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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, October 5, 2014

“He hath withdrawn himself from them” (Hosea 5:6).

“I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face...” (Hosea 5:15).

The theme of the fifth chapter of Hosea is the withdrawn presence of God – as given in the Scofield Bible’s description at the beginning of the chapter. God turned away from Israel because of their pride and because of their sin.

I know that God does not have a covenant with America. He has an earthly covenant with Israel, but not with any other nation. But notice, in our text, that God said He would turn away from His covenant people because of their pride and their sin. If He would forsake His covenant people Israel, think how much more likely that He would forsake America, and the Western world! Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

It is my conviction that the United States is today feeling the effects of God’s judgment upon us...We are feeling the effects of His judgment upon us, just as Israel did (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, volume III, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, p. 633; note on Hosea 5:2).

Now we come to our text,

“I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face...” (Hosea 5:15).

Here God tells the sinful nation that He will punish it by withdrawing from them, “I will go [from among you] and return to my place...” The great Puritan commentator Jeremiah Burroughs (1600-1646) gave these comments on our text,

‘I will return to my place,’ that is, I will go to Heaven again...When I have afflicted them I will go to Heaven, and there I will if I regarded them not (Jeremiah Burroughs, An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, Reformation Heritage Books, 2006, p. 305; note on Hosea 5:15).

I am certain that is the reason we have had no major revivals in the Western world for over 100 years. God has withdrawn from us. God has said, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence...” You may disagree, and say that I am just a missionary, not worthy of your attention. So, then, will you hear the great preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones? This is what he said,

God knows the Christian Church has been in the wilderness many a long year. If you read the history of the Church before about 1830 or 1840, you will find that in many countries there used to be regular revivals almost every ten years or so. It has not been like that. There has only been one major revival since 1859. Oh, we have been through a barren period... people have lost their belief in this living God and in the atonement and in reconciliation and have turned to wisdom, philosophy and learning. We have passed through one of the most barren periods in the long history of the Church...We are still in the wilderness. Do not believe anything that suggests we are out of it, we are not (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, 1987, Crossway Books, p. 129).

There you have it, not from a little missionary like me, but from a famous scholar, one of the two or three greatest preachers of the twentieth century! God has withdrawn Himself, and therefore, “There has only been one major revival since 1859,” although, “before about 1830 or 1840...there used to be regular revivals almost every ten years or so” (ibid.).

If we are truly interested in revival we should go back and examine carefully what happened between 1830 and 1840. Before that our churches had revival about every ten years. After that – only one major revival since 1859! So something must have happened between 1830 and 1840 that caused God to “withdraw himself” (Hosea 5:6) and “return to [His own] place” (Hosea 5:15).

If you know the history of evangelical Christianity, it should be clear what happened! Charles G. Finney! He is what happened! The historian Dr. William G. McLoughlin, Jr. wrote,

He inaugurated a new era in American revivalism...he transformed the whole philosophy and process of evangelism (William G. McLoughlin, Jr., Ph.D., Modern Revivalism: Charles G. Finney to Billy Graham, The Ronald Press, 1959, p. 11).

Before Finney, preachers believed that revival came from God, and that each individual conversion was a miracle from God as well. In 1735 Jonathan Edwards called revival a “surprising work of God.” By 1835 Finney was saying that a revival “Is not a miracle in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means.” That is, “Revival is not a miracle. It is only the natural result of using the right methods.” That’s what he said in modern English.

The difference between Jonathan Edwards and Finney is that Edwards was a Protestant, while Finney was a heretic, a Pelagianist who believed that man could be saved by his own efforts, rather than by the grace and power of God alone. It is not correct to say that Finney was an Arminian like the Methodists. Finney’s beliefs were far different from the Arminianism of the early Methodists. One of Finney’s most famous sermons was titled, “Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts” (1831). God was pushed out, and man, by his effort, could bring about his own conversion by a human decision. The Methodists, before Finney, did not believe that. Iain H. Murray has showed conclusively that Finney’s ideas came from New England liberals like Nathaniel Taylor, not from the early Methodists (Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism, Banner of Truth, 2009 edition, pp. 259-261). The Methodists would never have said, “Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts”! In his History of Wesleyan Methodism, George Smith gave the following definition of revival,

A revival, therefore, is a work of grace effected by the Spirit of God on the souls of men; and, in its nature, differs only from the ordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, in the enlightening and conversion of men, by its wider prevalence and greater intensity (George Smith, Revival, volume 2, 1858, p. 617).

This was an early Methodist definition of revival and conversion. It could have been given by any Protestant or Baptist denomination before Finney’s false definition became popular and squeezed God out of the picture. After Finney, they did not know that they were “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). After Finney, they did not even know that God had “withdrawn himself” and had returned “to his own place.”

