Thursday, December 17, 2009

Feelings vs. Spiritual Well-Being

We all need, and at the seasons the Lord sees best, we all receive
chastisement. I hope you likewise have reason to praise Him, for
supporting, sanctifying, and delivering mercy. The cowardly flesh
presently sinks under the rod, but faith need not fear it, for it is
in the hand of One who loves us better than we do ourselves, and who
knows our frame, that we are but dust, and therefore will not suffer
us to be overdone and overwhelmed...

If, as you observe, the Song of Solomon describes the experience of
his church, it shows the dark as well as the bright side. No one part
of it is the experience of every individual at any particular time.
Some are in his banqueting-house, others upon their beds. Some sit
under His banner, supported by His arm; while others have a faint
perception of Him at a distance, with many a hill and mountain
between. In one thing, however, they all agree, that He is the leading
object of their desires, and that they have had such a discovery of
His person, work, and love, as makes Him precious to their hearts.
Their judgment of Him is always the same, but their sensibility
varies. The love they bear Him, though rooted and grounded in their
hearts, is not always equally in exercise, nor can it be so. We are
like trees, which, though alive, cannot put forth their leaves and
fruit without the influence of the sun. They are alive in winter as
well as in summer; but how different is their appearance in these
different seasons! Were we always alike, could we always believe,
love, and rejoice, we should think the power inherent and our own; but
it i. more for the Lord's glory, and more suited to form us to a
temper becoming the Gospel, that we should be made deeply sensible of
our own inability and dependence, than that we should be always in a
lively frame. I am persuaded, a broken and a contrite spirit, a
conviction of our vileness and nothingness, connected with a cordial
acceptance of Jesus as revealed in the Gospel, is the highest
attainment we can reach in this life. Sensible comforts are desirable,
and we must be sadly declined when they do not appear to us; but I
believe there may be a real exercise of faith and growth in grace when
our sensible feelings are faint and low. A soul may be in as thriving
a state when thirsting, seeking, and mourning after the Lord, as when
actually rejoicing in Him; as much in earnest when fighting in the
valley, as when singing upon the mount; nay, dark seasons afford the
surest and strongest manifestations of the power of faith. To hold
fast the word of promise, to maintain a hatred of sin, to go on
steadfastly in the path of duty, in defiance both of the frowns and
the smiles of the world, when we have but little comfort, is a more
certain evidence of grace, than a thousand things which we may do or
forbear when our spirits are warm and lively. I have seen many who
have been upon the whole but uneven walkers, though at times they have
seemed to enjoy, at least have talked of, great comforts. I have seen
others, for the most part, complain of much darkness and coldness, who
have been remarkably humble, tender, and exemplary in their spirit and
conduct. Surely were I to choose my lot, it should be with the latter.

by John Newton

January 11, 1777.

Monday, November 30, 2009

One of Heaven's Jewels: Rev Archibald Cook

One of Heaven's Jewels: Rev Archibald Cook of Daviot and the (Free) North Church, Inverness, Norman Campbell (2009) 288 pp., Paperback, ISBN-13: 978-0956364104 Available here

Cook was one of the most eminent Highland preachers in the nineteenth century. His preaching was both powerful and searching and reasoned with the sinner in a plain-dealing but solemn way. Donald Beaton said of him, "No one who has any knowledge of the truth can read Mr Cook's sermons, in Gaelic and English, without feeling that here is a man whose words reach the conscience and demand attention. . . Perhaps none of the preachers of the Northern Highlands ever got so near to the consciences of his hearers as did Mr Cook." Cook himself used to say: "I like the Holy Ghost to convince me of sin, for He never magnifies it above the mercy of God". Cook's Gaelic sermons have probably been the sermons most read and best loved in that language. This book gives a focus to the theology and emphases of Cook's preaching in the last chapter. Cook preached the covenant of grace with Christ as its centre. Within this it is evident that there was a strong evangelistic strain in his preaching with a fully free offer and a full assertion of the sovereign grace of God.

This book draws together a wealth of rare sources into a meticulously-researched labour of love that sketches in the social and ecclesiastical context from which Cook emerged and in which he laboured. Here you will find fresh and original information on a variety of subjects related to Cook and his ministry. The author introduces Arran evangelicalism and the revival on the island, the Argyllshire Calvinistic Baptist movement, the ministry of Dr John Love. It appears that Love's ministry in Glasgow was a significant influence upon divinity students from the North. The lasting impact of that influence upon Cook is traced out in a later chapter. Moving northwards the Ten Years' Conflict in the Highlands, Separatists in and around Inverness and the 1859 revival in Inverness are covered together in depth together with an outline of the solid and sound evangelistic work undertaken by Duncan MacBeth in Inverness.

Another less well-known aspect that the book brings out is the friendship between Cook and Jonathan Ranken Anderson, who was an eminent preacher but who came to regard the Free Church as apostate. The friendship ended when Anderson realised that Cook did not fully support his position. The chapter sets Anderson in a negative light and much is drawn from his own diary and correspondence. This is fair as far as the episode goes. There is much, however, to commend in Anderson's preaching and there is evidence that he discerned the seeds of the later decline and apostasy that overtook the Free Church, although his own actions were precipitate. In 1839-1840 there was a season of revival in his church in Glasgow. Much more might have been said to give a balanced view for those not entirely familiar with Jonathan Ranken Anderson and who would benefit from his printed sermons.

The character of Arran evangelicalism bore a deep testimony to the revival upon the island. This was an influence which, like his pronounced Gaelic dialect, would remain with him to the end of his days. His experience of the mild strain of Separatism there no doubt gave him both a sympathy and understanding with the grievances of the movement. The Separatists of the Inverness area all flocked to his uncompromising ministry in the town. Cook's godliness, through grace, was the fountain that supplied his ministry with its power and heavenliness. In a time of eminently godly people, many found in Cook an honest, discerning and heaven-sent minister. Alexander Auld recalled how "this small, dark man, with light step and downward look, would, on entering any assembly, command a deference never given to mere bodily pomposity. There sat upon him an air of heavenliness and spirituality that others felt awed by". Neil Cameron said that the people "were convinced that they had in him a man anointed with the Holy Ghost, whose conversation shined before men. This godly life accounts, in part, for the deep reverence with which his memory is embalmed in the minds of those that knew him." He was well known for refusing to brook any compromise with carnal worldliness.

His brother Finlay, also a minister, knew him as well as any, and said of him, "I never saw a man that keeps so near the Lord as he does. He is constantly praying or reading or meditating when he is not engaged in public. Though you were a year with him, you would not hear a vain word out of his mouth." None could read Cook's heart or speak for him, however, and he was all too conscious of remaining corruption within himself. "My own barrenness and distance from God," he wrote in a letter, "the want of spiritual mindedness, and the fear of becoming a barren tree in the Church, these often make my life a burden".

Norman Campbell notes the significance of what was said to be Cook's favourite text, Daniel 12:3: 'And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever'. J. R. MacKay wrote, "Only the Great Day will fully reveal what were the fruits of a ministry characterised by such genuine humility, such an arresting tenderness of walk and conversation, such unflinching opposition to iniquity, and withal such extraordinary assiduousness in prayer".

This richly illustrated volume will be of great interest to many. Another encouragement to obtain a copy is that all the profits from the book will go to the Bethesda Care Home and Hospice in Stornoway.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

this complete Saviour

January 22nd., 1743. — A memorable day in Dugald Buchanan's life — "The Sabbath," he says, "on which the Lord opened my eyes to see the Mediator in all his offices, from 1 Cor. i. 30 ; but of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."

He makes no mention where he was, or who preached, or whether it was simply from reading the passage, that he found such a clear light on the fulness and freeness of Christ ? He speaks of this occasion in terms that would almost lead us to suppose he had light now for the first time. ]t is certain, however, that by means of this passage, whether privately or in the house of God, he had discoveries of the mediatorial glory of Jesus, such as he had never previously realised. He had his relapses after this — " thorns in the flesh, lest he should be exalted above measure by the glory of the revelation," but his self-righteous tendencies never afterwards obtained their former ascendancy. Speaking of this triumph of grace, he says, "that Sabbath evening after I had spent the greater part of the day in meditating upon the fulness that is in Christ, I saw how suitable He was for my case in every way, and, as it were, called for my former unbelief, to see if it could object anything against this complete Saviour, now revealed to me in the gospel; but at this time unbelief durst not appear. I have many a time called the fore-mentioned scripture my charter for the heavenly inheritance."

"I had my ups and downs after this, till the 6th of February 1743. Being Sabbath day I went to our church. My heart warmed with love to God; but found that woeful enemy self increasing in my heart. This is the enemy that mingles water with my wine continually. It robbed God of the glory of his grace, and me of the comfort which I might have enjoyed."

