Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why December 25?

You won't find 25 December in the Bible. So where did it come from? Find out here. The article referred to is here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saving Knowledge - part two

Following on from a previous post on The Sum of Saving Knowledge.

Dickson's Friendship with Durham

Robert Wodrow records that David Dickson 'had a wonderful opinion of great and worthy Mr Durham … He said somewhat to this purpose of Mr Durham, that ‘He was like a great bottle full of excellent good wine that when it did go to come out it could not well come out… ‘ so Mr Durham had little expression [in preaching or writing] but much good and great matter. (Analecta, 3:10)

Defining the Gospel Offer

Thomas Boston refers to the teaching of the Sum of Saving Knowledge in relation to the universal offer of the gospel, specifically to the following section, 'Again, consider, that this general offer in substance is equivalent to a special offer made to every one in particular; as appeareth by the apostle’s making use of it, Acts 16:31. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. The reason of which offer is given, John 3:16.'

The Sum of Saving Knowledge also helpfully teaches that it is a hearty and free offer on God's part, speaking of offers of grace, sweet invitations, loving requests etc. This use of offer serves to interpret what the Westminster Standards mean when they speak of Christ and life being freely offered in the gospel. It does not merely mean to "present" or "exhibit":
'The Lord…Maketh open offer of Christ and his grace, by proclamation of a free and gracious market of righteousness and salvation…He inviteth all sinners, that for any reason stand at a distance from God, to come and take from him riches of grace, running in Christ like a river, to wash away sin, and to slocken wrath: ‘Come ye to the waters,’ saith he,'. 'But I (may the weak believer say) upon the loving request of God and Christ, made to me by the mouth of his ministers, have embraced the offer of perpetual reconciliation through Christ, and do purpose, by God’s grace, as a reconciled person, to strive against sin….' 'That is any man shall not be taken with the sweet invitation of God nor with the humble and loving request of God, made to him to be reconciled…'

The Gospel is presented in a covenant framework in the Sum of Saving Knowledge. C.G. M’Crie showed an animosity to this covenant language of market and bargain and a complete misunderstanding of its import:

…Federalism, as developed in the Sum, is objectionable in form and application. Detailed descriptions of redemption as a bargain entered into between the First and Second persons of the Trinity, in which conditions were laid down, promises held out, and pledges given; the reducing of salvation to a mercantile arrangement between God and the sinner, in which the latter signifies contentment to enter into covenant and the former intimates agreement to entertain a relation of grace, so that ever after the contented, contracting party can say, ‘Lord, let it be a bargain,’--such presentation have obviously a tendency to reduce the gospel of the grace of God to the level of a legal compact entered into between two independent and, so far as right or status is concerned, two equal parties. This blessedness of the mercy seat is in danger of being lost sight of in the bargaining of the market-place; the simple story of salvation is thrown into the crucible of the logic of schools and it emerges in the form of a syllogism. (Confessions, p. 72, quoted by Bell, 106)

As Durham clarifies it in one of his sermons: 'The gospel doth not, as it were, so much offer to make with you a bargain, as it offers you the benefit of a bargain already made, viz. with Christ.' Samuel Rutherford in the Covenant of Life Opened writes 'Gods bargaining with us depends not upon the equality between thing and thing, the work and the wage; But upon his own free pleasure of disposing of his own: And it is the froathinesse of our nature to judge the penny of Glory, that we get by labouring to be our own, whereas after the promise, and after we have fulfilled the condition, it is not ours, but Gods, and he calls it his own, and it is to be disposed on by the Lords free-grace. Friend, may not I do with mine own, what I please? Mat. 20.15.' 'The whole Gospel is the word of Grace, Acts. 20.32. Col. 1.6. the Bargaine a paction of Grace'. Rutherford consistently speaks of the Eternal Covenant between the Father and the Son as a bargain. It is made clear in the Sum that we buy 'without money'. '"Come, buy without money," (saith he,) "come, eat:" that is, consent to have, and take unto you all saving graces; make the wares your own, possess them, and make use of all blessings in Christ; whatsoever maketh for your spiritual life and comfort, use and enjoy it freely, without paying any thing for it: "Come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price," saith he'.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Perilous Times

An extremely topical article on the moral state of the nation is to be found here under the above title. Here is an excerpt: 'John Owen affirms that one of the dangers of such times is that we are apt to have light thoughts of great sins and to countenance ourselves in lesser evils, seeing the greater abominations of other men. The spirit of the age can almost imperceptibly affect the Church of God and result in increasing conformity to the world, which in turn helps confirm the world in its ungodliness.'

These sentiments are found with other puritans. The New England Puritan Samuel Willard gives as a mark of perilous times, the appearance of sin in those with a profession of religion which goes without rebuke, but such men are in credit with the best. What sort of sins is Willard thinking of? He gives a few.
Sabbath breaking - 'where the strict observation of the Sabbath is lost, there the power of godliness is gone'. Contention and slander among the people of God. Frequenting public houses and the company of lewd and loose people. In brief not living soberly, righteously and godly in this present evil world.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Making Shipwreck of the Faith

We are not as familiar with the Early Fathers as the Reformers and Puritans were. This is to our disadvantage. The following description by Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379), one of the great Cappadocian Early Fathers, is tremendously powerful and entirely appropriate as a description of the state of the Church in our own day.

To what then shall I liken our present condition? It may be compared, I think, to some naval battle which has arisen out of time old quarrels, and is fought by men who cherish a
deadly hate against one another, of long experience in naval warfare, and eager for the fight.

Look, I beg you, at the picture thus raised before your eyes. See the rival fleets rushing in dread array to the attack. With a burst of uncontrollable fury they engage and fight it out. Fancy, if you like, the ships driven to and fro by a raging tempest, while thick darkness falls from the clouds and blackens all the scenes so that watchwords are indistinguishable in the confusion, and all distinction between friend and foe is lost. To fill up the details of the imaginary picture, suppose the sea swollen with billows and whirled up from the deep, while a vehement torrent of rain pours down from the clouds and the terrible waves rise high.

From every quarter of heaven the winds beat upon one point, where both the fleets are
dashed one against the other. Of the combatants some are turning traitors; some are
deserting in the very thick of the fight; some have at one and the same moment to urge on
their boats, all beaten by the gale, and to advance against their assailants. Jealousy of
authority and the lust of individual mastery splits the sailors into parties which deal mutual death to one another. Think, besides all this, of the confused and unmeaning roar sounding over all the sea, from howling winds, from crashing vessels, from boiling surf, from the yells of the combatants as they express their varying emotions in every kind of noise, so that not a word from admiral or pilot can be heard. The disorder and confusion is tremendous, for the extremity of misfortune, when life is despaired of, gives men license for every kind of wickedness. Suppose, too, that the men are all smitten with the incurable plague of mad love of glory, so that they do not cease from their struggle each to get the better of the other, while their ship is actually settling down into the deep.
Turn now I beg you from this figurative description to the unhappy reality. Did it not at
one time appear that the Arian schism, after its separation into a sect opposed to the Church of God, stood itself alone in hostile array? But when the attitude of our foes against us was changed from one of long standing and bitter strife to one of open warfare, then, as is well known, the war was split up in more ways than I can tell into many subdivisions, so that all men were stirred to a state of inveterate hatred alike by common party spirit and individual suspicion. But what storm at sea was ever so fierce and wild as this tempest of the Churches?

In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of
opinion has been shaken: everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken
down. We attack one another. We are overthrown by one another. If our enemy is not the
first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side. If a foeman is stricken and
falls, his fellow soldier tramples him down. There is at least this bond of union between us that we hate our common foes, but no sooner have the enemy gone by than we find enemies
in one another. And who could make a complete list of all the wrecks? Some have gone to
the bottom on the attack of the enemy, some through the unsuspected treachery of their
allies, some from the blundering of their own officers. We see, as it were, whole churches,
crews and all, dashed and shattered upon the sunken reefs of disingenuous heresy, while
others of the enemies of the Spirit of Salvation have seized the helm and made shipwreck of
the faith. And then the disturbances wrought by the princes of the world have caused the
downfall of the people with a violence unmatched by that of hurricane or whirlwind. The
luminaries of the world, which God set to give light to the souls of the people, have been
driven from their homes, and a darkness verily gloomy and disheartening has settled on the
Churches. The terror of universal ruin is already imminent, and yet their mutual rivalry is so unbounded as to blunt all sense of danger. Individual hatred is of more importance than the general and common warfare, for men by whom the immediate gratification of ambition is esteemed more highly than the rewards that await us in a time to come, prefer the glory of getting the better of their opponents to securing the common welfare of mankind. So all men alike, each as best he can, lift the hand of murder against one another. Harsh rises the cry of the combatants encountering one another in dispute; already all the Church is almost full of the inarticulate screams, the unintelligible noises, rising from the ceaseless agitations that divert the right rule of the doctrine of true religion, now in the direction of excess, now in that of defect. On the one hand are they who confound the Persons and are carried away into Judaism; on the other hand are they that, through the opposition of the natures, pass into heathenism. Between these opposite parties inspired Scripture is powerless to mediate; the traditions of the apostles cannot suggest terms of arbitration. Plain speaking is fatal to friendship, and disagreement in opinion all the ground that is wanted for a quarrel. No oaths of confederacy are so efficacious in keeping men true to sedition as their likeness in error.

Every one is a theologue though he have his soul branded with more spots than can be
counted. The result is that innovators find a plentiful supply of men ripe for faction, while self-appointed scions of the house of place-hunters reject the government of the Holy Spirit and divide the chief dignities of the Churches. The institutions of the Gospel have now everywhere been thrown into confusion by want of discipline; there is an indescribable pushing for the chief places while every self-advertiser tries to force himself into high office.