The quotation from George Smith shows that the early Methodists believed that individual conversions and revival both depended solely on the grace of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit. That is what all Protestants and Baptists believed before Finney ruined evangelism. The older view of the great denominations was far different from Finney’s Pelagianist view, expressed in the title of his most famous sermon, “Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts.” How do you do that? I tried for seven years! It can’t be done. I know by experience!

Finney was the man who introduced the altar call, telling lost sinners that they could make a decision and be saved “on the spot” by an act of their own will. As Dr. McLoughlin said, Finney “transformed the whole philosophy and process of evangelism” (ibid.). Today, most branches of evangelicalism teach that lost sinners can be saved by the human act of raising their hands, saying the words of a “sinner’s prayer,” or walking to the front of the church at what is called, “decision time.” Thus “decisionism” is a direct product of the teachings of the Pelagian heretic Charles G. Finney!

Decisionism quickly became popular because it was “so much quicker and easier.” You no longer had to wait for the Holy Spirit to convict lost people of their sin, and then draw them to Christ. Finney turned evangelism into an assembly line to mass produce new “Christians.” But the mass “product” was mostly not Christian at all! That’s what ruined the great Protestant and Baptist denominations! Every one of the “liberals” made a decision without being saved! That’s where Protestant liberalism came from!

Iain H. Murray said, “The idea that conversion is man’s work became endemic to [a part of] evangelicalism and, just as men forgot that regeneration is God’s work, so belief in revival as the work of the Spirit of God disappeared. [This] was a direct product of Finney’s theology” (Revival and Revivalism, Banner of Truth, 1994, pp. 412-13).

The “quicker and easier” way has not been blessed by God. Instead, it filled our Protestant and Baptist churches with lost people. Right now there are so many lost people in our Baptist churches that many preachers feel they must close their Sunday evening services.

I asked one pastor’s wife why her husband closed the evening services. She said, “They told him they wouldn’t come.” This is just one of the tragic results of making unsaved people members of our churches simply because they made a human “decision.” May God forgive us! Without the older, Biblical form of conversions, we are doomed! We cannot save ourselves. Only God can send revival. Decisionism has denied God and put man on the throne. And God has said,

“I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face...” (Hosea 5:15).

That is the true reason we have had no major revival in America or the United Kingdom for over a hundred years!

Sinners must be humbled before God. Decisionism humbles no one. The sinner comes “forward” as if it were a gallant, courageous act. We see no tears, no sorrow, no remorse, no conviction of sin. My wife and I saw crowds of people laughing and talking happily as they went “forward” at Billy Graham’s last crusade in Pasadena, California, in November, 2004. How different this is from the old days of revival, before Finney. Listen to the description of a Methodist meeting in 1814.

The following night, at another prayer meeting, many more were seized with conviction of sin, and after much agony of soul and [prolonged] prayer they sought and found refuge in Christ...Men and women and young people who had lived godless lives were brought under great distress of soul [and then] began to testify with great assurance that God had visited them and given them forgiveness of sins through the merits of Jesus Christ (Paul G. Cook, Fire From Heaven, EP Books, 2009, p. 79).

Have you ever been “seized with conviction of sin”? Have you ever been in “much agony of soul” and then “found refuge in Christ”? Rev. Brian H. Edwards said,

It begins with terrible conviction of sin...people weep uncontrollably..But there is no such thing as a revival without tears of conviction and sorrow...There is no revival without deep, uncomfortable and humbling conviction of sin...One eyewitness [to the 1906 revival in China] reported: “The ground around me was like a battlefield with souls crying for mercy” (Brian H. Edwards, Revival: A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 1991 edition, pp. 115, 116).

Some of you have been trying to “learn” how to be saved. Salvation cannot be learned! It must be experienced, and it must be felt, it must happen to you so you know it. Now you know about it, but you must feel salvation for yourself. And the first feeling you must have is the deep conviction that you are a sinner. You must be made to cry out,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Dr. Lloyd-Jones said this was the cry of a convicted sinner – and I agree with him! I have seen this happen with my own eyes when God sent down His Spirit in revival.

At the revival in the First Chinese Baptist Church in the late 1960s, Dr. Timothy Lin had us sing repeatedly,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me and know my thoughts:
And know my heart;
Try me and know my thoughts;
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
   (Psalm 139:23, 24, expanded).

Stand and sing it. It’s number 8 on your song sheet. Only when you are convicted of the deep sin of your mind and heart will the cleansing Blood of Christ feel important to you! Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Hosea 5:6-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O For a Closer Walk With God” (by William Cowper, 1731-1800).