After he had gone to bed that evening, he took Ezek. xvi. 5, 6, as the subject of meditation. His soul was filled with seraphic joy as he surveyed the wonders of redeeming mercy. "the love I saw in this chapter is far beyond anything that I can
express! When I saw, as it were, the compassionate Jesus passing by me, when I was wallowing in my blood, and saying unto me, live; this was indeed a time of love to me a vile worm. When He saw me bound in the pit wherein there was no water. He set me free by the blood of the everlasting covenant, boundless love! I only draw a vail over it, when I begin to speak on the subject. my soul, come and be swallowed up in admiring this love; this boundless love to thee the chief of sinners! O my soul wonder at the freeness of it — free without any merit. my soul, was it anything he saw in thee, that made Him to love thee; and not only to love thee, but take thee to Himself in a marriage covenant! Be astonished O ye heavens at this love ! ye angels, behold the wonderful match ! ye saints and redeemed of the Lord, whose near and peculiar privilege it is not only to view the match, but to be the bride, the Lamb's wife, O come and view the love that is between you and your husband! ' For thy maker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name ; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called.' Isa. liv. 5. my soul, be ashamed to meet such a husband, in the filthy rags of thy own righteousness. Accept of the robe that is offered thee in the gospel, for it is that robe, and none other, that will render thee acceptable in the sight of God."

He was so absorbed in admiration of God's love in Jesus that sleep departed from him. Next morning he went to the fields to pray and praise. His joy "was unspeakable and full of glory;" and ever afterwards, when recording what on these occasions he felt, he was so full of admiration of God's love that he could not write.

Thy Maker is thy Husband

A marriage so mysterious I proclaim,
Betwixt two parties of such diff'rent fame,
That human tongues may blush their names to tell,
To wit, the Prince of Heav'n, the heir of hell!
But, on so vast a subject who can find
Words suiting the conceptions of his mind?
Or, if our language with our thoughts could vie,
What mortal thought can raise itself so high?

Ralph Erskine
A POEM upon Isa. liv. 5. Thy Maker is thy Husband.

Comfort to Believers from the text, Thy Maker is thy Husband, inverted thus,— Thy Husband is thy Maker; and the Conclusion of this Subject.

By Ralph Erskine

"Thy Maker is thy Husband."—Isa 54.5

Of light and life, of grace and glore,
In Christ thou art partaker,
Rejoice in him for evermore,
Thy husband is thy maker.

He made thee, yea, made thee his bride,
Nor heeds thine ugly patch;
To what he made he'll still abide,
Thy husband made the match.

He made all, yea, he made all thine,
All to thee shall be giv'n.
Who can thy kingdom undermine?
Thy husband made the heav'n.

What earthly thing can thee annoy?
He made the earth to be;
The waters cannot thee destroy,
Thy husband made the sea.

Don't fear the flaming element
Thee hurt with burning ire,
Or that the scorching heat torment
Thy husband made the fire.

Infectious streams shall ne'er destroy,
While he is pleased to spare;
Thou shalt thy vital breath enjoy,
Thy husband made the air.

The sun that guides the golden day,
The moon that rules the night,
The starry frame, the milky way,
Thy husband made for light.

The bird that wings its airy path,
The fish that cuts the flood,
The creeping crowd that swarms beneath,
Thy husband made for good.

The grazing herd, the beasts of prey,
The creatures great and small,
For thy behoof their tribute pay;
Thy husband made them all.

Thine's Paul, Apollos, life and death,
Things present, things to be;
And ev'ry thing that being hath,
Thy husband made for thee.

In Tophet, where the damn'd resort,
Thy soul shall never dwell,
Nor needs from thence imagine hurt;
Thy husband formed hell.

Satan with instruments of his
May rage, yet dread no evil;
So far as he a creature is,
Thy husband made the devil.

His black temptations may afflict,
His fiery darts annoy;
But all his works, and hellish tricks,
Thy husband will destroy.

Let armies strong of earthly gods
Combine with hellish ghosts,
They live or languish, at his nods
Thy husband's Lord of hosts.

What can thee hurt? whom dost thou fear ?
All things are at his call.
Thy maker is thy husband dear,
Thy husband's all in all.

What dost thou seek? What dost thou want?
He'll thy desires fulfil;
He gave himself, what won't he grant?
Thy husband's at thy will.

The more thou dost of him desire,
The more he loves to give:
High let thy mounting aims aspire,
Thy husband gives thee leave.

The less thou seek'st, the less thou dost
His bounty set on high;
But highest seekers here do most
Thy husband glorify.

Would'st thou have grace? Well; but 'tis meet
He should more glory gain.
Wouldst thou have Father, Son, and Sp'rit?
Thy husband says AMEN.

He'll kindly act the lib'ral God,
Devising lib'ral things :
With royal gifts his subjects load;
Thy husband's King of kings.

No earthly monarch has such store
as thou hast ev'n in hand
But, 0 how infinitely more
Thy husband gives on band;

Thou hast indeed the better part,
The part will fail thee never:
Thy husband's hand, thy husband's heart,
Thy husband's all for ever.

Directions to those who wish to do more than others

1. Would they do more than others? then they must deny themselves more than others

2. Would they deny themselves more than others? then they should pray more than others

3. Would they pray more than others? then they should resolve more than others

4. Would they resolve more than others? then they should love more than others

5. Would they love more than others? then they should believe more than others

6. Would they believe more than others? then they should know more than others

7. Would they know more than others? then God must reveal himself more to them than he does to others

Matt. 5:47 'What do ye more than others?'

William Secker(d. 1681?), The nonsuch professor in his meridian splendour, or, The singular actions of sanctified Christians (also titled 'The Consistent Christian')
The book is based on seven sermons given at All Hallows, London Wall in 1660.

'Those people...who are sincerely desirous of knowing and becoming such Christians, will derive advantage from a perusal of Secker's "Consistent Christian." It is written for men of plain sense, and is adapted to the taste of no 'scholarly' reader. It is a book of practical godliness...Mr. Secker points to Jesus as the rock upon which the soul rests, and insists upon godly works as the only conclusive evidence, that the professor of religion can give of his having the faith of God's elect'. Alexander McLeod

As Secker himself puts it in the Introduction ‘the design of this piece is not the ostentation of the author, but the edification of the reader’.

It can be purchased here

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The believer's daily principles

1. The believer will walk by this principle: That whatsoever is transacted by men on earth, is eyed by the Lord in heaven
2. That after all his present receivings he will be brought to his future reckonings
3. That God bears a greater respect to his heart than to his works
4. That there is more final bitterness in reflecting on sin, than there can be present sweetness in the commission of sin
5. That there is the greatest vanity in all created excellency
6. That duties can never have too much attention paid to them, nor too little confidence placed in them
7. That those precious promises, which are given to insure his happiness, do not supersede those directions which are laid down for him to seek alter happiness
8. That it is dangerous to dress himself for another world at the looking-glass of this world
9. That where sin proves hateful, it shall not prove hurtful
10. That inward purity is the ready road to outward plenty
11. That all the time which God allows him, is but enough for the work which he allots him
12. That there can never he too great an estrangement from defilement
13. That whatsoever is temporarily enjoyed should be spiritually improved
14. That he should speak well of God whatsoever evil he receives from God
15. That the longer God forbears with the unrelenting sinner in life, the sorer he strikes him in the judgment-day
16. That there is no judging of the inward conditions of men by the outward dispensations of God
17. That it is safest to cleave to that good which is the choicest
18. That no present worldly business should interrupt his pursuit of future blessedness
19. That gospel integrity towards God is the best security against wicked men
20. That the richness of the crown that shall be received shall more than compensate for the bitterness of the cross which may here be endured

William Secker, The Nonsuch Professor

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What the Christian does more than others

1. He does much good, and makes but little noise
2. He brings up the bottom of his life to the top of his light
3. He prefers the duty he owes to God to the danger he fears from man
4. He seeks the public good of others above the private good of himself
5. He has the most beautiful conversation among the blackest persons
6. He chooses the worst of sorrows rather than commit the least sin
7. He becomes a father to all in charity, and a servant to all in humility
8. He mourns most before God for those lusts which appear least before men
9. He keeps his heart lowest when God raises his estate highest
10. He seeks to be better inwardly in his substance than outwardly in appearance
11. He is grieved more at the distresses of the church than affected at his own happiness
12. He renders the greatest good for the greatest evil
13. He takes those reproofs best which he needs most
14. He takes up duty in point of performance, and lays it down in point of dependence
15. He takes up his contentment in God's appointment
16. He is more in love with the employment of holiness than with the enjoyment of happiness
17. He is more employed in searching his own heart than in censuring other men's states
18. He sets out for God at his beginning, and holds out with him to the end
19. He takes all the shame of his sins to himself, and gives all the glory of his services to Christ
20. He values an heavenly reversion above an earthly possession

Matt. 5:47 'What do ye more than others?'

William Secker, 'The Nonsuch Professor'

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why a Christian should do more than others

1. Because more is done for him than for others

2. Because he is more nearly related to God than others

3. Because he professes more than others

4. Because he is inwardly conformed to the Redeemer more than others

5. Because he is looked upon more than others

6. Because if he does no more than others, it will appear that he is no more than others

7. Because he is appointed to be a judge of others

8. Because he expects more than others

Matt. 5:47 'What do ye more than others?'

