ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING EVIDENCES of sinful human nature lies in the universal propensity for downward drift. In other words, it takes thought, resolve, energy, and effort to bring about reform. In the grace of God, sometimes human beings display such virtues. But where such virtues are absent, the drift is invariably toward compromise, comfort, indiscipline, sliding disobedience, and decay that advances, sometimes at a crawl and sometimes at a gallop, across generations.
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. – D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, Volume 2
“One cannot say that Jeremiah’s ministry ended on a high note. We are all called to be faithful; some are called to be faithful in troubled and declining times. One dare not measure Jeremiah’s ministry by how many people he convinced, how many disasters he averted, or how many revivals he experienced. One must measure his ministry by whether or not he was faithful to God, by whether or not God was pleased with him. And so, finally, it is with each of us. I doubt that many of us living in the West have fully come to grips with how much the success syndrome shapes our views of ourselves and others—sometimes to make us hunger at all costs for success, and sometimes, in a kind of inverted pseudospirituality, to make us suspicious at all costs of success. But success is not the issue; faithfulness is.”
– DA Carson
In The Call of the Prophet in Declining Times, D. A. Carson has some excellent points about courageously remaining faithful to the whole counsel of God, especially when it is unpopular. I find the historical perspective particularly encouraging:
It was true in Britain in 1740. It was the worst of times. At the height of the Industrial Revolution before the introduction of trade unions or any counter-balancing force, the rich were getting richer, and the poor were being crushed. Children were being sent into the mines at the age of five or six, putting in fourteen to sixteen-hour days. There were two hundred eighty crimes on the books for which you could be executed by hanging, including stealing a loaf of bread. In some parts of London every building was either a brothel or a pub. In fact, religion had sunk so low in the British Isles that on Easter Sunday, 1740, only six people showed up for communion at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It was the worst of times. And yet in 1734 God had raised up a young man by the name of Howell Harris in Wales. In 1738 George Whitefield began to preach to the coal miners in Bristol. In 1740 the Wesley brothers started, and over the next sixty years there came such a mass of social overturn out of the preaching of the gospel that Britain was not the same beast by the end of that cycle as it was at the beginning. It was the best of times. Out of this came the abolition of slavery. Out of this came new laws on child labor. Out of this came the beginning of trade unions that counter-balanced some of the power of capitol unleashed without discipline or accountability. Out of this came the beginning of prison reform. Out of this also came the beginnings of welfare hospital care and the like. It was the best of times.
– D.A. Carson, The Call of the Prophet in Declining Times
Excellent excerpt of a lecture on the change in understanding of “tolerance”.