The nature of apostasy is tremendously fascinating to me. There is the quick apostasy, like Billy Graham’s partner and friend, Charles Templeton, and the slowly emerging apostasy like Billy Graham’s. There is the open apostasy like Demas’, and the secret apostasy like Judas‘.
Apostasy is a falling away from or an open rejection of the truth. No one who is truly saved is nor can ever be an apostate. John says that the apostate’s going out from us is the proof they never were of us in the first place. (1 John 2:19).
Rare in the recounting of the martyrdom of believers is the story of those who recanted. Some did, though. In reading about Judas this week in one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons, Spurgeon mentioned two men in history who, under Catholic pressure to recant Luther’s doctrines of faith under the Reformation, recanted. They openly rejected Christ and publicly said so and signed papers to the effect. Their end was startlingly similar to Judas’.
You might remember that after Judas conferred with the Pharisees, got his 30 pieces of silver, and kissed Jesus unto betrayal, Judas was filled with remorse (but not repentance) and he hung himself. His branch fell and Judas was splashed onto the rocks below, his intestines bursting out in a gory and spectacularly failed death.
Christian looked to see if he knew him; and he thought it might be one Turn-away, that dwelt in the town of Apostacy. But he did not perfectly see his face, for he did hang his head like a thief that is found; but being gone past, Hopeful looked after him, and espied on his back a paper with this inscription, “Wanton professor, and damnable apostate.” (John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress)
Satan harasses believers, (Luke 22:31; Acts 5:3) and his demons oppress non-believers too, and even possessing some (Luke 4:33, Mark 5:2). Satan himself possessed Judas and will possess the antichrist.
What do satan and his demons do to men who have heard the Gospel, even professed the Gospel, but then have rejected the Gospel? John Child (d. 1684) and Francis Spira (d. 1638) are two horrific examples. Obviously not all men who reject Jesus and show their apostate attitude are tormented like this, but the experience of these two men is worth sharing. Always paired, Child and Spira have become almost synonymous in the retelling. The pamphlet published about their case was the runaway bestsellers of their day, and on through the 1700s and even the 1800s. Here is the title of the pamphlet and a picture from amazon.com,
A relation of the fearful estate of Francis Spira, after he turn’d apostate from the protestant church to Popery. As also, the miserable lives, and woful deaths of Mr. John Child, and, Mr. Geo. Edwards
In his sermon, “The Betrayal” Spurgeon said this of Mr Child,
Mr. Keach, my venerable predecessor, gives at the end of one of his volumes of sermons, the death of a Mr. John Child. John Child had been a Dissenting minister, and for the sake of gain, to get a living, he joined the Episcopalians against his conscience; he sprinkled infants; and practiced all the other paraphernalia of the Church against his conscience. At last, at last, he was arrested with such terrors for having done what he had, that he renounced his living, took to a sick bed, and his dying oaths, and blasphemies, and curses, were something so dreadful, that his case was the wonder of that age. Mr. Keach wrote a full account of it, and many went to try what they could do to comfort the man, but he would say, “Get ye hence; get ye hence; it is of no use; I have sold Christ.”
Wikipedia says this,
CHILD, JOHN (1638?–1684), baptist preacher, born at Bedford about 1638, was apprenticed to a handicraft; after a while he adopted another calling, and removed to Newport Pagnel, Buckinghamshire, where he lived for some years, married twice, had several children, and increased in wealth. He held ‘the baptism of believers,’ joining himself to the baptists, or, as they were then generally called, ‘anabaptists,’ and for some years was in the habit of preaching occasionally. About 1679 he removed to London. Fear of cution and anxiety to better his position led him in 1682 to publish ‘A Second Argument for a more Full and Firm Union amongst all good Protestants,’ in which he argued against dissent from the church of England and ‘slandered his brethren.’ He appears to have published an earlier book of the same character, but neither of his pamphlets has been discovered by the writer of this notice. The idea that he had acted the part of a traitor preyed upon his mind. He fell into religious mania, and hanged himself in his house on the night of 3 Oct. 1684. A broadside was published the same year on the subject of his death, and after the declaration of indulgence and the subsequent increase in strength of the dissenting interest, pamphlets on Child’s ‘fearful estate’ obtained a large circulation.
Spira’s case was graphically written in almost torrid language. I’ll post that in its entirety in another post next. As John MacArthur said this week in his essay about sanctification,
“…sanctification is essentially the believer’s work of mining out the spiritual riches that God placed within him at salvation. It is the active and aggressive pursuit of obedience.”
I would presume to say that apostasy is the opposite of sanctification and thus if I paraphrase, can be said to be ‘an active and aggressive pursuit of corruption’. Apostasy is secret, open, happens fast or slow, but in all cases it is horrible. Look at this verse,
And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, (Luke 4:33).
Before the church was born, the synagogue was the place where God had designated men to assemble for holy worship. However, by Jesus’ day the worship had become so apostate that a demon felt perfectly comfortable hanging out in a man who was attending services there. Only when Jesus, the Holy One of Israel came, did the demon cry out. Have some of our churches become so apostate that demons would feel perfectly comfortable residing in a man attending worship services there? I would venture to say yes.
Emotionally or mentally professing Christ but failing to go all the way, with all your mind, heart, strength, and soul, will only end in failure. But the worst part about apostasy is that the end result is worse than the beginning.
“Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” (Matthew 12:45)
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (2 Peter 2:20)
“The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)
And with Judas’ end we see that is true. With Mr Child’s end we see that it is true. And next post, with Mr Spira’s end we see that it is true. The tragedy is that when they die their end does not come. They will be tormented forever. That is why, even among brethren, we preach the Gospel. In addition, we ourselves must remain holy, so that the demons around the apostates become uncomfortable to the point of crying out, so that we will know who the apostates are. Or at least some of them if not all of them, since wheat and tares look so much the same.
Next is the “Fearfull Case of Francis Spira“