Friday, February 27, 2009

7 reasons why God permits sin

Samuel Rutherford gives these reasons in his A Sermon Preached before the Honourable House of Commons.
if permitting sin had not been,
1) The beauty of free grace and 'pardoning grace' had never been made obvious.
2) There had been no employment for 'the mercy of a soul-redeeming Jesus'.
3) We had not have had occasion to exalt 'the new Psalme of the Praise of a Redeemer'.
4) By this permission, the human creature of self-dependence is cried down, whereas God is exalted.
5) By this, the broken and humble heart is necessitated to kiss Christ, who binds up the broken hearted. 6) Then, we as poor pupils improve our dependence upon so kingly a Tutor.
7) Therefore, when clay triumphs over Angels and hell through the strength of Jesus Christ, 'Satan hath faire justice in open patent court'.

In his Catechism Rutherford writes just as concisely.
has God any hand in sin? A. He suffers men to sin, and punishes sin and
directs it to his own glory; but he neither allow, loves, nor commands sin'. Q.
But is not God the author of sin when he hardens men's hearts? Q. Not at all,
for God, as the ruler of the world and judge, leaves men to harden their own
heart, and so punishes sin by sin (Psa. 81:11,12; Rom. 1:24; 2Thess. 2:11,12)
as that no guilt cleaves to him'. ...Q. How can God then be free of sin if he
works in sin? A. The Lord can touch a serpent and not be stanged, (i.e.
stung), and as a good painter drawers black lines in the image to make the
white appear more beautiful, and the physician extracts good oil out of
poisonous herbs, and the musician makes the mistuned harp to send out a
pleasant sound, even so God in the hardening of men's heart does the part of
a judge justly and holily.

This is a complex area and the Reformer Ursinus is very helpful and careful in it:
The evils of guilt as far as they are such, that is, sins, have not the nature of that which is good. Hence God does not will them, neither does he tempt men to perform them, nor does he effect them or contribute thereto ; but he permits devils and men to do them, or does not prohibit them from committing them when he has the power to do so. Therefore these things do indeed also fall under the providence of God, but not as if they were done by him, but only permitted. The word permit is therefore not to be rejected, seeing that it is sometimes used in the scriptures.
...But we must have a correct understanding of the word lest we detract from God a considerable portion of the government of the world, and of human affairs. For this permission is not an indifferent contemplation or suspension of the providence and working of God as it respects the actions of the wicked, by which it comes to pass
that these actions do not depend so much upon some first cause, as upon the will of the creatures acting; but it is a withdrawal of divine grace by which God (whilst he accomplishes the decrees of his will through rational creatures) either does not make known to the creature acting what he himself wishes to be done, or he does not incline the will of the creature to render obedience, and to perform what is agreeable to his will. Yet he, nevertheless, in the meanwhile, controls and influences the creature so deserted and sinning as to accomplish what he has purposed.

He further defines a little what this withdrawal of divine grace is by which God,
1. Does not make known to man his will, that he might act according thereto.
2. He does not incline the will of man to obey and honor him, and to act in accordance with his will as revealed. "If a dreamer of dreams shall arise among you, thou shalt not hearken unto him, for the Lord your God proveth you." "The Lord moved David against Israel to say, Go and number Israel and Judah. (Deut. 13:1,3; 2 Sam. 24:1.) Why did he afterwards punish David? That he might be led to repentence.
3. He nevertheless influences and controls those who are thus deserted, so as to accomplish through them his just judgments; for God accomplishes good things through evil instruments, no less than through those which are good. For as the work of God is not made better by the excellency of the instrument, so neither is it made worse by the evil character of the instrument. God wills [by permission] actions that are evil, but only in as far as they are punishments of the wicked. All good things are from God, All punishments are just and good. Therefore they are from God...

The Westminster Confession (6:1 also Larger Catechism Q19) declare that God 'permits' sin, but that it is not a 'bare permission'.(5:4) A 'bare permission' (such as Arminians believe) would make it an involuntary decision whereas it was possible not to permit it.