The result of this lust for ordering is that our people are in a state of wild confusion for lack of being ordered; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered wholly purposeless and void, because there is not a man but, out of his ignorant impudence, thinks that it is just as much his duty to give orders to other people, as it is to obey any one else.So, since no human voice is strong enough to be heard in such a disturbance, I reckon silence more profitable than speech, for if there is any truth in the words of the Preacher, "The words of wise men are heard in quiet,” in the present condition of things any discussion of them must be anything but becoming. I am moreover restrained by the Prophet’s saying, “Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time,” a time when some trip up their neighbour’s heels, some stamp on a man when he is down, and others clap their hands with joy, but there is not one to feel for the fallen and hold out a helping hand, although according to the ancient law he is not uncondemned, who passes by even his enemy’s beast of burden fallen under his load. This is not the state of things now. Why not? The love of many has waxed cold; brotherly concord is destroyed, the very name of unity is ignored, brotherly admonitions are heard no more, nowhere is there Christian pity, nowhere falls the tear of sympathy. Now there is no one to receive “the weak in faith,” but mutual hatred has blazed so high among fellow clansmen that they are more delighted at a neighbour’s fall than at their own success. Just as in a plague, men of the most regular lives suffer from the same sickness as the rest, because they catch the disease by communication with the infected, so nowadays by the evil rivalry which possesses our souls we are carried away to an emulation in wickedness, and are all of us each as bad as the others. Hence merciless and sour sit the judges of the erring; unfeeling and hostile are the critics of the well disposed. And to such a depth is this evil rooted among us that we have become more brutish than the brutes; they do at least herd with their fellows, but our most savage warfare is with our own people.

For all these reasons I ought to have kept silence, but I was drawn in the other direction
by love, which “seeketh not her own,” and desires to overcome every difficulty put in her
way by time and circumstance. I was taught too by the children at Babylon, that, when there
is no one to support the cause of true religion, we ought alone and all unaided to do our
duty. They from out of the midst of the flame lifted up their voices in hymns and praise to
God, reeking not of the host that set the truth at naught, but sufficient, three only that they were, with one another. Wherefore we too are undismayed at the cloud of our enemies, and, resting our hope on the aid of the Spirit, have, with all boldness, proclaimed the truth. Had I not so done, it would truly have been terrible that the blasphemers of the Spirit should so easily be emboldened in their attack upon true religion, and that we, with so mighty an ally and supporter at our side, should shrink from the service of that doctrine, which by the tradition of the Fathers has been preserved by an unbroken sequence of memory to our own day. A further powerful incentive to my undertaking was the warm fervour of your “love unfeigned,” and the seriousness and taciturnity of your disposition; a guarantee that you would not publish what I was about to say to all the world,—not because it would not be worth making known, but to avoid casting pearls before swine. My task is now done. If you find what I have said satisfactory, let this make an end to our discussion of these matters. If you think any point requires further elucidation, pray do not hesitate to pursue the investigation with all diligence, and to add to your information by putting any uncontroversial question. Either through me or through others the Lord will grant full explanation on matters which have yet to be made clear, according to the knowledge supplied to the worthy by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Communion as Mutual Communication

John Owen in Volume 2 of his Works enlarges upon the subject'Of Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost'. He defines 'communion is the mutual communication of such good things as wherein the persons holding that communion are delighted, bottomed upon some union between them.'

'Our communion, then, with God consisteth in his communication of himself unto us, with our returnal unto him of that which he requireth and accepteth, flowing from that unions which in Jesus Christ we have with him. And it is twofold: - 1. Perfect and complete, in the full fruition of his glory and total giving up of ourselves to him, resting in him as our utmost end; which we shall enjoy when we see him as he is; - and, 2. Initial and incomplete, in the first fruits and dawnings of that perfection which we have here in grace; which only I shall handle.'

While Owen stresses communion with each member of the Godhead, he also emphasises the role of Christ the Mediator in access to God and these communications.'In every thing wherein we are made partakers of the divine nature, there is a communication and receiving between God and us; so near are we unto him in Christ.'

'The Father will have him to have "in all things the pre- eminence," Col. 1: 18; "it pleased him that in him all fulness should dwell," verse 19; that "of his fulness we might receive, and grace for grace," John 1: 16. Though the love of the Father's purpose and good pleasure have its rise and foundation in his mere grace and will, yet the design of its accomplishment is only in Christ. All the fruits of it are first given to him; and it is in him only that they are dispensed to us. So that though the saints may, nay, do, see an infinite ocean of love unto them in the bosom of the Father, yet they are not to look for one drop from him but what comes through Christ. He is the only means of communications. Love in the Father is like honey in the flower; - it must be in the comb before it be for our use. Christ must extract and prepare this honey for us. He draws this water from the fountain through union and dispensation of fulness; - we by faith, from the wells of salvation that are
in him.'

'That which lies hid in Christ, and is revealed from him is full of love, sweetness, tenderness, kindness, grace. It is the Lord waiting to be gracious to sinners; waiting for an advantage to show love and kindness, for the most eminent endearing of a soul unto himself, Isa. xxx. 18...'

How do we cultivate this mutual communication? 'The way and means, then, on the part of the saints, whereby in Christ they enjoy communion with God, are all the spiritual and holy actings and outgoings of their souls in those graces, and by those ways, wherein, both the moral and instituted worship of God doth consist.'

Yet these return communications are all through Christ. 'Our returns are all in him, and by him also. And well is it with us that it is so. What lame and blind sacrifices should we otherwise present unto God! He bears the iniquity of our offerings, and he adds incense unto our prayers. Our love is fixed on the Father; but it is conveyed to him through the Son of his love. He is the only way for our
graces as well as our persons to go unto God; through him passeth all our desire, our delight, our complacency, our obedience'.

There are a few marks of this communion and mutual communication drawn from Song of Solomon chapter 2.

(1.) Sweetness."He brought me to the banqueting-house," 'The grace exhibited by Christ in his ordinances is refreshing, strengthening, comforting, and full of sweetness to the souls of the saints.'
(2.) Delight. "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love." 'Upon the discovery of the excellency and sweetness of Christ in the banqueting-house, the soul is instantly overpowered, and cries out to be made partaker of the fulness of it.'
(3.) Safety. "His banner over me was love," 'The banner is an emblem of safety and protection, - a sign of the presence of an host...[there follows a phrase well worth committing to memory] All their protection is from his love; and they shall have all
the protection his love can give them.'
(4.) Comfort. Supportment and consolation, verse 6, "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand does embrace me." 'Now, "the hand under the head," is supportment, sustaining grace, in pressures and difficulties; and "the hand that does embrace," the hand upon the heart, is joy and consolation; - in both, Christ rejoicing, as the "bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride," Isa. 62: 5. Now, thus to lie in the arms of Christ's love, under a perpetual influence of supportment and
refreshment, is certainly to hold communion with him.'

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What the duty of holding fast means

This post looks at the text that heads up this blog. Revelation 2:24-25 “I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.”

Undoubtedly we live in an evil day. What we have in these words from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ is valuable counsel for His Church in the midst of an evil day. “That which ye have already, hold fast”. To hold fast implies that when we make a sincere and open profession of the truth there will be significant opposition in our way and there will be great difficulties and even danger in fulfilling this duty.

Holding fast also implies that in an evil day our main responsibility and duty is to retain and maintain the heritage or deposit of truth with which we have been entrusted: “I will put none other burden upon you”. “Hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). This is our basic duty. It may take all of our energy just to swim against the high waves of opposition and iniquity, even just to hold our ground. The man who slackens to attend to anything else while swimming against the tide will never succeed in either task by which his attention is divided.

Christ gives us “none other burden”, we are not to take additional burdens from anyone else. Men love to add burdens, the Pharisees piled duties upon the people which blinded them to the real necessities of their responsibility towards God. “I have spoken to them the great things of my law, but they were accounted as a strange thing”. The apostolic Church could say of their synodical decrees “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things’ (Acts 15:28).

In a day of small things men like to add new burdens in the Church of God. They bring in inventions of their own, innovations in the worship of God which are neither commanded nor necessary. These are the burdens of men and they hinder rather than help us in holding fast. It is gross disobedience to “teach for doctrines the commandments of men”. Others will remove from the testimony and water down the whole counsel of God in order to make the truth more palatable to a rebellious age. This too is forbidden. We are to maintain the whole truth and nothing but the truth: “that which ye have already, hold fast”. “Earnestly contend for the saints once delivered to the saints”.

Men also like to bind burdens on the people of God which will detract from a careful and holy profession of Christ. There were trends in the Church in Thyatira which encouraged walking closely with the world, conforming in certain areas to whatever was required in the trade guilds such as eating in the temples of idols. No doubt there were those who could justify it from the perspective of building bridges with the world but the truth is, as in our own day, that those who advocate running to the same places of sinful pleasure with the world are not extending the influence of the Church in the world but rather that of the world in the Church. Such are seeking to weaken the grip of the Christian and even wrestle out of their grasp the burden that Christ has given to them. In the natural world we often see a bird find a morsel of food, no sooner than he can make away with it in his beak he is pursued by another and then by several birds harrying and chasing to see if they can make him drop his prized meal. So it is with the Christian, no sooner does he take up a profession of the Saviour and the world, the flesh and the devil are all upon him to see if they can make him lose that which he must hold fast.

What we must hold fast
We must hold fast the full deposit of truth and sound words as it has been once delivered in the Scriptures. This is emphasised throughout the Pastoral Epistles and the Epistle to the Hebrews. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.

We must not seek to hold merely the bare minimum; we have not been called to reduce the burden for our own ease. The Church must hold to all that it has received. If we do not maintain our heritage what deposit of truth will there be for future generations? We must seek to hold fast in order to pass the deposit of truth on to the succeeding generation, that is truly guarding or preserving it. That is truly holding fast.

The Church must be agreed on the confession that it is collectively holding fast (Hebrew 10:23 & Philippians 3:16) hence the value of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms which are accurate summaries of the truth. Hence also the value of subscribing all of these truths and professing them to be our own personal confession, ‘holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience’. There is a sacred deposit of truth, the form of sound words. This must be maintained and asserted at all costs. Many believe that the old truths are outworn and must give place to new ideas. They believe that we can improve on what we have received. They believe that we must lower the biblical standard so that we can arrive at something more acceptable to a greater number of people. Needless to say, this is not holding fast the truth.