William Secker, 'The Nonsuch Professor'

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Shadowed Face

by Philip Bennett Power

"You must put on more shadows," said an artist to a young lady who was engaged on painting a female face. "You must put on more shadows—for she is not young."

There were many shadows on the artist's own face—those of advancing years, of thought, and labor, and the wear and tear of life; and she knew well that shadows were not merely required by the rules of the painter's art—but that they were true to life. But the thought was a sad one.

The world which we enter upon with such brightness—is soon seen to be full of shadows; and the longer we are in it, the farther we travel into them—the more deeply and thickly they gather upon us, until we go down to the grave; beyond which all shadows flee away in the land of light—OR deepen into darkness which may be felt.

It must not be supposed that because we introduce such a subject at the commencement of a year, that we are going to throw up a long shadow of gloom over its coming days. Far from it! God is a God of hope and joy; and with such a God we would have our readers enter on the coming year—but here in this world, here in our experiences, here on our very faces—there are many shadows—and we shall gain nothing by shutting our eyes, and saying there are no such things.

And it will help us at the outset to think more kindly of shadows—if we remember how heavily they lay on the face of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. "As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men" Isaiah 52:14. The Jews said to Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" He was indeed far from fifty—He was but a little above thirty—but shadows and lines were on His face; and His enemies thought more of fifty than of thirty, when they looked upon Him.

So let us not turn from shadows as a disagreeable subject, but draw from them the blessed teachings which they have for our own characters, and our own souls.

There are two kinds of shadows:

1. those which come upon us,

2. those which are made by us.

The first must come, the second need not come.

Yes! as we advance in life, we find so many things which we thought solid—to be hollow; so many things which we thought enduring—to be perishable; so many things which we thought would satisfy us—to leave us unfilled; that one disappointment after another throws its shadow, first on the heart and then on the face!

Take the fairest, youngest child—encompass him with wealth, give him health, give him all that this world can bestow; yet you cannot save him from the pencil charged with the shading color—the shadows will in due time be laid on. At first they will be mere greyish tints, they will seem perhaps to make but little change; but they will deepen, and that more and more as time goes on.

Sometimes they are laid on heavily all at once—and no matter how bright things may become in after life, there they remain; they never can be effaced.

But we must not accept this lot sulkily, and say, "If they must come, they must—but we would be glad if they never came."

Some little while ago, a woman who dealt in perfumes and powders of various kinds, advertised herself as able to make people beautiful forever; and it was no uncommon thing some time ago, for people to cover their face and necks with makeup, filling up the crevices which wrinkles had made, just as you put fresh plaster over an old wall to fill up the cracks—these people would have no wrinkles, no shadows.

Now, some of the most beautiful faces in the world are shadowed ones; and certainly some of the loveliest characters are the same. Therefore we are not so much to trouble ourselves about the shadows themselves—as about how they came, and what they mean.

Have they come in the course of God's providential dealings? Then they are from Him, and not from ourselves; and being from Him, they are able to do us good—they are meant to do so. They are able to do what all His dealings with His people can accomplish—that is fit us for Himself.

It was by the coming up of many shadows upon Him, that Jesus, thus tried in all points like ourselves, became an experienced High Priest. Feeling for our infirmities—His sorrows fitted Him to be a sympathetic friend to us in our sorrows.

And the sorrow and discipline which throw shadows are fitting us too. These are tokens of experience. They say, "A voice has spoken, telling me that this earth is not a place simply of enjoyment; that I must be preparing for an eternal world. The lightness, the garishness of our natures must be wrought upon by the great Master's hand."

So then the heavy shadows made by the furrows in the face may be looked upon with reverence, with affection, with awe—when they have been the handiwork of God.

Thus let us accept them. They are His softenings—His tonings down of the roughness and crudeness of our natures— His way of drawing character.

It is the shadows which give character to a face, and it is by shadow-casting dispensations, that God gives us character.

But let us take heed how WE ourselves make shadows for ourselves or for others. There are many such. They come up upon the faces of wives, and husbands and parents—and do not depart until the face becomes placid in death.

The unkind word—the cruel sleight—the sad short-coming, where 'love' had reason to expect so much; all these are powerful shadow-casters. They do their work in the mansion of the nobleman, and in the cottage of the poor man; for they are the same in themselves, and have to work on people who have the same affections. The shadows, which need not have come, are those which make the world as wretched and gloomy as it is!

Friday, November 13, 2009

why good and necessary consequences are good and necessary: part 2

We have seen that what is meant by "good and necessary consequence" is not human wisdom but "reason captivated and subdued to the obedience of Christ" (George Gillespie). The consequence must be necessary, that is to say it must be demanded by a relevant Scripture passage. This means taking premises stated in the Scripture and using sanctified reason in order to draw their inexorable conclusions which although not expressly stated in a particular verse are nevertheless entirely warranted as the conclusions of such a process.

Historic limitations of the regulative principle

In the 17th Century some sought to limit this even with regard to doctrine, specifically Arminians and Socinians. Erastians and Anabaptists sought in different ways and with different purposes to limit it in respect of the regulative principle. There were members of the Assembly that sought to defend the old Anglican view of Richard Hooker that gave "indifferent things" such as Church government to the monarch so that they could control the church, this is sometimes called Erastianism after Erastus who articulated the theoretical basis. Thomas Coleman was one of the Erastian Westminster divines, although their views were not prevalent in the eventual documents of the Assembly, they made themselves heard, as when Coleman preached to Parliament (July 1645) that the Assembly's agenda ought to be "Establish as few things by divine right, as well can be".
Divine right or jus divinum meant scriptural warrant. But if we do not give the authority to the Divine scriptures we give it instead to men, the king or individuals, human reason or prejudice or mere pragmatism and cultural influence. Although Coleman's principle may seem plausible it was crafted to serve his own agenda: he made it clear in the same sermon that the only thing that he wanted to establish by divine right was the King's/Parliament's authority by divine right. The attitude of the Scots commissioners to the Assembly on the other hand was "establish as much as possible by divine warrant".

The Anabaptist argument was that the regulative principle could only use explicit warrant. Zwingli pointed out the problems with those to Anabaptists in his day. They believed that Acts 19 contains a rebaptism by Paul of those followers of John the Baptist who had been initially baptized by Apollos. Zwingli argued that the Scripture does not tell us explicitly that Apollos baptized, so, following the explicit warrant principle, Apollos didn’t baptize. Yet it was quite obvious otherwise that Apollos did.

The limitation of the regulative principle by Anabaptists in the 17th Century to explicit warrant transpired in the popularity of some rather odd views by the standards of modern antipaedobaptists. The first antipaedobaptist in England, John Smyth, did not read from a translation of the Bible. Instead he read the original languages and sought to translate on the hoof. There is of course no explicit warrant for translating the Scriptures into written form. Only good and necessary consequence will establish our warrant for it. His congregation also ended up as Seventh-day Baptists. This was quite a popular controversy amongst 17th Century Baptists. There is of course no explicit statement in the New Testament that the day has been changed. References to meeting on the first day in the book of Acts or to the Lord's Day in Revelation do not satisfy this explicit warrant requirement. Only good and necessary consequence will establish our warrant for it. The Smyth group also wound up keeping the Old Testament feasts and ceremonial laws.

Few antipaedobaptist congregations in the 17th century had congregational praise. They didn't believe that there was an explicit statement commanding congregational praise. All the usual verses were understood as addressed to individuals. Prophetic solos were acceptable but not congregational praise.

Contemporary limitation of the regulative principle

This is the final way in which there is an attempt to limit the scope of application of good and necessary consequence in Scripture is by excluding it from the regulative principle. This is at the crux of the arguments in a book by a modern antipaedobaptist, Fred Malone. It is entitled 'The Baptism of Disciples Alone'. The book is of course highly polemical but Malone carries it to a degree that topples into being offensive and hostile. The title of the book for instance is explained as the explicit assertion that the rejection of infants as proper subjects for baptism is on the same level as the 5 solas defined by the Reformers as critical to salvation.

Malone identifies two main bulwarks to his book against paedobaptism. 1) the regulative principle and 2) biblical interpretation.

Malone refers again and again to the regulative principle of worship (RPW), although his discussion of it is rather thin. He does not refer to any writers apart from John Frame, in order to show that the regulative principle prohibits drama and dance in worship. The regulative principle is about more than this. Once antipaedobaptists start applying the regulative principle consistently and with rigour in the areas of festivals and holy days, their warrant for composing and using hymns, musical accompaniment and the like we might be able to accept that they are not just being selective in applying the regulative principle. It seems that when it comes to baptism matters are very tight and there is only one valid mode. What about their practice of the Lord's Supper, however, do they have one loaf as Scripture prescribes? Do they have one cup of wine as Scripture prescribes? Where is the warrant for medicine glasses of juice?

Malone refers to the confessional definition of the RPW but defines it differently himself in order to accuse paedobaptists of forsaking the regulative principle for the normative principle. The WCF and 2nd London Confession of Faith both define it as 'the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture'. In order to understand what limited by God's revealed will means we must go back to the first chapter of the Confession which defines the whole counsel of God as express statements and what may be deduced by good and necessary consequences. This, contrary to Malone, does set good and necessary consequence on the same level as explicit Scripture statements.