Turretin is characteristically concise: 'Two extremes are to he avoided. First, that of defect, when an otiose permission of sin is ascribed to God. Second, that of excess, when the causality of sin is ascribed to him. Between these extremes, the orthodox hold the mean, who contend that the providence of God extends to sin in such way that he does not involuntarily permit it, as the Pelagians say, nor actively cause it as the Libertines assert, but voluntarily ordains and controls it'.

Boston is characteristically rich: "God's providence is most holy. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works" (Psalm 145:17) Even though providence reach to and be conversant in sinful actions, yet it is pure; as the sun contracts no defilement, though it shine on a dunghill. For God is neither the physical nor moral cause of the evil of any action, more than he who rides on a lame horse is the cause of its halting. All the evil that is in sinful actions proceeds and flows from the wicked agent, as the stench of the dunghill does not proceed from the heat of the sun, but the corrupt matter contained in the dunghill."

Jonathan Edwards writes: "To permit the event of sin, or not to hinder it, implies, that the cause of defection is not in the permitter, but in the permitted; not m the governor, but the governed." What is very interesting about Edwards' views is that he believed that "the glory of the divine rectitude, towards the intelligent and moral part of the universe, considered as accountable, and to the full extent of its moral capabilities, could not be manifested without the permission of sin. The full exercise of equity must necessarily leave the moral system to its own tendencies and operations." Note the following: "Without the permission of sin, restoring benevolence, or the exercise of mercy, would have been impossible; and consequently the glory of that perfection, which can be fully displayed only by its exercise towards the miserable, would have been eternally concealed".

Finally, Witsius expresses it attractively in saying "it is peculiar to divine wisdom
and power not only to do good but much more, to make the evil devised by others, to answer a good and valuable end, and manage those things which appear to be evil to the greatest advantage".

But lest these thoughts should lead us to any smaller or weaker views of the exceeding sinfulness of sin itself as the greatest evil and our own responsibility for it, read The Absence of Sin in Present Day Religion.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The growth of love to Christ

Estimation produceth love, even the love of Christ; and love is a great favourite, and is much at court, and dwelleth constantly with the king. To be much with Christ, especially in secret, late and early, and to give much time to converse with Christ, speaketh much love; and the love of Christ is of the same largeness and quantity with grace, for grace and love keep proportion one with another.

I have emphasised the words in the last line as indicating the importance of love to Christ. It is a grace, if we are depending upon our works we have not the love of Christ in us, for it empties before it fills us. It is a grace of great fullness that is ever expanding to all eternity. Heaven is a world of love. Rutherford also writes "The love of Christ in its first rise, is a drop of dew that came out of the womb of the morning; the mother, in one night, brought forth an host, and innumerable millions of such babes, and covered the face of the earth with them. But this drop of dew groweth to a sea that swelleth up above hell and the grave, (Cant. 8:6,7); it is more than all the floods and seas of the earth, and floateth up to the heaven of heavens, and up, and in, it must be upon Christ. Ye see not Christ, yet ye love him, (1 Pet. 1:8). It overfloweth Christ, and taketh him, and ravisheth his heart. It is a strong chain that bindeth Christ, when the grave, sin, death, devils, could not bind him, (Cant. 4:9; Acts 2:24)."

Samuel Rutherford - Trial and Triumph of Faith

Monday, February 16, 2009

The importance of two or three

Commonly, the phrase "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst" (Matt. l8:20) is applied to small gatherings for worship or prayer. It does bear this application but the original context shows that Christ is speaking of a Church Court. It is important to not that this is not the irreducible minimum for a congregation, rather it is the irreducible minimum for church government and discipline. This is evident because Christ speaks of two or three agreeing together as a church court on earth regarding anything they would request, it would be done for them by His Father in heaven. "For where two or three [plural] are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst them [plural]."

