Psalm 14:3b — ‘There is none that doeth good, no, not one.’



“Origen maketh a question, how it could be said that there was none, neither among the Jews nor Gentiles, that did any good; seeing there were many among them which did clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and did other good things: he hereunto maketh this answer:—

That like as one that layeth a foundation, and buildeth upon it a wall or two, yet cannot be said to have built a house till he have finished it; so although those might do some good things, yet they attained not unto perfect goodness, which was only to be found in Christ.

But this is not the apostle’s meaning only to exclude men from the perfection of justice; for even the faithful and believers were short of that perfection which is required; he therefore showeth what men are by nature, all under sin and in the same state of damnation, without grace and faith in Christ: if any perform any good work, either it is of grace, and so not of themselves, or if they did it by the light of nature, they did it not as they ought, and so it was far from a good work indeed.”


Andrew Willet

on Romans iii. 10.



As seen referenced in: Charles H. Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David expositional commentary (and more), Passmore & Alabaster, p.192



The Pilgrim’s Digest is a sampling of Christian writings throughout the centuries on many subjects from
Reformers, Puritans, pastors, and various theologians. Let’s take a short walk with the saints.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Do Not Trouble Yourself About Controversy

by The Sword and the Trowel

The Sword And The Trowel is a magazine of which the venerable Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the Editor for many years until his death. This monthly magazine, still in production, was founded “to report the efforts of those Churches and Associations, which are more or less intimately connected with the Lord’s work at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and to advocate those views of doctrine and Church order which are most certainly received among us. (Pilgrim Publications, Vol. 1, p21; originally published February 1865).





     Two learned doctors are angrily discussing the nature of food, and allowing their meal to lie untasted, while a simple countryman is eating as heartily as he can of that which is set before him. The religious world is full of quibblers, critics, and sceptics, who, like the doctors, fight over Christianity without profit either to themselves or others; those are far happier who imitate the farmer and feed upon the Word of God, which is the true food of the soul. Luther’s prayer was, “From nice questions the Lord deliver us.” Questioning with honesty and candour is not to be condemned, when the object is to “prove all things, and hold fast that which is good;” but to treat revelation as if it were a football to be kicked from man to man is irreverence, if not worse. Seek the true faith, by all manner of means, but do not spend a whole life in finding it, lest you be like a workman who wastes the whole day looking for his tools. Hear the true Word of God; lay hold upon it, and spend your days not in raising hard questions, but in feasting upon precious truth.


Seek the true faith, by all manner of means, but do not spendd a whole life in finding it, lest you be like a workman who wastes the whole day looking for his tools.


     It is, no doubt, very important to settle the point of General or Particular Redemption; but for unconverted men, the chief matter is to look to the Redeemer on the cross with the eye of faith. Election is a doctrine about which there is much discussion, but he who has made his election sure, finds it a very sweet morsel. Final perseverance has been fought about in all time; but he who by grace continues to rest in Jesus to the end, knows the true enjoyment of it. Reader, argue, if you please, but remember that believing in the Lord Jesus gives infinitely more enjoyment than disputing can ever afford you. If you are unsaved, your only business is with the great command, “Believe!and even if you have passed from death unto life, it is better to commune with Jesus than to discuss doubtful questions. When Melancthon’s mother asked him what she must believe amidst so many disputes, he, knowing her to be trusting to Jesus in a simple-hearted manner, replied, “Go on, mother, to believe and pray as you have done, and do not trouble yourself about controversy.” So say we to all troubled souls, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”

The Pilgrim’s Digest, Vol. 3: Do Not Trouble Yourself About Controversy


     When Churches (and Denominations) ‘Down Grade’

by Jared Payne



     We live in crazy times.

     Well, it is 2020 ; so I don’t suppose you need me to tell you that. And the topic at hand is of no real surprise. It has been discussed before and will be discussed again, but nevertheless it is worth our attention. I don’t seek to at all be comprehensive in my assessment, but it will be quite direct in application: So what is a ‘down grade’ anyway?

     The great C.H. Spurgeon notoriously used the term ‘down grade’ in 1887 to describe and detail the doctrinal drift and failings of evangelicals of the day. In truth, his analysis roots itself in the nonconformist history regarding the Church of England, after the 1662 Act of Uniformity. Not far beyond the height of the ‘Reformation’, the “protestant” church evolving out of the Catholic, the many individuals ejected and separated from the Church of England were forced to do so on their reforming basis — that is, they could not continue entertaining the popish traditions still being forced down the throats of pastors and congregations, exalting tradition over scripture ; common prayers and approved worship being legally required of these individual churches. These men ultimately stood, in peril of imprisonment or worse, to uphold their doctrinal convictions that were founded on sola scriptura. Within several generations, many were experiencing a certain drift, if not absolute loss, of this biblical, spiritual zeal for the word of God. Spurgeon describes it in part:


“In proportion as the ministers seceded from the old Puritan godliness of life, and the old Calvinistic form of doctrine, they commonly became less earnest and less simple in their preaching, more speculative and less spiritual in the matter of their discourses, and dwelt more on the moral teachings of the New Testament, than on the great central truths of revelation. Natural theology frequently took the place which the great truths of the gospel ought to have held, and the sermons became more and more Christless.” ¹


    If it, in large part, sounds eerily like the days in which we live, you aren’t alone in that assessment. These days we either seem to hear (all to often) a version of Christ which is separated so greatly from scripture that it becomes a fanciful creation, or we hear no Christ at all. We may be offered God the Son in fragments, but totally estranged from the Father and Holy Ghost. The variations and flavors are nearly endless in this day in age, rampant with social media and technological dissemination of ‘information’; but while the means are different, the effects on the people often isn’t at all. Spurgeon continues:


“[Those compromising doctrine] displayed, not only less zeal for the salvation of sinners, and, in many cases, less purity or strictness of life, but they adopted a different strain in preaching, dwelt more on general principles of religion, and less on the vital truths of the gospel. Ruin by sin, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and redemption by the blood of Christ–truths on the preaching of which God has always set the seal of his approbation–were conspicuous chiefly by their absence. In fact, the “wine on the lees well refined” was so mixed with the muddy water of human speculation, that it was no longer wine at all.” ¹


     If such descriptions didn’t ring a bell before, it ought to now. In our modern age, we are seeing even more liberalism seep into the Church at large. The same and more of which the likes of J. Gresham Machen and others fought so sternly against in the early 20th century as they watched the incredible days of Princeton Theology Seminary fall to the wayside. Such struggles have never truly ceased to exist. The Protestant church has always been in battle, when not lulled into a pacified state of prosperous times, over the degradation of Christian truths. Why is it so difficult to maintain orthodox, doctrinal truth that resists and detests gross error? To that we’ll turn to the great Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and his commentary appearing in the mid-20th century:


“There is always a process of change and of development, and unfortunately, as is true of nature, the process is generally one of degeneration. This, of course, is one of the main results of sin and of the fall. Sin has brought an element of degeneration into the life of man, and as a result of that, into the life of creation; so that even in the church herself there will be this tendency. In the New Testament you already see heresy, false teaching arising, subtle changes taking place with regard to what the Christian truth really is. The apostle Paul, in his great address in Acts 20, warns them of how, from among themselves, men will arise and teach false doctrines. Wolves, as it were, will come in and do harm to the flock of God. And this has continued ever since in the history of the church.

I shall never forget reading nearly forty years ago the opening sentence in a book on the subject of Protestantism. The first sentence reads thus: ‘Every institution tends to produce its opposite.’ That was the author’s opening sentence in a book on Protestantism, and the thesis of the book, of course, was to point out–and he was able to do it very simply–that the position of most of the Protestant churches today is almost the exact opposite of their position when they originally came into being….

…I could easily demonstrate this in the history of every denomination that is known to me personally, and of denominations and religious bodies in various other countries. This is a principle which we have got to recognize. It is no use assuming that because a thing started correctly it is going to continue to be correct. There is a process at work, because of sin and evil, which tends to produce not only change but even degeneration.” ²


     Nearly a century apart, we see that Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones do not speak of alternative realities within the church, but very much the same degrading taking place. It is always a conflict in which we have been a member of, and one we ought not to expect to be free from this side of Heaven. But while we are here, as stewards of Christ’s body, His Bride, we are called to defend it unceasingly. The truths of the gospel and our beloved scripture is far too important to let society, or worse, dictate.

     We know our Lord is sovereign and mighty; of that we should never be unsure. But we must remember that we are called to be tender to God’s word and His revelation–if there were ever a thing to be offended at, in a modern culture of perpetual offense-taking, for Christians it ought to be the perverting of holy truths and the gospel, the only good news with the power unto salvation of a lost and dying world.

     Fight the good fight. Keep the faith. It is all a blessing that we may be obliged to do in the name of our Savior. As Spurgeon adds, “Something will come of the struggle over The Down-Grade. The Lord has designs in connection therewith which his adversaries little dream of. Meanwhile, it behoves all who love the Lord Jesus and his gospel to keep close together, and make common against deadly error. There are thousands who are of one mind in the Lord ; let them break through all the separating lines of sect, and show their unity in Christ, both by prayer and action. Especially do we beg for the fervent prayers of all the faithful in Christ Jesus.”*


     Semper reformanda.

“Always reform! The church is always to be under the word; she must be; we must keep her there.” ²





¹   The Down Grade, The Sword and the Trowel, March 1887 (The “Down Grade” Controversy, Pilgrim Publications, 2009)

²   What is an Evangelical?, D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Banner of Truth, 2016 (various addresses compiled 1942-1977)

*   Preface to The Sword and the Trowel, March 1887 (The “Down Grade” Controversy, Pilgrim Publications, 2009)