One vital way of holding fast in this connection is the instruction of the young within the Church. They must receive the knowledge of the truth. A great encouragement in this work is Isaiah 59:21: “My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever”. This promise guarantees the continuance of a profession of the truth but it does not thereby take away our responsibility to instruct our seed. That responsibility is enjoined in Deuteronomy 29:29 “those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law”. This is a solemn duty and privilege. Fathers, elders, ministers must be vitally concerned that the children of the visible Church are immersed in the truth. (Deut 6:1)

God willing, we may be able to look at how we must hold fast in a future post.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Persecution of the Bible

An article recently published on the Persecution of the Bible. It looks at the persecution of the Scriptures at the time of the Reformation, those who were burnt at the stake for possessing them or translating them and how this persecution continues in our own day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why are ministers subject to so many trials?

Luther said that that it is prayer, meditation, and temptation that contribute to make a theologian or minister. Trials, testings and temptation have a key role in divine providence. William Cunningham in his Theological Lectures is the best expositor of what Luther was emphasising in this phrase, see here and here.

"Luther places prayer first, and this was nothing more than is justly due to its paramount importance; it is the imperative and primary duty of all who desire to become acquainted with theology, and qualified for the office of a minister of the gospel, to abound in prayer and supplication. It is quite true that men without piety and without prayer may read many theological books, that God may uphold and sustain them in the ordinary exercise of their faculties when directed to these objects, as when directed to any others, and that they may thus acquire a large measure of acquaintance with theological topics, and be able to discuss them and dispute about them. It has often been remarked, and the remark is undoubtedly true, that many men have written ably and convincingly in defence of the truth of the Christian revelation, in opposition to the attacks of infidels, who never understood or comprehended the leading truths contained in the revelation which they proved to have come from God, and who of course derived no real permanent benefit from the revelation which God had given them.

You can have no thorough and intimate acquaintance with divine truth, and especially you will be very ill fitted to explain and apply it for the benefit of others, unless you have had some practice in actually bringing it to bear upon the resistance of those temptations with which all believers are assailed in their journey towards Zion. All the principal truths revealed in Scripture are intended to be instrumental in leading men—those to whom they are made known —to receive Christ Jesus the Lord, and thereafter to walk in him, in opposition to all the obstacles which the devil, the world, and the flesh may interpose. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and is continually to be employed in the spiritual warfare; and the man who has not had the benefit of temptation in the sense in which we have explained it, is like one who has learned the use of the sword only from written instructions, without having tried to handle or to wield it, and who, of course, is still very unfit for defending himself against the assault of enemies, and still more unfit for instructing others in the art of self-defence.

The whole doctrines of God’s word have a practical tendency; they have all been revealed to us for practical objects, and they should be all employed for producing practical results...This process of actually applying the word of God and the doctrines which it contains to their great practical purpose in the formation of character and in the regulation of conduct, according to the actual circumstances in which men are in providence placed and the temptations they are called upon to encounter, produces a clear, impressive, experimental acquaintance with divine truth, which cannot be acquired in any other way, and which peculiarly fits them for communicating clear and impressive conceptions of them to others; and it is held as a maxim applicable to all branches of knowledge, that an acquaintance with any subject which qualifies and entitles a man to become an instructor of others, must be thorough and extensive, such as to give him the clearest, fullest and most impressive conception of it himself...Hence it is not uncommon to meet with persons who have not read much, and who have had but little mental cultivation, but who have been long in the habit of applying the word of God and the doctrines of the gospel to the object of being enabled to resist temptation and be directed in difficulties, to be comforted in trials, and to be guided and encouraged in their spiritual progress, and who, by the study of the Bible, and by this process of practically applying it, have acquired an intimate and thorough knowledge of the word of God and of Christian truth, have attained to a clearness of conception on those subjects, and hold their views with a firmness of grasp which many book-learned theologians have never reached, and which all the ingenuity and sophistry of error cannot diminish or impair.

This is a process which ought to be ever going on, and which will certainly not impede but greatly promote your more formal studies in theology. As private Christians, you are bound to be continually resisting temptation, mortifying sin, and growing in grace; and by carrying on this process through the unceasing application of the word of God and divine truth, and by the reflex act of observing the operations and affections of your own mind while the work of bringing divine truth to bear upon it is going on, you will undoubtedly acquire much real practical available knowledge of the word of God and of the truths which it was intended to unfold, and this knowledge is of essential importance to all who are allowed to be put in trust with the gospel. Divine truth is then only applied to its right purpose when it is employed in this way, then alone is it fully seen in its proper light and in its true character, and no one therefore can be regarded as possessed of a full and competent knowledge of it unless he has seen and watched the process of its being subjected to such experiments.

It is your imperative duty, in accordance with the injunction which Paul gave to Timothy, to flee youthful lusts, which war against the soul, to be avoiding every appearance of evil, to be even already enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, i.e. to be mortifying pride and ambition, self-confidence, self-conceit, envy, and worldliness, and to be cultivating and cherishing in your souls all the fruits of the Spirit. In this work you will have temptations to resist and difficulties to encounter. You must employ the whole armour of God, especially the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, i.e., under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you are to be ever employing the word of God and the truths which it unfolds; and by carrying on this process faithfully and conscientiously, and by reflecting on its nature, its manifestations, and its results, you will not only grow in grace and in meetness for heaven, but you will acquire a much more thorough insight into the word of God and the truths of Scripture, and be much more fully prepared than otherwise you could have been for wielding the sword of the Spirit for the conversion of sinners and the edification of Christ’s body.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The place of the law in the gospel

“The law of God has its place in the book, and its use in the work of God. ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin’; and the Spirit, who convinces of sin, uses it in that department of His work. A due regard to the glory of God demands that it be so used. Sinners are not to be saved on a misunderstanding as to what they are, and as to what they merit. They must know Him against whom they have sinned. They must know what is justly due to Him from them as His creatures. They must be made acquainted with their iniquity as well as guilt, as sinners. And through the coming of the commandment sin must ‘revive’ in their consciousness, so that they know that they are desperately wicked, as surely as that their persons are condemned to die. Without this they can have no conception of gospel grace. Any hope attained to without this, can only be based on a misunderstanding, and must involve dishonor to God. God is not to be conceived of as one who has to study man’s convenience only, instead of supremely consulting his own glory. It should be an aim of preaching, therefore, to bring sinners to plead guilty before God; to feel themselves, in excuseless guilt, shut up to the sovereign mercy of Him against whom they have sinned. The attainment of this may be the result of a moment’s working of the power of God, or it may be reached only after a protracted process; but to this all must come who are reconciled to God.” -James Begg

Monday, October 27, 2008

1 Corinthians 13 and the Person of Christ

There is a recommendation of from Andrew Bonar’s book The Person of Christ and an extract here. This book is essential reading (here). It has some excellent quotations from the Puritans to back up its main point: that the Person of Christ is All in All for Christian Life, Faith and Experience.

“Those Divines who in their Catechetical Systems have made the formal object of Faith to be the Promise, rather than The Person of Christ, have failed in their expressions, if not in their intentions." - SPURSTOW on Rom. vi. 1. (Westminster Divine)

"Faith does not marry the soul to the portion, benefits, and privileges of Christ, but to Christ Himself. I don't say that the soul may not have an eye to these, and a respect to these in closing with Christ; yea, usually these are the first things that faith has in its eye. But the soul does, and must go higher; he must look at and pitch upon The Person of Christ, or his faith is not so right and complete as it ought to be. It is The Person of Christ that is the great fountain of all grace and of all manifestations of God to us; and faith accordingly does close with His Person." - PEARSE's Best Match, p. 160.

An exceptional part is where Bonar shows how Christ fulfils 1 Corinthians 13 to the utmost.

