practice. This is simply further evidence that we do not really believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Certainly, many who profess Christ without a first possessing a full understanding of sin, will ultimately embrace the truth of their natural depravity when they are finally instructed, which shows evidence of their conversion.  But there was a day among faithful men when presenting the Gospel without unfolding the total corruption of man was unthinkable. Let us magnify the grace and righteousness of God in the salvation of hopeless sinners!

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About Eric Smith

Sinner saved by the grace of Jesus, husband of Candace, father of Coleman and Crockett, West Tennessean, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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