Malone defines the regulative principle as only based on explicit statements or approved examples drawn from the New Testament. In the previous post we pointed out that the regulative principle is an Old Testament principle which cannot be derived from New Covenant passages. Good and necessary consequence must not only be used in applying the regulative principle but in identifying it itself as a New Testament principle.

It is important to note that as the whole Scriptures are the "word of Christ", anything positively instituted by Christ as the author of Scripture in the Old Testament, which is not abrogated in the New, remains instituted and binding. We must conform ourselves to the way that Scripture is written and not limit God by limiting His revealed will. Peter Edwards, the 18th Century Particular Baptist minister who saw through the inconsistency of these arguments and renounced antipaedobaptism notes that the demand for explicit warrant 'it seems to dictate to the ever-blessed God in what manner he ought to speak to his creatures. Since it is so where contained in his word, and he knows best how to communicate his mind to men, it little becomes such creatures as we are, to lay down rules by which he shall supposes we cannot understand what God says, but when he speaks to us in one particular way.' The whole of Scripture is given to us as authoritative and is profitable for doctrine and practice.

Malone refers to paedobaptism as a sacrament and then says that cannot have a whole distinct sacrament added without positive institution. We are not talking about a distinct sacrament we are talking about two sacraments, the Lord's Supper and Baptism and the issues that arise after establishing this is who should receive them (proper subjects) and how?

In terms of the Lord's Supper. We do not have a positive command or historical example to administer it to women. Yet noone denies it to women. This question has been put to antipaedobaptists for nigh 500 years without satisfactory answer. Every answer involves an inference. Appeal is made to 1 Cor 11:28 “Let a man [Anthropos] examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, &c.” The argument has been that anthropos in Greek is a generic term and not specific to males. Peter Edwards entirely demolishes this assumption with nineteen instances where anthropos is distinctly male, Malone actually cites Exodus 12:1-4, 16 as support for women partaking of the Lord's Supper (entirely contrary to his line of reasoning) which only refers to every man and not to women and makes no mention of the Lord's Supper. Malone says that because the previous pericope introduces women that they must be understood here. That is an argument from inference and not from clear positive institution and explicit warrant. Besides there is no logical connection, Paul might easily move between various matters, some of which only apply to one sex or the other.

Peter Edwards points out that the principle which antipaedobaptists assert, 'A person who has a right to a positive institution, must be expressly mentioned as having that right' is found nowhere expressly stated in Scripture. They have created it themselves. It is also abandoned by antipaedobaptists as soon as they are pressed for proof of women being admitted to the Lord's Supper.

There is no explicit and direct command in the New Testament to baptise only confessing adults to the exclusion of infants. Malone cannot produce this but proceeds as though he has. Would it not be clearer to proceed on the basis of what Scripture states clearly about children in the New Covenant than assumption? There is explicit inclusion of Christian children in the new covenant promises (Dt. 30:6, Jer. 31:36-37; Acts 2:39), explicit inclusion in the church (Eph. 6:1-4, 1 Cor. 7:14), and explicit inclusion the kingdom (Mt. 19:14, Mk. 10:14, Lk. 18:16). There is of course no express command that says 'Baptise children'. Neither is there a direct command that states what is to be done with the children of the visible church, that they are not to receive the signs and seals of the covenant. We can only proceed by good and necessary consequence from Scripture and it will not be good consequence unless it accords with the explicit principles stated above. Antipaedobaptists will go to passages that say connect baptism with faith and point out that infants cannot exercise faith. But of whom is the faith required? Of (pagan) adults. It is fallacious to take a statement with adults in view and say that infants cannot meet the requirements when infants were never in view in the first place. The inference that is usually drawn must be fallacious also. Peter Edwards covers this matter in detail

Malone reads into Matthew 28:18-20 what he calls the baptism of disciples alone. It does not teach this at all. It requires the nations to be discipled. It shows how discipling is to be done. Baptise and then teach. The grammar of the text is against Malone's contention. He says that it states we are to make disciples from all nations. The text says disciple all nations. In the Greek "nations" is the direct object of the verb "disciple" (which is not a noun). Gregg Strawbridge details the only possible grammatical reading at and says: 'It is beyond dispute that the grammatically precise rendering is simply "disciple the nations and baptize them (nations)." ' The Commission considers nations as nations and is not simply looking at individuals. Strawbridge goes on to note that the Great Commission reflects the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant that in Abraham's seed (Christ) all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He refers also to prophecies that speak of the nations serving Christ (Ps:72:11; Rev 15:4).

What we have seen is that we cannot exclude necessary consequence from the regulative principle and both antipaedobaptists (inconsistently) and paedobaptists are proceeding on this basis anyway. We must take into account the clear Scriptures concerning children in the Church and the New Covenant and realise that their privileges under the Abrahamic Covenant have not been abrogated, especially because this covenant is widened not set aside under the New Covenant. The matter becomes clear by proceeding consistently with good and necessary consequence. As we have before pointed out those who do not hold to Covenant theology (Closed Brethren) can still arrive at this by applying good and necessary consequence consistently.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

why good and necessary consequences are good and necessary: part 1

We have seen that if we are to make any kind of doctrinal conclusions from Scripture, we require good and necessary consequence. This is simply drawing out the meaning that is already in Scripture. It doesn't add anything new. It must be what explicit statements of Scripture require and entail inevitably and not contradict the rest of Scripture. It is not reason speaking but the Scriptures themselves. These inferences were foreseen by God and are part of the intended meaning of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is involved in the process of enabling us to identify these consequences “the inward illumination of the Spirit of God [is] necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word.”

In order for consequences to be good, they 'must be truly contained in the inspired statements from which they profess to be taken'. In order for them to be necessary they must be 'unavoidably forced upon the mind, upon an honest and intelligent application of it to the Scripture page'. These are the words of James Bannerman, who goes on to say;

'The extent to which the principle of Scripture consequences is available in gathering up the meaning of the Word of God, is very great. It is hardly possible to conceive of a revelation from God in any form from which no inferences could be drawn, upon which we might legitimately found our faith, equally with its literal or express statements. It is impossible at least to conceive of a revelation assuming the shape found in the Bible, which teaches not by abstract and dogmatic propositions only, but by a thousand methods of historical example and incidental and indirect exhibition of truth, that would be possible or intelligible on the principle that each single proposition must be interpreted by itself and apart from every other, and that no comparison of Scripture with Scripture, and no deduction from the comparison, were lawful in framing our creed'.

The Second London Confession 1677/1689 produced by Antipaedobaptists substituted another phrase for 'good and necessary consequence'. The phrase was 'necessarily contained in Scripture'. This, however much people try to argue that it means the same, is not the same thing. It tells us nothing about the sound and logical method of drawing consequences - it tells nothing about any method. There may be a large body of truth necessarily contained in Scripture but we don't know how to draw it out. The definition of necessity may be as loose or tight, objective or subjective as we wish. It only leaves us with questions. How is it necessarily contained in Scripture and how do we distinguish this?

It amounts to less than the fully formed, defined and confessed Reformed doctrine of Scripture outlined the Westminster Confession and leaves Antipaedobaptists without a confession of this indispensable principle. This, despite the fact that it is clearly taught and demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

We are left with various options in relation to good and necessary consequence.

Option 1. To deny that it is legitimate to identify good and necessary consequences.

The first difficulty with this is that since this principle is nowhere expressly stated in Scripture, one must derive the principle itself only by good and necessary consequence.

The second difficulty is a very practical one. We can only have assurance and personal faith by good and necessary consequence. In order to say that such a promise, a warrant or offer belongs to me I must make use of good and necessary consequence. Boston writes 'Refusing to admit good and necessary consequences from scripture, overturns all religion, both law and gospel, faith and practice. For how shall it be proved, that John or James are obliged to obey the law, and believe the gospel but by Consequence ? where will they find an express text for these ? Only the law speaks to all, the gospel to every hearer of it, and consequently they oblige thee and me'.

A prohibition on making use of the Bible for good and necessary consequences is a prohibition of making any use of the Bible apart from reading it. Thomas Boston says: 'Good and necessary consequences are such as the word is designed for. What is deduced from them, so is indeed the sense and meaning of the words; and if you have the words without the meaning of them, or without the full meaning of them, in so far ye come short of the true intent of the words. If I bid a man draw near the fire, do I not desire him to warm himself, though I speak not one word of his warming himself" Were not the scriptures written for that end, that 'we through patience and comfort of them might have hope ?' Rom. xv. 4. But this cannot be obtained without the use of consequences. Are they not profitable for doctrine,--'that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works ?" 2 Tim. iii. 16. But can this be had without the use of consequences?'

The third difficulty is that by simply quoting verses out of context you can arrive at a theology that although only based on Scripture texts is against the teaching of Scripture. For instance your doctrine of justification might be 'by works a man is justified, and not by faith only' James 2:24 but this would not be a fully scriptural doctrine cf. Galatians 2:15-16 - 15.

Rejecting good and necessary consequence is impossible therefore. In previous posts we have shown its scriptural basis.