In this same way true and steady looking to Christ's Person would, by the Spirit's teaching, lead us into the experience of that "charity" which is described in 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5, 6, 7. It is said to have these fourteen qualities, each one of which is best learned by beholding it in Christ, the original.
1. "Charity suffereth long." Where was this love illustrated if not in our Lord when He refused to bring down fire on the rejecters of His grace - stretched out His hands all day to rebels - bore mockery, blasphemy, wrong, the scourge, the crown of thorns, the reed, the blindfolding napkin, and the cross itself?
2. Charity is "kind" And who so truly kind as Jesus, crying with loud voice, "It is finished," and bringing us life in the moment of His own death - proclaiming the sweetest news with the vinegar at His lips! When was Joseph so kind to his brethren? Who ever so heaped coals of fire upon an enemy's head?
3. If ever we are to learn the love that "envieth not," we must see it in Him who desired nought for Himself, but disinterestedly and unceasingly sought to make our condition better, happier, greater. If our Priest, who wore the robe without a seam, had worn the priestly mitre on His brow, on it would have been written, "More blessed to give than to receive." He interfered with none of our comforts, not even in thought: it was only with our miseries. Let us drink in His unenvious, unselfish love, leaving our fellow-men all the true good they have, anxious only to make them have as much as ourselves.
4. Looking to His Person again, we see "charity vaunteth not itself." In Him is no ostentation, no parade of His doings. We read all the gospels through, and never find His love put itself forward for show. He does not clothe the naked and tell that He has done it; or relieve a Lazarus, and then remind the man that He has done him a favour; or heal, and proclaim His rare skill. Even His redeeming love is rather set within our view in His actions and agonies, as in so many wells whence we may draw, than pressed on us in words. Nor did He upbraid, or taunt, or shout haughty triumph over a soul subdued and forgiven - so little of parade had He. His is a Father's love to a prodigal son, too glad to gain the opportunity of pouring out itself on its object. Where shall we learn unostentatious love, if not here?
5. Or are we to learn the love that "is not puffed up " - that has no inward self-gratulation, no self-complacent thought of its own magnanimity in the deed so kindly done? It is to be learned surely by looking to Him who was satisfied in gaining His gracious object, in finding scope for love. No look or tone of His ever made His benefactions disagreeable to those who received them; for His was a charity that despised none, being the great love of God (Job xxxvi. 5). If we will learn holy love to others, let us learn it at Christ's holy love to us; as painters take for models the masterpieces of the best artists and copy them line by line.
6. Behold His love, and see how charity "doth not behave itself unseemly." You see a delicate propriety and a fine attention to the feelings in Christ's dealings of love. No rudeness, no harshness, no indiscretion; nothing mean, nothing unpolite; time, place, and persons were all consistently and tenderly considered. Even in this, the Righteous Servant "dealt prudently." With what tender delicacy, and yet determined love, did He deal with the woman of Samaria, till at last He had withdrawn the veil and confronted her conscience with her five husbands and the one that bore that name still! Even to Judas, in the hour of dark treachery, love could say, "Friend, wherefore art thou come ?" Never was there extravagant demonstration; never the shadow of affectation. There is seemly love to be learned in its perfection here, but only here, only in Jesus Himself.
7. And need we dwell on the charity "that seeketh not her own"? In the life and death of Him, who "was servant of all," we see this love to the full - the seeking love of God - the love that sought us and ours.
8. The same love is seen "not easily provoked." See it personified in Him who stands there and groans over the city, "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together!" (Matt. xxiv. 37). No bitter wrongs ever drew forth a hasty word, or angry look, or revengeful blow. They spat in His face, they plucked off His hair, they smote Him with the palms of their hand, they put on the purple robe - but it drew forth only love.
9. His love was charity that "thinketh no evil" - that never had a passing thought of injuring its worst foes, nor imagined them worse than they showed themselves to be. His were thoughts of peace, and not of evil, towards the men that crucified Him. "If thou hadst known, even thou!" (Luke xix. 42).
10. It is at His side we see and learn "love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." The good of those whom He loved He sought not to advance by any unholy gratification. His love was such as felt grieved at seeing its objects seeking happiness in ways not good and true. It had no joy in seeing iniquity anywhere, far less seeing it have place in the hearts of friends, however pleasing and fascinating that iniquity might be. The truth was what His love rejoiced in. Hence His love led him to protest and war against sinful pleasures and pursuits: for His love was no Eli-like fondness. It was love that would not give to those whom it embraced a cup in which one drop of gall was mingled, however much they thirsted. Where else shall we learn charity like this?
11. And then in Him we see love which "beareth all things " - endures trouble for others, and takes on itself the task of covering from view what is wrong.
12. This love, too, is love that" believeth all things." Yes, His love was a love ever ready to confide in its objects, ready to trust Matthew as soon as he was called, making him an Apostle, and then an Evangelist - ready to trust Peter, after his fall, bidding him "feed His sheep " - not suspicious and distrustful. Oh, to learn from Him such generous love ! Surely it is well for us to keep much company with Him in whom it dwells.
13. His love "hoped all things." It was like the love of a friend, who, sitting by the death-bed of one whom he loves, hopes on still, even when all physicians have given up hope - hopes because he loves so much and wishes what he hopes for. Such was the love of Jesus; not easily giving up its object - not soon cutting down its barren fig-trees (Luke xiii. 8). More of His love would make our life more perseveringly devoted to the good of others, however slight were the symptoms of success. And it is this we need in our day! And once more:
14. His, indeed, was the charity that "endured all things," which did not faint in its pursuit, nor was baffled by difficulties. "Many waters could not quench His love, nor could the floods drown it." Oh, to drink in this love - this holy charity! finding it all in the Saviour's Person.
Such was the portrait an Apostle drew,
The bright original was one he knew;
Heaven held his hand - the likeness must be true (COWPER).

Here is a table of contents







Saturday, October 11, 2008

The antitype: Bitter herbs and unleavened bread

There is an excellent resource at This indexes puritan resources available on Google Books. The whole works of Ussher, Isaac Ambrose and the most well-known puritans are here together with links to dedicated websites and scholars.
One of the most interesting resources to me is the A Treatise of the Institution, Right Administration and Receiving of the Sacrament of the Lords Supper: Delivered in XX Sermons at St. Laurence-Jury, London by the Westminster Divine Richard Vines. This was popular with people in Scotland in the eighteenth century particularly at the Cambuslang revival.

It appears that a part of the treatise was lost but in Providence then restored to the author and so was able to be printed. Vines begins by demonstrating how Christ is the anti-type of the paschal lamb and the connection between the Passover and the Lord's Supper. "The Apostle interprets leven, malice and wickedness, unlevened bread, fincerity and truth, I Cor. 5. 8. and so it teaches us, how Christ is to be received by us, and what manner of perfons they must be that apply and receive Jesus Christ. They must remember their bondage under fin, not with delight, but bitterness, and feel the sour taste of their former ways, as sinners contrite and broken bitter herbs are good sauce for the Paschal Lamb sin felt sets an edge on the stomach as Vinegar. Chrift relishes well to such a soul; when thou comest to eat his Supper, bring thy own sauce with thee, bitter herbs, and refresh on thy self the memory of thy old ways and former lufts; that's the sauce, the bread is unlevened bread, you cannot eat the Lamb and leven together: a secure hypocrite, a filthy swine not purged from sin, to think to have Christ and his sin too, to be pardoned and not purged, to be saved and not sanctified. Away, and never think to eat this Lamb with leven'd bread come with bitter herbs them mayest, contrition for sin, but come not with and in thy sins, for that's eating with levened bread; therefore search it out, and let thy sins be searcht out as with a candle, and let them be execrable to thee, that God may see thy hatred of them, and thy loathing of thy self for them".

Vines is also excellent on what it is to eat and drink worthily and unworthily.

Practical Calvinism

The Practical Implications of Calvinism

A.N. Martin (Banner of Truth)

Using the definition of Calvinism as 'that sight of the majesty of God that pervades all of life and all of experience' Al Martin makes the point that unless the doctrines of God's sovereignty profoundly affect the whole of our experience, then we have not really seen God as God and cannot actually claim to be Calvinists. Drawing upon invaluable scriptures Martin presses this home with exhortation to a vital and practical godliness. The total commitment that Isaiah's vision produced in him follows as naturally as Ephesians chapters 4, 5 and 6 continue from chapters 1, 2 and 3. The author speaks of honest scriptural self-examination, a holy watchfulness and distrust of oneself, a consistent prayerfulness and a trustful dependence on God to fulfill all that he has purposed. All, at least, who hold to the doctrines of grace should be thoroughly acquainted with this booklet. That it is relatively cheap and only 23 pages long - leaves none with excuse. We wonder how much of this experimental Calvinism is present in the new Calvinism that is described in the book Young, Restless and Reformed.

The Dutch theologian A'Brakel puts it well in The Christian's Reasonable Service.
"God is not only the cause of spiritual life, but also the object of its motions. God Himself is all the delight, pleasure, and joy of the regenerate man. He cannot be without God. He wishes for and must enjoy the light of God's countenance, peace with God, and love and communion with God. By virtue of union with God he wishes to be united to His will, and thus to hate and shun what He hates, and to find delight in and in doing whatever God delights in and is pleasing to Him."

He also says: "Someone may have a very clear comprehension of all the mysteries of the faith, both as far as the truths and their desirability are concerned. Let him assent with full assurance to these truths as truths and to their desirability - it is nevertheless not true faith. It is indeed true that believers also have knowledge and assent, but they cannot rest in this. They know and experience that this does not cause them to be partakers of Christ, and therefore they go beyond this and appropriate Christ. They rest in Him, entrusting their soul and body to him in order that He would justify them"

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The world's oldest known Bible?

BBC don't often get into matters of textual criticism but here is their rather lame attempt at describing Codex Sinaiticus. There are various factual errors in this article, which are identified here by Dirk Jongkind. The most serious error is surely the description of it as the "world's oldest surviving Bible". It can only be described as such in that it contains in one place the New Testament text. It does not, however, contain it all. There are many serious omissions - the crucial verses of the end of Mark's Gospel are missing from this manuscript. It is not a complete Bible. We also have the huge problem that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (the two preferred manuscripts) disagree with each other (and this is not counting simple errors such as spelling) more than 34 times per chapter in the gospels. In the prison epistles they disagree more times than they agree. Sinaiticus also contains books that noone thinks are part of the canon, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. There is no way to know whether the manuscript originally ended with Hermas or contained other works. These scribes were far astray in their view of what was Scripture. Why should we trust it? The textual critic Kirsopp Lake states.

"The Codex Sinaiticus has been corrected by so many hands that it affords a most interesting and intricate problem to the palaeographer who wishes to disentangle the various stages by which it has reached its present condition…." (Codex Sinaiticus - New Testament volume; page xvii of the introduction). The man who discovered it, Tischendorf said that he "counted 14,800 alterations and corrections in Sinaiticus." It was corrected into the twelfth century, so how do we know which is original and old in the manuscript?

The BBC article shows how the unbelieving approach to textual criticism that prefers the critical text and manuscripts such as Sinaiticus engenders unbelief in those such as Bart Ehrman. Maurice Robinson is right to say of the current state of textual criticism that it is at sea and driving upon the rocks of liberal unbelief without the Byzantine-priority position which identifies the true text as having been preserved by the Byzantine Church rather than in the West. The most consistent Byzantine-priority position is to identify the Textus Receptus as the true text. We ought to remember that Dean Burgon and Edward F Hills have demonstrated that the writings of the Early Fathers and papyri which are far earlier than Sinaiticus witness to the early date of the Byzantine text.
'Current eclectic speculation involves heterodox scribes who are claimed to have preserved a more genuine text than the orthodox, as well as a general uncertainty whether the original text can be recovered, or whether any concept of an "original" text can be maintained. The Byzantine-priority position offers a clear theoretical and practical alternative to the pessimistic suppositions of postmodern eclectic subjectivity. The various eclectic schools continue to flounder without an underlying history of transmission to explain and anchor the hypothetically "best attainable" NT text which they have constructed out of bits and pieces of scattered readings'.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Clergy-Laity distinction

