A Brass Christian

“You may not be outwardly bad, and yet not inwardly good. You may be as far from grace as from vice. Though none can say your eye is black, yet your soul may be dyed black. Though your hands be not working iniquity, your heads may be plotting it…so the fair leaves of civility may hide you from the eye of man, but God sees the vermin of pride, unbelief, covetousness in your heart: ‘Ye are they,’ saith Christ, ‘that justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts,’ Luke xvi. 15. A man may not be morally evil, yet not spiritually good. He may be free from gross enormity, yet full of secret enmity against God; like the snake, which though it be of fine colour, yet hath its sting.

If you are only negatively good, God makes no reckoning of you; you are as so many ciphers in God’s arithmetic, and He writes down no ciphers in the book of life. Take a piece of brass, though it be not such bad metal as lead or iron, yet not being so good as silver, there is little reckoning made of it, it will not pass for current coin. Though thou art not profane, yet not being of the right metal, wanting [“lacking”–CD] the stamp of holiness upon thee, thou wilt never pass current, God slights thee, thou art but a brass christian” (Thomas Watson, The Saint’s Spiritual Delight).

Watson mentions Luke 16:15:

“And He said to them, You are those justifying yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for the thing highly prized among men is a hateful thing before God” (Luke 16:15).

Those superficially moral persons who rejected Christ are “brass religionists” (or whitened sepulchers). Those who profess to honor Christ with their lips while dishonoring and rejecting Him with their false gospel hearts, are truly said to be “brass christians.” In keeping with this particular Watsonian analogy, a “brass christian” is an outwardly moral and unregenerate person who does not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is something relevant to the unbreakable link between faith in the gospel and good works:

From the editor …

(From Outside the Camp, Vol. 10, No. 3)

This edition of Outside the Camp dedicated to some basic moral issues. This is not something on which we have typically focused; our main focus has been and continues to be in the area of gospel doctrine. However, there is a critical need to take a stand regarding some moral issues with which we are faced. We have already taken such a stand in our assembly and in our numerous conversations and correspondences with people, and it is now time to bring these things together into articles.

We are, of course, going to be accused of legalism by the antinomians, just as we have been accused of antinomianism by the legalists. (In fact, we have even been accused of believing that a regenerate person can believe all the right doctrines and yet live in immorality.) But this just comes with the territory.

The truth is that promoting morality and promoting salvation by grace alone are absolutely compatible, as the apostle Paul showed many times. Our morality forms absolutely no part of the ground of our acceptance before God, and all who have been accepted before God based on the work of Christ alone will have lives characterized by morality – not in order to gain or maintain acceptance before God, but out of love for God who saved us based on nothing in ourselves.

We must also mention judgment based on morality. We cannot judge someone to be a believer based on that person’s moral lifestyle, since there are moral unbelievers. Judgment must still be made on gospel doctrine. Not all who live moral lives are saved; in fact, most who live moral lives are unsaved. On the other hand, all who are saved will live moral lives. Thus, if anyone lives a life that is characterized by immorality, he is unsaved; he shows he does not believe the gospel. But if we encounter someone whose life is characterized by morality, we do not know if that person is saved or unsaved until we know what gospel doctrine he believes or does not believe. Two people can look the same in character and conduct who are in opposite spiritual states. The primacy of doctrine in making judgments remains. http://www.outsidethecamp.org/fte103.htm

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