Option 2. To restrict the scope of application of good and necessary consequences.

We have seen that we cannot restrict consequences simply to doctrine they must be applied to practice as Christ and the apostles have done. We have seen that we cannot avoid making personal application of good and necessary consequence. If we restrict the scope of good and necessary consequence we are saying that the Bible must not speak into these areas or that the only way the Bible can speak into these areas is by express statement and preachers cannot make application in these areas. Again we must have an express statement for this prohibition. It is arbitrary and unworkable.

Option 3. To restrict good and necessary consequence to the New Testament.

Once again we must ask of the Marcionite adopting this as to where his Scripture warrant from the New Testament is for this. The practical consequences will be that we have no limitation of consanguinity and affinity in marriage, little to go on against abortion etc. etc. It means that the Old Testament is reserved for illustration only and not for faith and life or practical application. The regulative principle of worship is also proved from the Old Testament and where Christ asserts it in the New Testament against the Pharisees, this is in an Old Covenant context.

To be continued...

Monday, November 09, 2009

No Consequences, No Creed

The Early Church saw the need very quickly of deriving doctrinal formulations from Scripture by the method of good and necessary consequence, which, other than producing a list of verses that may be variously interpreted, is the only way of producing a doctrinal formulation or creed. One of the classic and most critical creeds of the early Church was the Nicene Creed. The critical terms used in the creed such as “homousias” to define the divine nature of Christ are not derived by a churchly magisterial fiat but by good and necessary consequence from the Scriptures. J.D. Kelly writes concerning the usage of such terms, “... it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish scriptural basis. A striking illustration is the difficulty which champions of novel theological terms like houmoousias’ (‘of the same substance’)... experienced in getting these descriptions of the Son’s relationship to the Father, or of God’s eternal being, generally admitted. They had to meet the damning objection, advanced in conservative as well as heretical quarters, that they were not to be found in the Bible. In the end they could only quell oppositions by pointing out (Athanasius in one case and Gregory of Nazianzus in the other), the meaning they conveyed was exactly that of Holy Writ.” in Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1978) pg. 46.

The term “Trinity” was not found in the Scriptures, but it is a theological correct term which describes the doctrine that may be derived from Scripture by good and necessary consequence. Gregory of Nyssa displays how the method of good and necessary consequences was used in relation to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul in drawing out the principles of Scripture.

“we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings. We...we will adopt, as the guide of our reasoning, the Scripture, which lays it down as an axiom that there is no excellence in the soul which is not a property as well of the Divine nature.” –Gregory of Nyssa, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers II V. 5, p. 439.

John Leith notes that: 'All theology is in some measure dependent on this method, as all theologians have known since the time Augustine reflected upon the theological task'. In De Doctrina Christiana Augustine emphasized that good and necessary consequences were necessary in the interpretation of Scripture. In Book Two he discusses the extent to which the Christian should make use of other aids (such as history, natural science, dialectics, and rhetoric) in interpreting Scripture and formulating Christian doctrine. Chapters 31-35 discuss logic or reasoning. “The science of reasoning,” writes Augustine, “is of very great service in searching into and unraveling all sorts of questions that come up in Scripture....” Augustine notes that logic is not a human invention but ordained of God. “[T]he validity of logical sequences is not a thing devised by men, but it is observed and noted by them that they may be able to learn and teach it; for it exists eternally in the reason of things, and has its origin with God.”

John Calvin taught that teaching “drawn from Scripture” was “wholly divine.” (Institutes IV.x.30). Turretin contended also that the perfection of Scripture implies only the exclusion of traditions, and that the doctrine of the perfection or sufficiency of Scripture includes “besides the express word of God, evident and necessary consequences are admissible in theology.”(Institutes I.xii.2;6-7,8). Reformed scholastics viewed Scripture doctrines in two ways: kata lexin,
expressly, or kata dianoian, implicitly and as to the sense. Systematic theology or the formulation of doctrine depends upon this. BB Warfield noted that “the plea against the use of human logic in determining doctrine...destroys at once our confidence in all doctrines, no one of which is ascertained or formulated without the aid of human logic.” In the introduction to his Dogmatic Theology William G. T. Shedd stated that “the proper mode of discussing any single theological topic” is twofold: Exegetical and Rational. “The first step to be taken is, to deduce the doctrine itself from Scripture by careful exegesis; and the second step is, to justify and defend this exegetical result upon grounds of reason.” “When the individual doctrines have been deduced, constructed, and defended by the exegetico-rational method, they are then to be systematized.”

John Gill defended this theological method also in his Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity. “Systematical Divinity, I am sensible, is now become very unpopular. Formulas and articles of faith, creeds, confessions, catechisms, and summaries of divine truths, are greatly decried in our age; and yet, what art or science so ever but has been reduced to a system?” “Nor is every doctrine of the Scripture expressed in so many words; as the doctrine of the Trinity of persons in the Godhead; the eternal generation of the Son of God, his incarnation and satisfaction, &c. but then the things signified by them are clear and plain; and there are terms and phrases answerable to them; or they are to be deduced from thence by just and necessary consequences”.

Creeds and Confessions are necessary for the defence of the faith, instruction in the faith and making public confession of it. I Corinthians 2:10 commands believers that they all "speak the same thing." In Matthew 10:32 Christ says: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." How can we confess the divinity of Christ without good and necessary consequences? “No Creed but Christ” cannot have anything much to say about Christ at all. Thomas Boston notes 'The great fundamental article, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, before the New Testament was written, could not be proved to the Jews by express scripture testimony, but by good and necessary consequence; yet Christ tells them that there could be no salvation for them without the belief of this. 'If ye believe not that I am he (the Messiah),' says he, 'ye shall die in your sins.' John viii. 24'.

Christ promised the illumination of the Spirit to help the Church draw the principles of Scripture forth John 16:13: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come." We are to give an answer or defence of the truth which will involve reasoning from the Scriptures (I Peter 3:15).

II Timothy 3:16, 17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Scripture is profitable for doctrine but we cannot have the teaching of it and the application of it let alone the systematising of doctrine without good and necessary consequence. Preaching and teaching encourages believers like the Bereans to search the Scriptures to see if the things taught in them are true (Acts 17:11). Paul did more than read the Scriptures, he reasoned from them in a way which could be confirmed by private examination of Scripture. 1 John 4.1 warns: ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they be of God’ - this requires reasoning from Scripture. Bannerman, in his second volume on the Church of Christ shows how heretics or those in error have always insisted on explicit statements in Scripture rather than the inferences that may be drawn from them. “Errors are covered by an appeal to the letter of Scripture, while the real sense and meaning of it have been evaded or denied.”

William Cunningham wrote:

It has been the generally received doctrine of orthodox divines, and it is in entire accordance with reason and common sense, that we are bound to receive as true, on God’s authority, not only what is “expressly set down in Scripture,” but also what, “by good and necessary consequence, may be deduced from Scripture”; and heretics, in every age and of every class, have, even when they made a profession of receiving what is expressly set down in Scripture, shown the greatest aversion to what are sometimes called Scripture consequences,- that is, inferences or deductions from scriptural statements, beyond what is expressly contained in the mere words of Scripture, as they stand in the page of the sacred record.

B. B. Warfield noted that the method of good and necessary consequences 'is the strenuous and universal contention of the Reformed theology against the Socinians and Arminians, who desired to confine the authority of Scripture to its literal asservations; and it involves a characteristic honoring of reason as the instrument for the ascertainment of truth. We must depend upon our human faculties to ascertain what Scripture says; we cannot suddenly abnegate them and refuse their guidance in determining what Scripture means. This is not, of course, to make reason the ground of the authority of inferred doctrines and duties. Reason is the instrument of discovery of all doctrines and duties, whether ‘expressly set down in Scripture’ or ‘by good and necessary consequence deduced from Scripture’: but their authority, when once discovered, is derived from God, who reveals them and prescribes them in Scripture, either by literal assertion or by necessary implication.

It is the Reformed contention, reflected here by the Confession, that the sense of Scripture is Scripture, and that men are bound by its whole sense in all its implications. The re-emergence in recent controversies of the plea that the authority of Scripture is to be confined to its expressed declarations, and that human logic is not to be trusted in divine things, is, therefore, a direct denial of a fundamental position of Reformed theology, explicitly affirmed in the Confession, as well as an abnegation of fundamental reason, which would not only render thinking in a system impossible, but would logically involve the denial of the authority of all doctrine of the Trinity, and would logically involve the denial of all doctrine whatsoever, since no single doctrine of whatever implicitly can be ascertained from Scripture except by the process of the understanding. It is, therefore, an unimportant incident that the recent plea against the use of human logic in determining doctrine has been most sharply put forward in order to justify the rejection of a doctrine which is explicitly taught, and that repeatedly of a doctrine which is explicitly, in the very letter of Scripture; if the plea is valid at all, it destroys at once our confidence in all doctrines, no one of which is ascertained or formulated without the aid of human logic'.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Why do anti-household baptists reject the apostolic method of interpreting Scripture?

It is very evident that the apostles follow Christ in his method of good and necessary consequences in interpreting Scripture.