George Gillespie shows that this distinction is not biblical.
"the distinction of the clergy and laity is popish and antichristian; and they who have narrowly considered the records of ancient times, have noted this distinction as one of the grounds whence the mystery of iniquity had the beginning of it. The name of clergy appropriate to ministers, is full of pride and vain-glory, and hath made the holy people of God to be despised, as if they were profane and unclean in comparison of their ministers. Gerhard likeneth those who take to themselves the name of clergy, to the Pharisees, who called themselves by that name: for that their holiness did separate them from the rest of the Jews: for this etymology of the name Pharisee, he citeth Tertullian, Origen, Epiphanius, Ambrose, and confirmeth it from Luke 18.10. Hence was it that some councils discharged the laity from presuming to enter within the choir, or to stand among the clergy near the altar. Two reasons are alleged why the ministers of the church should be called klhroV. First, Because the Lord is their inheritance: Secondly, Because they are the Lord's inheritance. Now, both these reasons do agree to all the faithful people of God; for there is none of the faithful who may not say with David, Psalm 16.5, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance;" and of whom also it may be said, that they are the Lord's inheritance, or lot; for Peter giveth this name to the whole church, 1 Pet. 5.3. Where (if it were needful) we might challenge Bishop Hall [Of Episcop. by Divine Right, p. 212.], who borroweth a gloss from Bellarmine and Gregorious de Valentia, telling us, that Peter chargeth his fellow-bishops not to domineer over their clergy, so shutting out of the text, both the duty of pastors (because the bishops only are meant by elders), and the benefit of the people, because the inferior pastors are the bishop's flock, according to this gloss; for Peter opposeth the lording over the klhroV, to "being ensamples to the flock." Surely, if this popish gloss be true, Protestants, in their commentaries and sermons, have gone wide from that text. But Matthias, the apostle, was chosen by lot, Acts 1.26. What then? By what reason doth the canon law draw from hence a name common to all the ministers of the gospel? [D. 21, ca. Cleros.] Let us then banish from us such popish names, and send them home to Rome. Bellarmine [De Cleric. lib. 1., cap. 1.] thought we had done so long ere now, for he maketh this one of his controverted heads, Whether we may rightly call some Christians the clergy, and others the laity, or not, ascribing the negative to Protestants, the affirmative to the Church of Rome."

George Gillespie, Assertion of the Kirk of Scotland

Friday, September 26, 2008

The discipline of the Second Reformation

Much has been written on the subject of the discipline of the Scottish Reformation. There is for instance, Hay Fleming's Discpline of the Scottish Reformation . There is also 'The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland' By Margo Todd and 'The Uses of Reform: "godly Discipline" and Popular Behavior in Scotland and Beyond, 1560-1610'
By Michael F. Graham.

The Second Reformation continued this emphasis on a strong national church vested with extensive powers of discipline but there has been little treatment of this. Andrew Symington, however, comments appropriately 'The men of the Second Reformation brought every matter of faith, worship, discipline, and government, to the test of the divine word, applying this measuring reed to the temple, the altar, and them that worship therein'. The importance that they placed upon it can be seen in the way in which David Dickson and James Durham bring it into even the Sum of Saving Knowledge. 'God hath made a gift of Christ unto his people, as a commander: which office he faithfully exerciseth, by giving to his kirk and people laws and ordinances, pastors and governors, and all necessary officers; by keeping courts and assemblies among them, to see that his laws be obeyed; subduing, by his word, Spirit, and discipline, his people's corruptions; and; by his wisdom and power, guarding them against all their enemies whatsoever'. 'By kirk-government, he will have them hedged in, and helped forward unto the keeping of the covenant'.

There are key resources such as the Presbytery Book of Kirkcaldy which shows a remarkable thoroughness and consistency in discipline over a range of matters. Many modern church courts would grow very weary very soon at the volume of discipline cases that this presbytery dealt with.

Now the Acts of General Assembly from the Reformation through to the Second Reformation have been published online.

These acts show that the Second Reformation Church was not hesitant about enacting legislation relating to discipline at General Assembly level. They were concerned for uniformity, whereas many modern Presbyterians are wary of supreme courts dealing with matters of discipline or of being too black and white. Some argue that the supreme court does not have jurisdiction in these matters. The Second Reformation men were very specific and detailed in what they believed should be made a matter of discipline and what should be accepted and enforced as law by judicial process and what lower courts were obliged to carry out. The detail of the Larger Catechism on the Ten Commandments is consistent with this.

Act Sess. 21, August 29, 1639.—Act anent the keeping of the Lord's Day. Sess. 11, August 14, 1643.—Act against Masters who have Servants that Prophane the Lord's Day.
Sess. 5, Aug. 1, 1640.—Act for censuring Speakers against the Covenant.
Act for restraining Abuses at Pennie Brydals.
Act against Lykwakes.
Sess. Ult. Junii 18, 1646, ante meridiem.—Act against loosing of Ships and Barks upon the Lord's Day.
Sess. Ult., February 13, 1645, post meridiem.—Act for censuring the Observers of Yule-day, and other superstitious dayes, especially if they be Schollars.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Drawing nearer heaven through maximal use of the Scriptures

The following quotation from the Westminster divine William Twisse expresses very well the Puritan attitude towards the due use of necessary means particulary maximal use of the Scriptures and submission to their authority.

"There is a...fulness of faith that we should strive unto, and of knowledge as well as of holiness: For this life is our way to heaven, and still we must draw nearer thitherwards, by knowing all that we can know by the Word, Deut 29:29" (The Scripture's Sufficiency)

It is important to not that Twisse is evidently not referring to mere head knowledge but knowledge of how to glorify and enjoy God from the only rule to direct us how we may do this.

Phillipians 3:13ff. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended,but this one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before; I press toward the mark,for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus: Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded
and if in anything ye be otherwise minded; God shall reveal even this unto you; Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained,let us walk by the same rule;let us mind the same thing;

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Sighs of the Lord Jesus Christ

The tears of Christ over Jerusalem are astonishing - but equally astonishing are his sighs as recorded in the gospel. The sighs of Jesus (Mk. 7:34; 8:12; John 11:33) point us to the completeness of our Lord’s humanity - they are sinless expressions out of the fullness of the emotions shared as part of our humanity. Sometimes the sighs are in response to the unbelief of his hearers, before performing a miracle or in response to the evil of death.

When He unstopped the ears of the deaf man, he sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha, be opened’. Why was this? It was not a sighing at the greatness of the miracle required to heal the deaf. It was a response to the destructive effects of the Fall and of sin. When we sigh and cry for abominations we have something of that spirit (Ezekiel 9:4). There was a holy anger against sin in Christ but a tenderness and pity towards the man himself. He was the great High Priest who had compassion upon those that were ignorant and out of the way. How expressive it is when we read that He also looked up to heaven when he sighed. Can we fathom the depths of that sigh, any more than we can fathom the depths of the heart of the One greater than Solomon, who had ‘largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore’ (1 Kings 4:29)? As Samuel Rutherford has commented, when His holy heart was stirred it was like the stirring of perfume only the sweet savour of holy emotions arose, whereas when our heart is stirred it is often like the stirring of the bottom of a pond which brings foul smelling things from the bottom to the surface.

There was a prayer in this sigh. A sigh of intercession. When we read frequently of sighing in the psalms we ought to think of the sighs of Christ of whom the psalms speak. He came to enter into, in the fullest possible, yet sinless way, this world of sighing and tears. He could say Psalm 31:10, ‘For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing’. He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. He could say in His extremity, ‘I am poor and sorrowful’ (Psalm 69:29). Intercession means intervention too, however. ‘For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise’ Psalm 12:5. Exodus 2:23, ‘the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage’. As the Lord visited His people then, so He came in a more glorious way as Immanuel, God with us. He came in order that the redeemed of the Lord would come again to the heavenly Zion, when ‘sorrow and sighing shall flee away’ (Isaiah 35:10).

Friday, September 12, 2008

what the soul desires from divine forgiveness

John Knox in a treatise on Psalm 6 outlines some of the essentials that the soul desires from divine forgiveness. For the text of Psalm 6 see below. According to Knox there are four things that David seeks and could not be without:

“David, in sum, desires four things in this his vehement trouble. In the first verse, he asks that God would not punish him in his heavy displeasure and wrath. In the second verse, he asks that God should have mercy upon him. And in the third verse, he desires that he should heal him. And in the fourth verse, he asks that God should return unto him, and that he should save his soul. Every one of these things was so necessary unto David, that lacking any one of them, he judges himself most miserable. He felt the wrath of God, and therefore desired the same to be removed. He had offended, and therefore desired mercy. He was fallen into most dangerous sickness, and therefore he cried for corporeal health. God appeared to be departed from him, and therefore he desired that the comfort of the Holy Ghost should return unto him.”

This is well expressed in Isaiah 12:1 "And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me". The healing the soul needs is in relation to the effects and consequences of sin and backsliding. It needs the joy of salvation restored.

McCrie comments on this treatise by Knox "It is an excellent practical discourse upon
that portion of Scripture, and will be read with peculiar satisfaction by
those who have been trained to religion in the school of adversity". Knox refers to Psalm 6 in his treatise on prayer "Let no man think himself unworthy to call and pray to God, because he hath grievously offended his majesty in times past; but let him bring to God a sorrowful and repenting heart, saying with David, “Heal my soul, O Lord, for I have offended against thee". Knox writes in the treatise: "Here must I put you in mind, dearly beloved, how oft you and I have talked of these present days, till neither of us could refrain [from] tears, when no such appearance there was seen by man. How oft have I said unto you, that I looked daily for trouble, and that I wondered at it, that I did escape it so long? What moved me to refuse, and that with displeasure of all men (even of those who best loved me), those high promotions which were offered by him, whom God has taken from us for our offences?" It seems that the treatise was written either for his wife Marjorie Bowes or her mother, with whom he corresponded. The treatise was entitled "Fort for the Afflicted". The mother-in-law is described in the following way.

"On the one, according to Knox she was a person with strong convictions who at times strengthened even him when he was faint. This we may well believe, for she withstood considerable opposition, if not persecution, in her own family because of her faith. On the other hand, she had continual doubts and fears about her own spiritual condition: whether she had true faith, whether she was of the elect, whether she had committed the unpardonable sin. This uncertainty caused her constantly to consult Knox, and when he was not present to write to him. The letters in which he attempted to reply to her questions she kept and these provide us with a good insight not only into her problems, but into Knox himself." (W. Stanford Reid, Trumpeter of God [New York, 1974], p. 79-80.)

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
2 Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.

3 My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?

4 Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.

