Tag Archives: William B. Johnson

Your Feelings Aren’t the Measure of What’s True

There’s a scene in the movie The Return of the King where Aragorn tells Gandalf, “We still have time. Every day Frodo moves closer to Mordor.” Gandalf objects: “Do we know that?”, to which Aragorn responds: “What does your heart tell you?

It makes a great line in a book or movie script. However, as a way to find truth in the real world, it’s an absolutely awful idea. Charles Dickens makes a really good point in the words he penned for Scrooge, who, though talking about the senses, could easily be describing feelings as he tells the ghost why he doubts:

Because a little thing can effect them. A slight disorder of the stomach can make them cheat. You may be a bit of undigested beef, a blob of mustard, a crumb of cheese.” (A Christmas Carol)

Feelings change, and can be affected by a dizzying variety of factors. And they are often fuzzy and hard to define. Yet, sadly, many Christians are far more comfortable trying to divine direction and truth from the churning chaos of their own feelings than they do from the Bible itself. We live in an anti-intellectual and anti-authoritarian age, after all. Reading and study are hard; a “gut check” is easy. And the feelings in your heart are comparatively non-threatening. They’re your feelings and admit many different interpretations, whereas words on a page are much harder to get around if one is inclined to do so.

The antidote for this? You really want to know the truth, rather than your own self-affirming opinions? Go to church and put yourself under good Bible teaching and regular and faithful expository preaching–that is, preaching that is concerned with explaining and applying what the actual text is saying:

In the reading of the holy word, as the act of the church, with the light that will be thrown on its different parts in the exercise of the gifts of the members, their minds will be led up ‘to the law and the testimony,’ as the perfect and only standard of faith and practice….

“‘The law and the testimony’ will become the standard of faith and practice, in fact and not in name only. We shall then no more hear from Christians, ‘I do not feel to do this or that,’ although such feeling may be in direct opposition to the word of God. Neither shall we witness the unscriptural conduct based upon such an unscriptural sentiment.

Feeling will not be the standard of duty, but the word of the Lord. The enquiry as to the duty to be performed, will not be, ‘how feelest thou?’ But ‘what is written in the law?’ ‘How readest thou?” (William B. Johnson, The Gospel Developed, emphasis added)


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An Interesting Read: A Gospel Summary by William B. Johnson

Have a read of this summary of the Gospel of Christ, which forms most of Chapter 18 of Johnson’s book “The Gospel Developed.” While I’d probably word things differently in places, and probably express it far less “academically,” it’s always an edifying exercise to study how those who have gone before us summarize the Gospel message.

Note how he drives straight to the church, by the way.


The Creator and moral Governor of the universe, subsists in the social state. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit constitute a society of the most pure, holy and noble character. We, the creatures of the divine power, are made for the social state also; and are, therefore, endowed with those properties of body and of mind, which preeminently fit us for such a state of existence. For the right exercise of these powers, and for the preservation of the social intercourse between our Creator and us, he has established certain fixed relations. From these relations arise certain obligations, and these obligations imperatively require the performance of certain duties,—duties which call into requisition all our energies.

From this order of things proceed the two fundamental laws of the divine government, thus promulgated by the Lord Jesus Christ: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” The obligation to obey these commandments manifestly arises from the relations stated above; and whilst these relations are sustained, these commandments will be obeyed, and happiness will be the result. But a disturbance of these relations will inevitably derange the moral system, and disobedience to these commandments will follow as a matter of course. Such disobedience is sin, for “sin is the transgression of the law.” And such transgression will necessarily produce misery. For “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,” and naught else.

The relation between God and us, is the relation of the creature to the creator, of the subject to the ruler; and hence comes the right of supreme control on the part of God, and the duty of implicit submission on the part of man. But we have withheld this submission. We have refused to obey the commands of God, our Maker, and thus given clear proof that we do not love him supremely. It is evident, then, that we have disturbed the relation between God and us.

The relation between ourselves, is the relation of creatures, the descendants of a common parent; and, therefore, we are under obligation to love one another, as we love ourselves, and as is required in the second commandment. But instead of thus loving one another, we are “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” We have, then, disturbed the relations between ourselves also.