In Acts 2:25-32, Peter argues for the resurrection of Christ from Psalm 16 a passage which does not state the resurrection of Christ. Peter infers that since David died and remains dead he must be prophesying about Christ and his resurrection in Psalm 16. Paul did similarly in Acts 13 in drawing inferences out of Psalm 2 and Psalm 16:10 concerning the resurrection. The reference to the second psalm is similar to Paul's statement in Romans 1:4, that Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. This is an inference, however. Paul also quotes Isaiah 55:3 'I will give you the sure mercies of David'. We may ask how do these words prove the resurrection of Christ? They presuppose it but do not state it. The reasoning is that since an eternal kingdom was promised to David, the Son of David who would be Ruler of this kingdom could not remain under the power of death.

Paul proved that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, by reasoning with the Jews out of the Old Testament Scriptures Acts 17: 2-3. He 'reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ'. This was a reasoning process, drawing good and necessary consequences and connecting them with Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul brings together passages that reflect the resurrection obliquely. For instance in v27 he infers from Psalm 8:6 that since all things are put under Christ's feet, death must also be put under his feet. In verse 45 he quotes Genesis 2:7 that Adam was made a living soul in order to develop the doctrine that we shall have resurrected spiritual bodies.

Paul defends the right of ministers to payment in 1 Cor. 9:9 by quoting Deut. 25:4 which forbids muzzling an ox treading corn. The principle is drawn that the labourer is worthy of his hire. In verse 13 he refers to the scriptural provision for the priests to eat of the sacrifices and infers that v14 'Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel'.

In 1 Cor. 10:26, he quotes Ps. 24:1 to support the practice of buying meat without asking questions since the Christian has a free use of all creatures because all belong ultimately to the Lord. This is obviously an inference.

Heb.1:6 proves that Christ is greater than the angels and divine by the fact that Psalm 97:7 includes an instruction to the angels to worship him. The verse says nothing of the divinity of Christ, this must be inferred.

Without entering into the details it ought to be obvious that the way that Paul reasons using the Old Testament Scriptures concerning justification by faith in Romans and Galatians depends upon good and necessary consequence.

The claim has been that those who defend good and necessary consequence are undermining the sufficiency of Scripture. Does Christ do this when he practices it? Or do the apostles? Nay, rather we establish the sufficiency of Scripture. Good and necessary consequence shows how far the Scriptures are sufficient rather than limiting them and allowing human ideas to take over completely where we must do something but cannot find an explicit command. “All Scripture” is declared to be “profitable for doctrine, for reproof; for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:15-17. These purposes cannot be obtained without good and necessary consequences, however. "Legitimate consequences, indeed, only bring out the full meaning of the words of Scripture; and as we are endued with the faculty of reason, and commanded to search the Scriptures, it was manifestly intended that we should draw conclusions from what is therein set down in express words" (Thomas Boston). If we are forbidden to make such consequences, then cannot apply or use Scripture at all – only read it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Why do anti-household baptists reject the Saviour's method of interpreting Scripture?

The Lord Jesus Christ's method of interpreting Scripture is evident from his frequent references to Scripture in the Gospels, particularly in responding to the Scribes and Pharisees. An example from Scripture is the way in which Christ charges the Sadducees with unbelief in relation to Scripture. He cites Exodus 3:6 concerning the resurrection of the dead. This does not speak about the resurrection, however, it only implies this doctrine because Christ asserts that since this was said to Moses long after the patriarchs were dead that they were still living and that God is the God of the living. This is based upon the tense used (present tense), Christ's charge against the Sadducees is based not on the express statement of Scripture but for not drawing the good and necessary inference or consequence from Exodus 3:6 (cf. 3:1-10,12).

As Thomas Boston observes, Christ 'does not seek after a text that said in express words, that the dead shall rise again, but proves it by good consequence, yet no less firmly than if he had produced an express text for it, Matt. xxii. 32'.

Christ responded to a charge of blasphemy made by the Pharisees (John 10:36; see v. 33) with a quotation in John 10:34 from Psalm 82:6, which refers to human magistrates as 'gods'. He is noting that Scripture contains the principle that individuals can be given a general divine title by virtue of their divine commission (vv. 34, 35a). This cannot be blasphemous. He adds, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (v. 35b), what Scripture has said cannot be blasphemous. If it is not blasphemous, therefore for individuals to be given this title, how much less blasphemous is it for Christ who is divinely commissioned to use his divinely given specific and unique divine title, the Son of God. In effect Christ asked, "How can you accuse Me of blasphemy when I, too, claim the divine title rightfully?" It is evident that Christ is making inference from a passage that does not expressly state his point.

Another example is in Matthew 19:4,5 where Christ, quoting from Genesis 2:24, is being questioned on the matter of divorce. "And he answered and said unto them, 'Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." The text says nothing about divorce but Christ is drawing out a necessary inference concerning divorce.

In Matthew 12 Christ defends the disciples eating ears of corn on the sabbath by referring to the example of David in 1Sam 21:1-6. 'But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?' (vv3-4). It is likely on a comparison with the ceremonial law that this took place on the sabbath, but the point that Christ is addressing is the principle that it was more important to preserve life and indeed the life of the Lord's Anointed by giving the shewbread which was not lawful for any but the priest and his household to eat. How much more should Christ's life be preserved by means of such food as the disciples partook of? In other words God's commands are never meant to be at the expense of or in conflict with works of mercy. Hence Christ refers to Hosea, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice' as a verse that brings out the same principle. John Gill comments 'Now our Lord's argument stands thus, that if David, a holy, good man, and, the men that were with him, who were men of religion and conscience, when in great distress, through hunger, ate of the showbread, which was unlawful for any to eat of but priests, the high priest himself assenting to it; then it could not be criminal in his disciples, when an hungred, to pluck, rub, and eat a few ears of corn, which were lawful for any man to eat, even though it was on the sabbath day'.

He also refers to the fact that the ceremonial law required work of the priest that would be a breach of the sabbath by anyone else. It was, however, a work of mercy and an act of worship to provide sacrifices and offerings for those who needed their sin to be ceremonially cleansed. 'Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple' (vv.5-6). Christ is greater than the temple and he is Lord of the sabbath. If the priests could work on the sabbath and be blameless in their works of mercy, how much more could Christ in his healing? The disciples also had a ministerial work to do and were justified in sustaining themselves for it. 'Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath' (v12). It will be evident that Christ is drawing out principles and inferences in all of this in relation to practice as well as doctrine.

In John 7:23 Christ defends his act of healing on the sabbath by the fact that they practiced circumcision on the sabbath if it coincided with the eighth day in obedience to the law of Moses. If this physical 'wounding' was permitted because of its spiritual significance, why not Christ's physical healing with its spiritual significance.

It is evident that Christ used good and necessary consequence in order to interpret Scripture. Anti-household baptists have rejected this and while adopting most of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the 2nd London Baptist Confession deliberately omitted the reference to 'good and necessary consequence'. This is because good and necessary consequence is used to make the case for household baptism.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the form and power of godliness

I have come recently to appreciate the writings of J.C.Philpot, the Strict Baptist. His 'Ears after Harvested Sheaves' is of the very best of daily readings. I have been unable to find expressly any Antinomian or Hypercalvinist error in it at all as yet. Philpot emphasises a high-toned experimental Christianity, and reading him does the soul much good. In the following extracts from a sermon on "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." —2 Tim 3:5 he distinguishes very carefully the true from the false.

By godliness he understands 'the whole of the Spirit's work upon the soul, the teachings of God in the heart, all that is generally conveyed by the expression, experimental religion, with all the fruits and consequences which flow out of that divine work. Thus godliness in this sense has a very comprehensive signification. It embraces the whole of experimental religion; it includes the whole work of grace from first to last, from the first teachings of the Spirit in the heart of the babe, up to the last hallelujahs of the expiring saint. And not only so, but it comprehends all the external fruits and manifestations of the work of grace upon the soul. Thus, in this sense, godliness has a very extensive signification; and therefore many spiritual branches will be found to grow out from this deep and broad stem'.

He speaks of how these graces of godliness are not always in high exercise so as we always experience the power of it to the same degree. 'If ever you have loved Jesus with a pure affection; if ever you have felt him near, dear, and precious to your soul, that love can never be lost out of your heart. It may lie dormant; it does lie dormant. It may not be sweetly felt in exercise; but there it is. "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (1 Cor. vi. 22). You would be under this curse if the love of the Lord Jesus Christ were to die out of your hearts.

But this love is often sleeping. When the mother sometimes watches over the cradle, and looks upon her sleeping babe with unutterable affection, the infant knows not that the mother is watching its slumbers; but when it awakes, it is able to feel and return its mother's caresses. It is so with the soul sometimes when love in the heart is like a babe slumbering in the cradle. But as the babe opens its eyes, and sees the mother smiling upon it, it returns the smiles, and stretches forth its arms to embrace the bending cheek; so as to feel enmity against them? Nay, perhaps when we face of Jesus stooping to imprint a kiss of love, or drop some sweet word into the heart, and there is a flowing forth toward him of love and affection—"this is the power of love'.