5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

7 Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

8 Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

9 The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.

10 Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness

Archibald Alexander Hodge gave a very significant lecture upon his installation as Associate Professor of Dogmatic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, November 8, 1877. His theme was the necessity of doctrine in defence against the vague attacks made upon emphasising doctrinal distinctions.
Hodge asserts 'that the truth revealed in the Scriptures, and embraced in what evangelical Christians style Christian dogma, is the great God-appointed means of producing in men a holy character and life. At present neither the general truth of Christianity nor that of any particular system of theology claiming to represent it, is the question, but the truth of Christianity being assumed, we affirm that the truths set forth in the Word of God in their mutual relations, are necessary means of promoting holiness of heart and life'.

He makes the following vital affirmation:

'I therefore affirm my belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their integrity are the Word of God, as a whole and in every part infallible and binding the conscience, and the only divinely authentic informant and rule of faith in matters of religion. Christian theology is wholly in the Scriptures, and is to be drawn from them only by legitimate interpretation. This is true of systematic as absolutely as of exegetical or of Biblical theology. The system lies in the relations of the facts, and their relations are deteremined by their nature, as that is disclosed by the words of the Holy Ghost. The systematic theologian as well as the exegete is only an interpreter; the one interprets the words and develops the revealed truths; the other interprets these separate lessons in their mutual light and reciprocal relations, and develops the revealed system.

More definitely I affirm, not as a professional propriety, but as a personal conviction, that the Confession and Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly contain the system taught in the Holy Scriptures. Or rather, in the more absolute terms of subscription imposed upon intrants by the Scottish Presbyterian Churches, "I do sincerely own and believe the WHOLE DOCTRINE contained in the Confession of Faith, approved by former General Assemblies of this Church, to be founded upon the Word of God, and do acknowledge the same as the confession of my personal faith, and will firmly and constantly adhere thereunto, and to the utmost of my power will assert, maintain, and defend the same." This is affirmed, not only because I believe this "whole doctrine" to be true, but because I also believe this "system of doctrine" to be the most complete and adequate presentation as yet attained by the Church of that truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures, which the Holy Ghost has declared to be "the power of God unto salvation." For therein Christ and His work is exhibited in their relation to human needs, experiences, duties, and destinies, and it is, therefore, the efficient instrument of forming character, of ruling action, and of effecting salvation'.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Israel knows what to do with lite Bible versions

Israel’s Education Ministry has banned a lite version of the Bible as
reported at Haaretz. "The Education Ministry is to ban Bible aid booklets that help elementary and junior high school students by “translating” the text into simple Hebrew". The whole debate on the issue is very significant in echoing the objections to modern English translations and the issue of preserving the biblical English of the Authorised Version.

“The idea of translating the Bible into simple contemporary language is ‘scandalous,’ Drora Halevy, the ministry's National Supervisor for Bible Studies, told Haaretz. The booklets present the text in ‘skimpy slang’ that cheapens the Bible,” she added. "Halevy is convinced that using the simple-language Bible will lead to the loss of Biblical expressions and idioms that are used in contemporary Hebrew. She asserts that the booklet's meager language drives children away from the Bible, rather than bring them closer."

“It’s a purely marketing initiative intended for the below-average; it's a disaster,” says Professor Yaira Amit, a Bible instruction expert. “This is a colossal failure of our education system that defies description,” says Professor Amit. “How come children used to be able to read the Bible? How come they used to be able to learn sections by heart? It was hard for them then too, but they dealt with it because they were told it was important." “We give precedence to shallowness and shortcuts in many areas of modern life. It’s OK in e-mails in which the message is the main thing. But where is the boundary? You cannot do away with cultural values.”

"Teaching experts lambast the booklets, warning that children will skip reading the Bible and opt for the simplified version. This will not only deteriorate Bible studies but also impact the Hebrew language, which is based on the Bible, they say". “The Bible is the Hebrew language’s dictionary. It's the foundation of everything, says linguist Zvia Valdan. “If you read it without the original expressions and rhythms, it will lose its impact and power.”

"Booklet publishers Rafi Moses and Reches Publications say the Bible is a foreign language to Israeli children, who need to read it in simple language to understand it. Halevy and other Bible and Hebrew language experts fear that children will simply not bother to read the Bible, but use the simple language version instead".

In the Bible Lite version everything is paraphrased. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is rendered “in the beginning God created the world.”

The man behind the Bible Lite version is a former Bible teacher and headmaster, and he indicates that he perceives it as a rewriting of Scripture. “When they first suggested [making the booklets] I was astonished. Why should we rewrite the Bible in a simple tongue?’ says Avraham Ahuvia, 87, of kibbutz Netzer Sereni.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A commendation of Presbyterian Church Government

"The Presbyterial Government; wherein is to be found such ample provision, and that according to the Word of God, for comely order against confusion; for peace and unity of the Church against schism and division; for truth of the faith against all error and heresy; for piety and unblameableness against all impiety and scandal of conversation [conduct]; for equity and right gainst all maladminitrations, whether ignorant, arbitrary or tyrannical; for the honour and purity of all Christ's ordinances against all contempt, pollution and profanation; for comfort, quickening and encouragement of the saints in all the ways of Christ; and consequently for the honour of God and our Lord Jesus Christ in all the mysterious services of his spiritual sanctuary".

From Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, or The Divine Right of Church Government, by sundry Ministers of London (c. 1646). James Bannerman in The Church of Christ says this “work contains an extremely able, thorough, and satisfactory discussion of most of the points relating to the nature of Church government as a Divine institution, and to the power or authority of the Church, its seat and exercise.”
It can be purchased here. It is a book that seeks to address the issues in a careful and positive way. It opens by statings this "Things are handled rather by way of Positive Assertion than Polemical Differentiation (which too commonly degenerates into verbal strifes, 1 Tim. 6:3-4, 2 Tim. 2:23, and vain-jangling, 1 Tim. 1:6); and where any dissenting opinions or Objections are repelled, we hope it is with that sobriety, meekness and moderation of spirit that any unprejudiced judgement may perceive we had rather gain than grieve those that dissent from us. We endeavor rather to heal up than to tear open the rent, and we contend more for Truth than for victory."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Credit Crunch viewed from the right perspective

Terrible is the crisis through which the commercial world is passing. Fearful are the throes of mental anxiety now visible on the countenances of its ardent votaries. Next to the tnmnlt of the craftsmen at Ephesus is the commotion around the doors of some Banking Establishments. And there are faces not a few which vividly call up the visage of Micah, when he cried to the relentless spoilers — "Ye have taken away my gods which I have made, and what have I more?"

In regard to temporal things, commercial men are thrown into the deepest alarm by a monetary panic, which may affect their social position for the present or for life; and yet the same individuals can hear of eternal death without a passing emotion, or of eternal life without having the currents of thought changed for a single hour! How shall we account for such a difference of feeling, unless on the ground that Mammon occupies the chief place, and that those things which are seen and temporal lie nearer the heart than those things which are unseen and eternal! Such callous indifference could never be, were not the glory of man placed above the glory of God.

The present crisis must be ranged in the category of divine judgments. It is altogether out of the ordinary course of human experience. It bears the impress of offended Deity. It proclaims the wrath of the "Governor among the nations." The present calamity is not local, neither is it confined to any one class of the community. In this dread crisis, the rich and poor meet together. It is thus that the panic is transferred from the marts of merchandise to the hearths and homes of every family. It is this especially that marks the footsteps of national judgment.

We have no intention of showing what legislative or commercial wisdom might have done to avert the calamity; nor by what expedients the effects of this crisis may be most efficiently met. There is enough of this elsewhere — yea, so much, that the minds of men seldom rise above the instruments, forgetful that the God of Nations is the Author. “Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" There are three patent facts, and to these we solicit attention. There is national judgment. National judgment is the consequence of national sin. Escape from national judgment can only be realised by national repentance.

In tracing some of the more prominent causes of the present crisis, commercial immorality holds a distinguished place. By this, we mean the violation of those principles of right and wrong which ought to regulate the business intercourse of man with man, firm with firm, and nation with nation. In the world which God has made so good, there is enough for all. In the development of trade and commerce, there ¡s labour and remuneration for all. In the social relations there are channels opened up by which the bounties of Divine Providence may be distributed to all. It is man's perversion — and man's perversion alone — that deranges the moral machinery, and stops the wheels of social progress. It is thus, as in the present case, that a period of prosperity abused, hastens on the gloomy season of adversity. Prosperity tends to excite pride ; pride produces the desire for display and luxury; extravagance exhausts legitimate resources; while exhausted resources, with pride unsubdued, tempt to rash speculation on the one hand, or fraudulent transactions on the other. All these, with their accompanying evils, are the characteristics of the present age.

Is not the God of all the earth now saying, as of old — "Hear this, O ye that swallow up the poor and the needy, even to make the poor of the land fail. Saying, when will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit ? that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes ; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat." These things are not uncommon, and are lightly esteemed; but the least of them escapes not the eyes of the moral Governor; hence he adds — " The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, surely I will never forget their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one that dwelleth therein? ... I will darken the earth in a clear day. And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation, and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head, and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day."

The bitter day has come.

The penalty of extravagance is ultimate penury. The old proverb holds true, that “wilful waste brings woeful want." It is unnecessary to expatiate on the effects of extravagance in maturing the corruptions of the heart — in widening and deepening the streams of human depravity ! These are fearfully manifest in the immorality of our most prosperous cities. These seem of old to have brought the destruction of Sodom. “Behold this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters." Similar causes produce similar results, and the nation is now reaping the bitter fruits.

There is still another cause of divine judgment, which, though generally overlooked, is by no means the least in the bill of indictment — the robbery of God ! — the repudiation of the claims of Jehovah ! This seems to all beyond the pale of the Church, and, to the majority within her, a light crime; but viewed in the light of Revelation, it appears the heaviest of all. In the cases previously noticed, the frauds practised are between man and man. In this latter case, it is the defrauding of the Universal Proprietor. If sin is represented as of infinite demerit, because committed against an infinitely holy God, it must be apparent that the sin of robbing God is one of the most heinous, as committed against His infinite justice.

