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