He observes that it is easy to talk about and emphasise experimental religion but not actually exercise it. In distinguishing the power from the form he warns that 'when two things very nearly resemble each other, there lies the peril; lest the poison should be mistaken for the remedy.

Thus peril lies in the wide-spread profession of experimental truth, for it is that alone which deserves the name of "godliness," lest in the wide profession of experimental truth we should deceive ourselves, or others should deceive us, by the form without the power.

And this is perilous to the people of God lest they should be entangled by the wide-spread profession of experimental truth and the mere exterior of vital godliness, without the heart-felt possession of spiritual knowledge and enjoyment of it.

A form is something that comes very near, and yet is not the thing itself.

1. There is the form of repentance. A person may profess to be very sorry for, and to have great conviction of sin, talk about a law-work, and guilt on account of his transgressions; and yet not have that life-giving power of the Spirit upon his soul producing real contrition and true repentance. It may be only the workings of natural cons-science, and not that peculiar teaching of God the Spirit in the heart of a sinner whereby he is broken down into godly sorrow and deep penitence of heart before the Lord.

2. So with respect to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a natural faith in Christ as well as a spiritual faith. A man may have heard so much about Jesus Christ under ministers who extol him highly, speak of his Person, proclaim his blood, and dwell upon his justifying righteousness, that he may fancy he has faith in Christ, because he has heard so much of him with the outward ear; and yet be all the time without living, genuine faith. This special gift and work of God upon the soul may be still fatally wanting.

3. So with respect to love to the Lord Jesus Christ. There may be a natural love toward him. A man may have heard and read so much of his kindness to sinners, and such glowing descriptions of the beauty of his Person, that he may have fallen in love with him. Just as Roman Catholics have their crucifixes and paintings of Christ, and in admiring their crucifixes and adoring their paintings, feel the workings of fleshly love towards him whom they suppose to be there represented; so a man may have heard so much about the love of Christ, that he may have his fleshly affections roused up, and mistake them for that pure love which is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.

4. So we may have something that draws us towards the Lord's people. We may feel that there is an amiableness about them; we may believe that they are the Lord's living family, and wish to be like them; to talk as they talk, and speak as they speak; and this we may mistake for love to the brethren; whilst all the time our heart may be completely destitute of that true love to the brethren, the fruit and effect of the Spirit's work upon the soul.

5. So with respect to the gift of prayer. It may seem to ourselves, and those who hear us, so simple, so fervent, so earnest, so humbly expressed, that surely it must be a spiritual prayer. And yet, we may often mistake a mere natural gift for that special grace of God whereby we are enabled to pour out our heart before him.

6. So we may be able by what we have felt under the convictions of natural conscience to live a life of separation from the world, to overcome sin when not very strong, to walk in the commandments and ordinances of God blameless; and yet be destitute of the vital power of the Spirit's teachings and operations, without which all these things are but as the convulsive twitchings of a dead body under the action of an electric battery. Like Herod, a man may do many things, and yet be absolutely devoid of the vital power of godliness brought into the heart by the Spirit of God.

'Well,' some may say, 'if this be the case, how may I know that I am not deceived altogether?' 'If a man may go so near, and yet not be a real character, what evidence have I,' says some poor tempted child of God, 'that I am not deceived?' Now what is said of these characters? They deny the power. Have you done that?

But what is it to "deny the power?" The power may be denied in various ways.

1. It is denied by some publicly and openly. There are some preachers professing the doctrines of truth, who cut down all experience, and say, it is nothing but frames and feelings.' This is to deny the power of godliness. If we have no frames, if we have no feelings, I am very sure the Spirit of God has not made our bodies his temple. If we have never had frames of sweet meditation, a frame of living faith, a frame of divine love, a frame of spiritual-mindedness, a frame of heavenly affections, I am very sure the Spirit of God has never blessed our soul. Again, if I am without feelings—"a feeling of sorrow for sin, a feeling of faith towards Jesus, a feeling of love towards his name, a feeling of love towards the brethren; if we are without these gracious feelings, we are dead as stones as to any possession of the life of God. So that, to cut down experience, and say, 'it is nothing but a parcel of frames and feelings,' is to deny the "power of godliness."

You will observe these men do not deny godliness; they dare not do that; but they deny the power of it in the heart of a saint, under the operation of the Spirit. Every jeer and sneer, every taunting speech thrown out against frames and feelings just manifests what a man's heart is; it is opening a door through which you can look indeed into the secrets of his bosom, and there see the serpent coiled up and hissing enmity against God's truth and against his living people.

2. Others deny it by their life and conversation. If a man walk in the lusts of the flesh; if he wallow in uncleanness or drunkenness; if he be altogether given up to the power of pride and covetousness, he denies the power of godliness by his actions as much as the preceding deny it by their words.

Both these characters deny the power of godliness out-wardly—"the one in word, the other in deed.

3. Others, having more regard to conscience, cannot go that length of outward enmity; yet they too deny it inwardly. For instance, are there not those who secretly think there is no absolute need for the soul to be emptied and stripped, and to have a revelation of Christ; and that they can be saved without such an experience of the bitter and the sweet, the sorrows and the joys that the Lord's people speak of? And are not these secret thoughts much strengthened and fostered by those ministers who profess to preach Christ as distinct from, and far superior to experience? What more common than such language as this from the pulpit: 'I cannot bear to hear people talk of their castings down and liftings up; they dwell and pore so much upon self; why do they not go out of self, and look to a precious Jesus?'

I want to know if this is not inwardly denying the power? They dare not say there is no such thing; but they speak of looking out of self to Christ, as if there were no inward experience of Christ, no visitations of his presence and love; and as if all religion consisted in a dry, speculative knowledge, without one inward grain of life and feeling. Their talk of looking to Christ is very plausible and subtle; but its real aim and drift is to deny the power of vital godliness in the heart of a saint.

4. But there are others who deny it virtually and actually by the non-possession of it. For instance, there are many who say they approve of, and that there is nothing like experimental preaching; they will crowd and cram a chapel to hear the experience of God's people traced out; and yet all the while they virtually and actually deny the power of it by the non-possession of it in their hearts. They have imbibed such a knowledge of the plan of experience from constantly hearing it preached, and they are so certain that it is the truth, that they will hear nothing else, and yet the vital power has never reached their conscience.

Now, what testimony have we who desire to fear God's name that we have anything more than a "form of godliness?" We have a form; that is very clear. But have we any living testimony in our conscience that we have something more than the form? Have we ever felt the power? We have no testimony that we are possessors of godliness unless we have felt its power.

But there are children of God (there may be some here present this morning) who are now, and have been for weeks, or even months, without the feeling power; and they are perhaps writing bitter things against themselves because they are not under those lively feelings that they once enjoyed. But since you have once felt it, have you ever denied the power, or with all your darkness and deadness, do you deny it now? Is not this rather the feeling of your soul? "O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness" (Job xxix. 2, 3). Is not this rather the language of your heart, 'O that the Lord would bless me indeed! would revive his work upon my heart, and give me life and power, to enable me to believe in his name! O that he would visit my soul with some discovery of his love, and bring me out of that gloomy and dark state in which I am so sadly sunk!'

These are the feelings of a living soul. But those who have but the "form of godliness," deny all these exercises. They want no revivings; they are sighing after no manifestations; they never plead with the Lord to look down upon them and bless them; they are satisfied with an outside religion; they are contented with the mere form. If they can deceive themselves and one another, it is enough. But the living soul, who has the fear of God alive in his bosom, is not so satisfied; he wants living manifestations of God's presence, sweet communications of God's mercy, and the blessed overshadowings of the Spirit upon his heart. If he has not them, he feels he has nothing.

Thus, while this text cuts to a thousand pieces those who have but the form, it does not wound the poor mourning child of God who is sighing and crying after the power. Every sigh, cry, and groan that he has on account of his dark, dead, gloomy state are so many living evidences of that power. Whence arise your sighs? What makes you mourn upon your bed? Whence spring those breathings in your soul as you sit by your fire-side after the Lord's presence—"that he would speak to your soul, and manifest himself to you? Why, they spring from this conviction deeply wrought in your heart, that nothing but the power of God can reach your soul. All short of that is stamped upon your conscience as nothing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why do the elders interview intending communicants?

Elders must interview intending communicants if they are to discharge their responsibilities faithfully. The individual has their responsibility "Let a man examine himself". The Lord's Supper is not an individual activity but a communion, however, with the communicant membership of a particular congregation amongst others. The Lord's Supper is a seal of the covenant of grace and a seal of church membership and of church privileges. It is a pledge of the fullest communion in God’s visible covenant society upon earth. The elders of that congregation have a duty both to Christ as head of the Church and to the souls of those over which they have oversight. 2 Tim. 4:2 "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. Titus 2:15 'These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. 1 Cor. 5:12 'For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? Heb. 13:17 'Obey them that nave the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you'.

Elders have been set in the Church together with minister for the purpose of the edification of the body and to bring all to a maturity of faith (Eph 4:11-13). Ministers are elders (Titus 1:7, 1 Cor 4:1-2) are called 'the steward of God', particularly stewards of the mysteries of God, who are required to be found faithful.