They are blind who cannot see that the sin of Israel in the time of Haggai is the sin of Britain and America at the present day, and the punishment then inflicted the penalty now required of both. “Is it a time for you, 0 ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste ? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink ; ye clothe you, but there is none warm ; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes." Could anything be more descriptive of our present position? Vast speculations and bitter disappointments ; extensive schemes of ambition and sudden bankruptcy ; good wages and wasting immorality ; wealth acquired, but even the Banks have become as bags with holes ! “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little ; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it, saith the Lord of hosts." And why? "Because of mine house that is waste, and ye did run every man to his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands." Is not this a moral portrait of the nation's guilt, and also of her punishment? Here, also, we have the germs of the punishment nursed in the corresponding transgression. Withholding from God His due, the mind becomes more and more estranged, and communities, like individuals, become “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." If men are unjust to God in regard to service, or the dedication of offerings, how can they be just to their fellow-men?

If righteous claims on the part of God are disregarded, where is the security that any man will regard the claims of his neighbour? The violation of the Sabbath, the neglect of ordinances, and the pursuit of carnal pleasure, have mined the foundations of our social morality; and hence nothing more is requisite than a general panic to cause the destruction of the channels of national sustenance!

Such we esteem the present crisis! Human foresight could not prevent it, and human sagacity cannot avert its consequences. It is the work of God; yea, the "strange work” of righteous retribution! The cause is moral, and so must the remedy also be. Space will not permit its full development, but we shall simply at present indicate some of its leading characteristics. If fraud is the parent of distrust, then all fraudulent maxims and practices must be abandoned. If reckless speculation is the ruin of commerce, it must be completely checked. If encouragement to bold speculators is unjust to the legitimate trader, then all facilities for the false-credit system must be explicitly discarded by our banking establishments. If pride and extravagance tend directly to ruin domestic comfort and arrest social progress, the former must be humbled, and the latter rigidly restrained. If disregard of the precepts of the first table of the moral law is the cause of such flagrant violations of the precepts of the second, all relations and enterprises and transactions must be conducted with a regard to the glory of God.

Finally, if the robbery of God is declared in His Word to be the cause of national judgments, these cannot be removed until the claims of Jehovah are fully recognised and honoured. These are His own terms in dealing with nations; and "woe be to those who coveting an evil covetousness," disregard them!"

This is as true now as when it was published 150 years ago in the ORIGINAL SECESSION MAGAZINE. JANUARY, 1858.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Whose Voice? The Emerging Church rewrite the Bible

A(nother) new version has been produced and is being promoted. The Voice New Testament. One doesn't need to comment much on this. It speaks for itself. It is almost explicitly a version with the stamp of the Emerging Church Movement. (For a whole range of articles critiquing the Emerging Church click here)
"Any literary project reflects the age in which it is written. The Voice is created for and by a church in great transition. Throughout the body of Christ, extensive discussions are ongoing about a variety of issues including style of worship, how we separate culture from our theology, and what is essential truth. At the center of this discussion is the role of Scripture. Instead of furthering the division over culture and theology, it is time to bring the body of Christ together again around the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers and Ecclesia Bible Society together are developing Scripture products that foster spiritual growth and theological exploration out of a heart for worship and mission. We have dedicated ourselves to hearing and proclaiming God’s voice through this project.

Previously most Bibles and biblical reference works were produced by professional scholars writing in academic settings. The Voice uniquely represents collaboration among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists. The goal is to create the finest Bible products to help believers experience the joy and wonder of God’s revelation. This is the first-ever complete New Testament in The Voice translation. Writers include Chris Seay, Lauren Winner, Brian McLaren, Greg Garrett, David B. Capes, and others.

Four key words describe the vision of this project:
Holistic: considers heart, soul, and mind
Beautiful: achieves literary and artistic excellence
Sensitive: respects cultural shifts and the need for accuracy
Balanced: includes theologically diverse writers and scholars

We have taken care that The Voice is faithful and that it avoids prejudice. As we partnered biblical scholars and theologians with our writers, we intentionally built teams that did not share any single theological tradition. Their diversity has helped each of them not to be trapped within his or her own individual preconceptions, resulting in a faithful and fresh rendering of the Bible.

Features include: bronze, highlighted text; screenplay-like format, ideal for public readings and group studies; devotional commentary; and book introductions."

It's literary qualities let alone it's fidelity to the inspired original are greatly in question as the following extract from John 1:1-5 shows.

"Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. 2This celestial Voice remained ever present with the Creator; 3His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. 4His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light. 5 Light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not, be quenched."

Monday, August 18, 2008

10 Marks of Grace

The following are some marks of grace by which we can examine ourselves whether we are in the faith and Christ is in us. More could be added and those that have been listed could be better expressed. I hope that the marks given are not too high so as to discourage any that are struggling as to their assurance of faith.

1. Love for Christ in His Person and not for His benefits only, and a desire for fellowship with Him above all other things.
2. Love for the Word of God as the Kingly Word of Christ, submitting entirely to His authority in every word.
3. Love for the Lord's Day as the Market Day for the soul and sincere spiritual delight in devoting it to the public and private exercises of the worship of God.
4. Love for all the means of grace where God meets those that remember Him in His ways.
5. Love for the Lord's people and spiritual fellowship with them because of their union with Christ.
6. Love for holiness and the desire to be holy, with a sincere hatred of every sin.
7. Love for the secret place of prayer and a mourning over our coldness and carnality in that exercise.
8. Love to the service of Christ in any way and a fear of dishonouring Him
9. Love for meditating on heavenly things and an estrangement from that which is worldly.
10.A fear that these marks are so faint within us as not to be genuine at all

The puritan John Flavel was very discerning in relation to marks of grace. He counselled that: 'Great heed ought also to be had in the application of marks and signs; we should first try them; before we try ourselves or others by them.'

He mentions that 'Marks and signs are by some distinguished into exclusive, inclusive, and positive:

Exclusive marks serve to shut out bold pretenders, by shewing them how far
they come short of a saving work of grace; and they are commonly taken
from some necessary common duty, as hearing, praying, &c. He that hath
not these things, cannot have any work of grace in him; and yet if he do them,
he cannot conclude from thence his estate to be gracious: He that so
concludes, he deceives himself.

Inclusive marks rather discover [declare] the degrees than the truth of grace, and are rather intended for comfort than for conviction: If we find them in ourselves,
we do not only find sincerity, but eminency of grace; They being taken from
some raised degree and eminent acts of grace in confirmed and grown

Betwixt the two former there is a middle sort of marks, which are called
positive marks, and they are such as are always, and only found, in regenerate
souls: The hypocrite hath them not; the grown Christian hath them, and that
in an eminent degree: The poorest Christian hath them in a lower, but saving
degree: Great care must be taken in the application of them. And it is past
doubt that many weak and injudicious Christians have been greatly
prejudiced by finding the experiences of eminent Christians proposed as rules
to measure their sincerity by. Alas! these no more fit their souls, than Saul’s
armour did David’s body'.

I leave it to the reader to discern into which category the marks listed above fall.

Christ the river by which His people are planted

The Works of Jonathan Edwards (many never published before from manuscript) are now online. The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online will digitally publish manuscripts and edited versions of all of the 100,000 pages that Jonathan Edwards produced in his lifetime.

Here are some notes of a lecture on the text Psalm 1:3 that I enjoyed particularly. It was delivered in 1751 in connection with the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. I have abridged and edited it to interpret the shorthand.
Psalm 1:3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Christ is to the Heart of a true saint like a River to the Roots of a tree that is planted by it.

In the following Respects

1. As the waters of a River run easily and freely so the love of Christ freely came into the World.

His blood was freely shed blood flowed as freely from his wounds as water from a spring.

All the Good Things that Christ bestows on his saints come to them as freely as water runs down in a River. The Chief and most excellent things that Christ bestows are the Influences of his Spirit on their hearts to Enlighten, sanctify and comfort. These all come freely from Christ like the waters of a River.

2. Christ is Like a River in the great plenty and abundance of his Love and Grace.

The Good things that are the Fruits of his Love are infinitely Great.

The Happiness that he gives worth more than all the silver and Gold in the world.

The Tree that spreads out its Roots by a River has water enough - no need of Rain or any other water, so the true saint finds enough in Christ. Great plenty of water. Enough to supply a great multitude of Persons with drink to satisfy all their Thirst. To supply the Roots of a multitude of trees.

3. The Water of a River does not fail. It flows constantly day and night.

Waters that Run upon the Ground [coming] from showers of Rain or melting of the snows soon dry up and little Brooks dry up in a very dry Time.

But the waters of a great River continue running continually and from one age to another and are never dry. The Grace of Christ in the Heart shall always Continue. Christ never will take away his Spirit from them. That inward Life and comfort that Christ gives the Hearts of his saints shall continue to all.

When the death comes that comfort and Happiness shall Continue. When the End of the World comes yet their Comforts shall still be like a River that shall not be dried up.

4. A Tree planted by a river is never dry[?]

The soul is joined to Christ and they are made one. As the water enters into the Roots, so Christ enters the Heart and soul of a Godly man and dwells there. The spirit of Christ comes into the very Heart of a saint as water to the Roots of a tree.

5. A river Refreshes. So Christ Refreshes and satisfies and makes the heart Rejoyce. Water gives Life and keeps it alive so makes it grow makes it grow beautiful and fruitful. A Tree planted is green in time of Great drought when others trees wither. So the soul of a true saint is green in time of affliction, at death, at the end of the World.


1. Examination. whether you are a true saint.

has your soul been ever like a tree planted by this River.

They that are saints have been the subjects of a great Change their souls are like a Tree digged up by the Roots out of a dry barren Ground and planted in a new Place. Hearts taken off from the this world and planted in God and Christ and heaven.

They no more trust in the world but put their Trust in God. They do not trust in themselves their own strength or Righteouesness but trust only in Christ.

If you are a saint then Christ is sweet and Refreshing to you as the water of a River to a man when He is very thirsty.

Is Christ sweeter and better than the sweetest food? Is he better than all the things of the world?
Has your mind been enlightened to see that there is enough in Christ?

