J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937) on false conversion

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“Last week it was reported that the churches of America increased their membership by 690,000. Are you encouraged by these figures? I for my part am not encouraged a bit. I have indeed my own grounds for encouragement, especially those which are found in the great and precious promises of God. But these figures have no place among them. How many of these 690,000 names do you think are really written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? A small proportion, I fear.

Church membership today often means nothing more, as has well been said, than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus; the church in countless communities is little more than a Rotary Club. One day, as I was walking through a neighboring city, I saw not an altar with an inscription to an unknown god, but something that filled me with far more sorrow than that could have done. I saw a church with a large sign on it, which read somewhat like this: ‘Not a member? Come in and help us make this a better community.’ Truly we have wandered far from the day when entrance into the Church involved confession of faith in Christ as the Savior from sin.”

– J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937), The Separateness of the Church: A Sermon Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary on Sunday, March 8, 1925.

This was spoken in 1925. I wonder what Machen would say about today’s churches.

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