The elders are to watch over the Church "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." There is a duty to be strictly attentive, active and cautious in this responsibility [Acts 20:17, 28-31]. The elders must only admit those who publicly profess faith in Christ and who live in conformity to that profession (Titus 1:16, Matthew 7:21). They are like the porters under the Old Testament, (2 Chron. 23:19) 'And he set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in any thing should enter in'.

Christ has given to these officers the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19; 18:17-18; Jn. 20:21-23; 2 Cor. 2:6-8). "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." [Matt. 18.18], note that this is addressed in the plural (ye, you). The Westminster Confession asserts that elders exercise the keys of the kingdom: “To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the word and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require".

I Cor 5:1-8 shows that the Lord's Supper is the New Testament Passover and that the Church is to purged of the 'leaven' of hypocrisy in order to maintain the true witness and profession of the Church. As they sit at the Lord's table they are to "keep the feast", the feast in the New Testament sense, purely and in sincerity "not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth". Paul condemned them in verse 2 for keeping the man in its fellowship and allowing him to come to the communion table. [1 Cor. 5:2].

With a view to celebrating the Lord’s Supper properly, the Kirk Session at Corinth was to constitute itself into a court of Christ's Church, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and "purge out the old leaven", so that they might partake of this holy sacrament in an acceptable manner. "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:" [1 Corinthians 5:6-7]. Other relevant portions are:
2 Cor. 10. 8. "Our authority which the Lord hath given us for edification".
1 Thess 5. 21. "Prove all things: Hold fast that which is good."

If the elders have received the keys from Christ they must be very careful to open the door of admission only to those whom Christ would have them admit. They are to look for an accredited profession of faith. There are three dimensions to Christian profession: doctrine, duty and experience. These dimensions are also necessary to communion with Christ JN 14:21 "He that hath my commandments [doctrine], and keepeth them [duty], he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him [experience]." These are those "that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD" IS56:6. This faith, love and obedience needs to be tested in an objective manner however, if a court of the church is to admit individuals to the privilege of this sacrament. They cannot, however, know the secret state of anyone's soul and they can only assess the evidence of the outward profession and consistent conduct of the person applying to be received as a communicant (Acts 19:18).

Why do sessions interview candidates and not just issue a verbal warning from the pulpit?
[1] Reliance on the word of warning from the pulpit alone fails because it introduces a more stringent standard for admission to baptism than the Lord's Supper. Before a person is allowed to present himself, or his children, for baptism, he must satisfy the Session as to his profession and life. If there is only a verbal warning in the case of the Lord's Supper, however, the candidate is only asked to examine himself before he is allowed to come to the Lord’s Table - this is inconsistent.
[2] If we rely upon a word of warning from the pulpit alone, we are dangerously assuming sufficient competence to judge spiritual matters on the part of those who may be complete strangers. Sessions must assume the opposite, unless-and until-they have obtained adequate information. Many people who say that they are Christians are profoundly ignorant of what that really means.
[3] A mere verbal warning does not deal with the problem of those who are under discipline from other churches if it is left up to the individual to judge his own case. It does not do justice to the sinful propensities of men, or to the seriousness of church censures.
[4] There is such a thing as corporate responsibility. Many people belong to Churches that will not submit to the Word of God but rather reject it. There are also Churches that do not administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in His Word, but add to and take from them. They do not emphasise the need for holy living according to the Word of God. These individuals think that this has nothing to do with their own personal faith. This needs to be vitally addressed. Only examination by elders will achieve this.
[5] People need their errors pointed out - it is no kindness to ignore them.
[6] In the best days of the Church admission to the table was viewed as proper only when the elders had sufficient knowledge of the communicants to judge them to be worthy receivers. If persons are admitted of whom the Session know nothing it cannot be reconciled with the clearly stated requirement of the Westminster Confession which says:
...ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with [Christ], so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto. [Note that people must be admitted they cannot admit themselves]
Larger Catechism Answer [WLC 173] 'May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's supper, be kept from it?'
'Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's Supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ has left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation'.
[7] Examination by the elders means that people are brought to face the seriousness of what it means to partake of the Lord’s table.
[8] The table was fenced in this way in the Early Church:
Justin [c.150 AD]:
And this food is called among us [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. [Apology I LXVI]
The requirements of the church of 150 AD were 1] believe the teachings of the church [2] baptism and [3] godly life. The Didache Didache [c.120AD?] also says "But let not any one who hath a quarrel with his companion join with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be polluted". [14:2]
[9] It was also fenced from the Reformation onwards. Knox's Book of Common Order, adopted in Scotland in 1564: "The administration of the Table ought never to be without examination pass before, especially of those whose knowledge is suspect. We think that none are apt to be admitted to that Mystery, who cannot formally say the Lord's Prayer, The Articles of the Belief, and declare the sum of the Law." Knox goes on to say: "And therefore of necessity we judge it, that every year at least, public examination be had by the Ministers and Elders of the knowledge of every person within the church; to wit, that every master and mistress of household come to maturity, before the Ministers and Elders, to give confession of their faith, and to answer such chief points of Religion as the Ministers shall demand"
[10] As in all things in the Church, cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently. The elders must not follow convenience but the injunction: "Let all things be done decently and in order" [1 Cor. 14:40].

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the glories of Christianity

Sabbath day, Jan. 20. At night. The last week I was sunk so low, that I fear it will be a long time before I am recovered. I fell exceedingly low in the weekly account. I find my heart so deceitful, that I am almost discouraged from making any more resolutions.—Wherein have I been negligent in the week past; and how could I have done better, to help the dreadful low estate in which I am sunk?
Monday, Jan. 21 Before sunrise, answered the preceding questions thus: I ought to have spent my time in bewailing my sins, and in singing psalms—especially psalms or hymns of penitence; these duties being most suited to the frame I was in. I do not spend time enough in endeavouring to affect myself with the glories of Christianity.—Fell short in the monthly account. It seems to me, that I am fallen from my former sense of the pleasantness of religion.
Tuesday, Feb. 5. At night. I have thought that this being so exceedingly careful, and so particularly anxious, to force myself to think of religion at all times, has exceedingly distracted my mind, and made me altogether unfit for that and every thing else. I have thought that this caused the dreadful low con-dition I was in on the 15th of January. I think that I stretched myself further than I could bear, and so broke.—But now it seems to me, though I know not why, that I do not do enough to prepare for another world. I do not seem to press forward, to fight and wrestle, as the apostles used to speak. I do not seem so greatly and constantly to mortify and deny myself, as the mortification of which they speak represents. Therefore, wherein ought I to do more in this way?—I answer: I am again grown too careless about eating, drinking, and sleeping—not careful enough about evil-speaking.
Saturday, Feb. 16. I do certainly know that I love holiness, such as the gospel prescribes.—At night. For the time past of my life, I have been negli-gent, in that I have not sufficiently kept up that part of divine worship, singing the praise of God in secret and with company.—I have been negligent this month past, in these three things: I have not been watchful enough over my appetites, in eating and drinking; in rising too late in the morning; and in not applying myself with sufficient application to the duty of secret prayer.

"I do not spend enough time endeavouring to affect myself with the glories of Christianity." 
- Jonathan Edwards (Diary entry for January 21, 1723, age 20) 
Edwards took steps to make sure that this would not be his epitaph, do you and I?
'I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing'. Hosea 8:12

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Soul of Life

This was published in the September issue of the FP Magazine.

The Soul of Life: The Piety of John Calvin, edited and introduced by Joel R Beeke, published by Reformation Heritage Books in their Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series, paperback, 220 pages, £6.95 from the F P Bookroom.

In John Calvin’s five-hundredth anniversary year, there is no shortage of books being published about his life and work. This book is undoubtedly among the most edifying of them. It provides a useful outline of Calvin’s life and then the aspects of the biblical piety that he emphasised. Calvin defined piety as “that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of His benefits induces”. Dr Beeke explains the theological dimensions of Calvin’s piety: (1) Its root: mystical union, (2) Its double bond: the Spirit and faith, and (3) Its double cleansing: justification and sanctification. He then refers to the practical exercise of this piety in the means of grace, including the Word, sacraments, prayer and psalm-singing. Other practical dimensions include repentance, cross-bearing, obedience and heavenly-mindedness.

The bulk of the book consists of 45 short selections from Calvin’s writings which are arranged under the headings mentioned above. Calvin writes warmly, clearly and attractively and this volume provides a very helpful introduction to his works. These selections are brief enough to read one per day and one might well choose to follow the example of the Puritan John Cotton who said, “I love to sweeten my mouth with a piece of Calvin before I go to sleep”. It is a well-illustrated pocket-size book, in what is becoming an interesting and helpful series.

The Christian needs every such help in his “faint, yet pursuing” endeavours after godliness. “We ought to apply ourselves altogether to piety alone, because when we have once attained it, God asks nothing more from us.” “It is this, indeed, that through the whole course of life we seek and follow. But we shall attain it only when we have cast off the weakness of the body and are received into full fellowship with Him.”