Does your Religion continue Like a Tree planted or does your Religion come to nothing like a tree planted in a dry Barren ground? Is it the Religion that is like Puddles after a Rain which dry up. But the Religion of a truly Good man is like a River. Do you bring forth fruit?

2. Exhortation to sinners to seek an Interest in Jesus Christ if you are not in Christ thoough you you may be like green Trees, yet by and by you will wither. All your streams will fail you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Guarding against Wavering

It is good divinity to maintain that scepticism, fluctuation and wavering, concerning those things which God hath revealed to be believed or done by us, is a sin; and to be firm, fixed and established in the faith, is a duty commanded. I shall first prove it to be so; then give reasons for it; and, thirdly, some helps to this duty, and preservatives against this sin.

For proof of the thing, somewhat might be said from the very light of nature; for "hath a nation changed their gods?" Jer. 2.11...But, to set aside nature's light, there is not any of the primitive churches to which the apostles wrote epistles, but they were expressly warned, either positively, to stand fast in the faith, to hold fast their profession, or, negatively, to beware of, and to avoid false teachers, and not to be carried about with divers and strange doctrines. Now it must needs be not only a truth, but a most special and necessary truth, which the apostles thought fit thus to press upon the churches in all their epistles written to them. See Rom. 16.17,18; 1 Cor. 16.13; 2 Cor. 11.3,4; Gal. 1.6,8; Eph. 4.14; Phil. 3.2,18; Col. 2.6-8; 2 Thess. 2.2,3; Heb. 10.23; 13.9; James 5.19,20; 2 Pet. 2.1-3; 3.16-18; 1 John 4. 1; Jude 3,4. All these texts are full and plain as to this point which I speak to, and in that respect most worthy of our frequent thoughts and observation, especially at such a time when this corner of the world is so full of new and strange doctrines.

As for the reasons, take these:
1. If we be not steadfast and immovable in the profession of our faith, we frustrate (as to us) the end for which the Scriptures were written. Luke gives this reason to his Theophilus why he wrote the story of Christ's birth, life and death, "That thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed," Luke 1.4. When Peter hath mentioned the voice which came from heaven concerning Christ, he addeth the certainty of the Scripture as a greater certainty, "We have also a more sure word of prophesy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place," 2 Pet. 1.19. A voice from heaven might sooner deceive us than the written word of God.
2. To maintain and profess the true doctrine, and the true faith, is, by all protestant orthodox writers, made one, yea, the principal mark of a true visible church. Christ himself, John x. 4, 5, gives us this mark of his sheep, "The sheep follow him (their shepherd), for they know his voice, and a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers."
3. If once we forsake the way of truth, and go into an erroneous way, we shall not know where to find our paths, we shall wander from mountain to hill, and forget our resting place. As one wave comes after another, so doth one error come after another. As a canker spreadeth, so doth error, 2 Tim. 2.19; "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived," 2 Tim. 3.13: which hath made some, and I hope will make more, who were too inclinable to the new doctrine and practices of sectaries at first, now to fall off from them, when "they increase unto more ungodliness," and unto more error. And there is no end; one error breedeth a hundred, and a hundred will breed ten thousand. What was it that made so many fall off from the prelates who once joined with them? Was it not because they were growing from the old ceremonies to many new ones, and each year, almost, brought in some new superstition, and from popish rites they grew to popish doctrines?
4. If we waver and be led about with divers and strange doctrines, then the prophecies which have gone before of the true church shall not be made good in us. It was promised concerning the church and kingdom of Christ, Isa. 32.4,5, "The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly, the vile person shall no more be called liberal," &c., that is, those who simply and rashly were led about with every wind of doctrine shall be so wise and knowing as to distinguish between truth and error, between virtue and vice, and call each thing by its right name. So Isa. 33. 6, "And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation."
5. Instability and forsaking the way of truth makes us lose much that we had gained, 2 John 8; all the comfort we enjoyed, all the good that ever our souls received of such a truth, such a cause, such a ministry, all that ever we did, or spake, or suffered for the truth, all this we lose when we turn aside after an erroneous way. 6. It greatly hindereth our spiritual comfort and contentment. Col. 2.2, to be knit together in love is one mean, and to have all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of gospel truths, is another mean by which the Apostle wisheth the hearts of Christians to be comforted. It added much to Paul's comfort that he could say, "I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown," &c., 2 Tim. 4.7,8.
7. We run a great hazard of our souls and our salvation when we turn aside from truth to error. It is said of the unstable, that they wrest the Scriptures "unto their own destruction," 2 Pet. 3.16. Like a man fallen into quicksands, the more he wrestles out the more he sinks. When the Apostle hath spoken of Christ's purchasing of our reconciliation, justification and sanctification, he addeth an if; Col. 1.23, "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard." Not that our persevering in the true faith was a condition in Christ's purchasing of these blessings, but it is a condition without which we cannot possess and enjoy what Christ hath purchased; that is, he that falls away from the true doctrine of the gospel, proves himself to have no part of the benefits of Christ.

Some errors are, in their own nature, damnable and inconsistent with the state of grace or a fellowship with God, 2 Peter 2. 9; so 2 John 9, "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." Sure it may be said of Arians, Socinians, Papists, Libertines, they have not God, because they abide not in the doctrine of Christ; so Gal. 5.4. Other errors there are, of which I may say, whatsoever they are comparatively, impenitency, and continuing in them, doth condemn, whence it is that the apostle James reckoneth him who errs from the truth to be in a way of death and danger of damnation, James 5.19,20.

Now, the preservatives against wavering, and helps to stedfastness in the faith, are these:
1. Grow in knowledge and circumspection; be not simple as children in understanding. There is "a sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" so speaks the Apostle of those that spread divers and strange doctrines, Eph. 4.14; and Rom. 16.18, he warns us that they do "by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple." Thou hast, therefore, need of the wisdom of the serpent, that thou be not deceived, as well as of the simplicity of the dove, that thou be not a deceiver, Phil. 1. 9,10. Do not rashly engage into any new opinion, much less into the spreading of it. With the well-advised is wisdom. Pythagoras would have his scholars only to hear, and not to speak for five years. Be swift to hear, but not to speak or engage: "Prove all things," and when thou hast proved, then be sure to "hold fast that which is good," 1 Thess. 5.21; Matt. 7.15,17. There was never an heresy yet broached, but under some fair plausible pretence: "beguiling unstable souls," as Peter speaks, 2 Peter 2.14. Prov. 14.15, "The simple believeth every word. Be not like the two hundred that "went in the simplicity of their hearts" after Absalom in his rebellion, not knowing anything, but that he was to pay his vow in Hebron, 2 Sam. 15.11.
2. Grow in grace and holiness, and the love of the truth; for the stability of the mind in the truth, and the stability of the heart in grace, go hand in hand together, Heb. 13. 9. David's rule is good: Psal. 25.12, "What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall ye teach in the way that he shall choose;" which is also Christ's rule, John 7.17, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself;" see also Deut. 11.13,16. Elisha healed the unwholesome waters of Jericho by casting salt into the fountain, 2 Kings 2.21. So must the bitter streams of pernicious errors be healed by getting the salt of mortification and true sanctifying grace in the fountain.
3. Be sure to cleave to thy faithful and sound teachers. The sheep that follow the shepherd are best kept from the wolf. I find the exhortation to stability in the faith joined with the fruitful labours of faithful teachers, Phil. 3.16,17; Heb. 13.7,9. So the Apostle, Eph. 4.11-14, from the work of the ministry draweth this consequence, "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." The Galatians were easily seduced, as soon as they were made to disgust Paul.
4. Watch and be vigilant against the first beginnings of declining, against the first seeds of error, Gal. 5.9. It was "while men slept" that the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and when he had done, went his way, Matt. 13.25. Therefore "watch ye, stand fast in the faith," 1 Cor. 16.12; go hand in hand together.
5. Avoid and withdraw from the authors and spreaders of heresies and dangerous errors, Rom. 16.17; 1 Tim. 6.5; 2 John 10,11; Phil. 3.2. He that would be godly should not use ungodly company, and he that would be orthodox should not use heretical company, unless he have some good hopes to convert some who have erred from the truth, and come into their company only for that end, James 5.19,20. I remember Chrysostom, in divers places, warneth his hearers how much they endangered their souls by going into the Jewish synagogues, and there was a great zeal in the ancient church to keep Christians that were orthodox from the assemblies and company of heretics.
6. Get church discipline established and duly exercised, which is ordained to purge the church from false doctrine, Rev. 2.14,20.
7. "Lean not unto thine own understanding," and "be not wise in thine own eyes," Prov. 3.5,7. Let reason be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. 10.5. That which made the Antitrinitarians and Socinians fall away from the belief of the trinity of persons in the Godhead, and of the union of the two natures of God and man in the person of Christ, was, because their reason could not comprehend these articles, which is the ground of their opinion professed by themselves. When I speak of captivating reason, I do not mean implicit faith. The eyes of my understanding must be so far opened by the Holy Ghost, that I may know such an article is held forth in Scripture to be believed, and therefore I do believe that it is, though my reason cannot comprehend how it is.
8. Count thy cost, and be well resolved beforehand what it will cost thee to be a disciple of Christ, to be a constant professor of the truth, Luke 14.26-34; Acts 14.22, "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." This is surer than to confirm ourselves with the hopes of a golden age of prosperity, in which we shall feel no affliction.
9. "Search the Scriptures," John 5.39; Acts 17.11. Do not take upon trust new lights from any man, be he never so eminent for parts or for grace, but to the law and the testimony.

The upshot of all is, that we ought to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and be steadfast, and even immovable in the truth, and not to give place to the adversaries, no, not for an hour, Gal. 2.4,5. I do not mean pertinacy in the least error, nor a vain presumptuous overweening conceit of our knowledge, to make us despise any light which others may give us from Scripture. Pertinacy is an evil upon the one hand, and to be too tenacious of our own opinions; but that...that levity, inconstancy, wavering, scepticism, is an evil upon the other hand. 2 Thess. 2.2, "Be not soon shaken in mind." &c.

Of Stability and Firmness in the Truth, from Miscellany Questions by George Gillespie.