The relation existing between all holy intelligences and us, is the relation of subjects of the same Creator and moral Governor, placed under the same fundamental laws as stated above. The disobedience to these laws, which has disturbed the relations between God and us, and between ourselves, has necessarily disturbed the relation between these holy intelligences and us.

In thus disturbing these great relations, which lie at the foundation of all righteous authority, and obedience; of the social state; of order and of happiness; the awful consequences of insubordination, disorder, and wretchedness have come in upon our world, as a desolating flood. To whom shall we look for relief in this exigency? To whom but to Him who is the founder of the relations that have been disturbed, and who only can readjust them, that in their reestablishment by His gracious interposition, we may obtain the removal of existing disorders. And blessed be His holy name, we shall not look in vain. For He has laid help upon one that is mighty; even Christ the righteous, who is God over all, blessed forever more.

It is evident from what has been said, that the disturbance of the relations between God and us has involved our whole race in infinite guilt. It is equally evident that, having violated an infinite law, the penalty of whose violation is everlasting banishment from the presence of God and the glory of his power, we cannot now remove the penalty by our imperfect obedience to the law, neither can we endure and survive the penalty. It is impossible, therefore, for us to readjust the disturbed relations. But in the gospel of our Lord Jesus, our heavenly Father has made ample provision to meet the exigency of the case. He has so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For he sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. For this purpose, when the fulness of time was come, he sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Being made under the law, he became subject to its requirements, and having rendered a perfect obedience to them all, he suffered the penalty on the cross, was buried, and rose again triumphantly from the grave. In his obedience and suffering, his death and resurrection, he magnified the law and made it honorable, and became its “end for righteousness to every one that believeth.” He who knew no sin was made a sin offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. And hence, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”

The Saviour has thus readjusted the relations which we had disturbed. And therefore, “when he ascended up on high he received gifts for men, yea for the most rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” “He is now at the Father’s right hand, as the advocate and intercessor of his people. He “is exalted as a prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel and redemption of sins.” It hath pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell, and that of his fulness we all should receive, and grace for grace.” The most ample provision has been made for the return of sinners to God, in the exercises of penitence and faith, of love and obedience, of self-denial and holiness. The divine Spirit has descended, as the fruit of the Saviour’s mission and the gift of God, to regenerate and sanctify by the truth of God, which is his word, the hearts of returning sinners, and to make their bodies the temples of his abode. And through this gracious provision every sinner is invited to come back to his offended God, to have the most endearing and permanent relations reestablished between himself and his God, and the whole moral system. And just in proportion as sinners accept this invitation, and return to their allegiance to the Creator and moral Governor of the universe, through the gospel plan, will all the disturbed relations between our world and its Maker, between ourselves, and between all holy intelligences and us be readjusted. These are the good tidings which the gospel reveals, good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for the gospel shall be published in all lands, and “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And “in the dispensation of the fulness of time, he will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him.”

When the disturbed relations were readjusted by our Lord Jesus Christ, the way was open for the reconstruction of the social state, for which man was originally created. Hence, immediately after the Saviour’s ascension, a church was formed at Jerusalem, and wherever the gospel was preached and sinners were converted and baptized, they were formed in churches, embracing in their membership those who resided within convenient limits. In these holy societies, principles the most pure and elevated were inculcated, truths the most sublime taught, characters the most distinguished held up for imitation,—characters of whom the world was not worthy. Above all, the spotless example of the meek and lowly Jesus was presented as the perfect pattern, to which all were to look and all were to be conformed. In such communities, trained by the teachings and living under the influences of their Head, the most spiritual and noble society should be found. There should personal holiness thrive. There should zeal glow with unabated ardor. There should efforts worthy of the cause in which they are engaged, originate and be carried on with liberality and perseverance. It is manifest, then, that the churches of Christ are charged with an important agency in carrying on the purposes of God to final triumph; and that, in fulfilling the duties of this honored agency, they will develop the glorious gospel of the Son of God.

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