Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thomas Smyth, A Gospel-Centered Pastor

Today marks the 201st anniversary of the birth of one of Charleston, South Carolina's notable pastors, Thomas Smyth (June 14, 1808 - August 20, 1873). I have already offered highlights of his life and ministry here, so I'll use this post to share an excerpt from his little book Why Do I Live? I just recently found this copy for sale and it is the first of his works that I have purchased. I have also recently downloaded most of the 10-volumes of his collected works from Google Books.

Upon receiving this book in the mail, I immediately sat down and began reading through it. I found it to be a breath of fresh, Gospel-saturated air. This excerpt shows Smyth's passion for calling Christians to live the life they have been freed to live in Christ (something woefully absent from many contemporary books). This is from Chapter VIII, The Living Christian Stimulated.
To be a Christian is a glorious privilege, and a divine honor. It is "a high calling, a royal priesthood." It is to be "a Son of God," "a joint-heir with Christ," and "a partaker of the divine nature." It is to be filled with heaven-borrowed thoughts of joys to come, and to walk the earth with inward glory crowned.
"Earth's fairest scenes the Christian calls his own;
He is a monarch, and his throne
Is built amid the skies."

But to be a Christian is to be more than a member of the church. That which makes any man a Christian is union to Christ, and conformity to him. The sum of religion, as even a heathen could express it, is to be like God whom thou worshipest. This then is Christianity, to believe in Christ as "God manifest in flesh," to come to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be in all things subject to Christ, to live in Christ, to live for Christ, and in all things, in all ways, and in all events to follow Christ. It is to become partakers in the benefits of Christ's obedience, sufferings, and death, that we may have fellowship with him also in his life and glory. It is to be crucified together with Christ, dead with Christ, buried with Christ, and risen with Christ. Oh, see to it that thy heart is sincerely Christ's. As this piety alone will meet acceptance at the inevitable day of heart-revealing, heart-approving, or heart-condemning, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Be very sure that your heart closes with Christ, and is fixed upon him, and living by faith on him.

Are you indeed a Christian? Then you have seen the plague of your own heart, felt the direful corruption of sin, and are most anxious for deliverance from it. You know how it defiles, like leprosy, our houses, the very walls and floors, our meat and our drink, and every thing we touch. Polluting when alone, and polluting in society, it leads to misery and death, burdens the whole creation, and "presses groans out of the very frame of the earth itself." You cannot but desire to have your soul purified from this foul and loathsome disease, that, elevated above all the mists and impurities of inordinate worldly affections, the light of divine grace may shine unobstructed into your heart and be reflected with power upon the observing hearts of those around you. Let it be thus seen that you are not a mere hearer of the word, but a doer of it; a partaker of Christ; one who feels his guilt and the greatness of that love which led Christ to die for him; one who has been washed and made clean in the fountain opened in Christ's blood for sin and uncleanness; one who constantly draws living waters from the wells of salvation, and one whose whole conduct savors of his secret and habitual converse with Christ in the recesses of his own heart.

Christ became like us, for the very purpose that we might thus become like him. Christ took upon him our nature that he might, by the mighty working of his Holy Spirit, make us alive unto God, new creatures, a peculiar people, zealous of good works, finding our meat and our drink in doing his will.

Yes, Christian, you are set for the rising or fall of those around you. You are an epistle of Christ, read either to the conviction and conversion, or to the condemnation of many. Your life is your testimony for or against Christ. By it you proclaim the truth or falsity of your own profession, and as far as your influence extends, even of the religion you profess. (pp. 67-68)