Two or three is an important principle in Church Government and order as shared between the Old and New Testaments. This is the case in terms of the minimum number of witnesses (Matt. 18:15-16; Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15). In the case of prophets participating it is a maximum number (1 Cor. 14:27&29). In Matthew 18 the two or three refer to the elders gathered to judge the case (Deut. 19:17), they have a ministerial, delegated binding and loosing authority (v. 18). Therefore Samuel Rutherford says, referring to the size of a church court, that "two or three faithful ones in the Church of the Jews, no less than in the Christian Church were a true visible church, having the power of the keys". It is true that as George Gillespie notes, it is "a dictate of reason, to ask counsel of a greater number when the counsel of a few cannot resolve us, then reason, being ever like itself, will dictate so much to a congregation, that they ought to submit to the authority of a greater number when their own authority is not sufficient to end a controversy among them." Yet this is only where matters are unresolved. Noone can question or decline the authority of a church court on the basis of the number of its members.

As Rutherford puts it elsewhere, the size of a church court does not relate to its authority, "the authority of Synods consisting of six onely, differeth not in nature and essence, from a generall councell of the whole Catholike visible Church" (Due Right of Presbyteries, p.331). "Synods should take care that no man despise their Authority". On 20 December, 1560, the first General Assembly of the Church of Scotland convened in Edinburgh, under the leadership of John Knox. Six ministers and 36 elders gathered to deliberate on and eventually to present for the approval of the Scottish Parliament the Book of Discipline. It was a small court for the nation but had all due authority.

There was a proposal after the time of the Scottish Reformation to have small Presbyteries — comprising "ane or twa," [one or two] "thrie or four" kirks — but this was never carried out. In 1581 the General Assembly considered a "forme how elderschips may be constitute of a certain number of parochines lyand together,"
and in this form all the parishes in Scotland were grouped under fifty Presbyteries,
"twenty to every Presbytery, or thereabouts." This form was modified but was the basis of the structure. Two or three is the quorum, however, for a presbytery. Three members of Presbytery form a quorum, two of them being ordained ministers.

Another significant number is 7, as in Acts 6. It is said that in many Patristic Churches there were approximately seven Congregations associated in each Presbytery., and then again seven such Presbyteries associated together in one Regional Synod (Dr FN Lee). Perhaps this was drawn from the seven churches of Asia. Although the Presbytery of Antioch had five Preaching Elders (Acts 13:1).

A small presbytery enables greater familiarity but it can also present challenges in providing assessors and dealing with matters of discipline and other difficult areas. The point is that size is not related to authority. As the Reformer Martin Bucer said; "the number of parishes in which such as meeting is convened is an extraneous circumstance, pertinent in no respect to the essence of the particular church"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

experiential theology: union with Christ

The Dutch theologian Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711) is best known for
his four-volume work, The Christian's Reasonable Service (Reformation
Heritage Books; 1993; 4 vols.). This book reflects the three
dimensions of true religion: doctrine, duty and experience. I have
gathered some quotes that reflect this, particularly in relation to
union with Christ. The translator Bart Elshout describes it as
experiential as well as systematic theology. He says:

'I would define experiential theology as that theology which explains
how the doctrines of Scripture become an experiential reality in the
hearts and lives of believers. One could say that experiential
religion is doctrine experienced. It is unquestionably à Brakel's
intense desire that his exposition of the doctrines of Scripture would
lead to the experience of the reality of these doctrines. Once you
grasp this, you will observe how in the theological sections of his
chapters he lays the ground work for the experiential application. His
aim in "doing theology" is the edification of the believer. He does
this by describing what the experiential application of the expounded
doctrine should be, and by describing what it often is when believers
struggle to appropriate the precious truths of Scripture. In doing so,
he magnifies Christ and touches the heartstrings of every true
believer. Therefore, when reading The Christian's Reasonable Service
you will be both educated and edified. What a rare and unique
combination! While it looks like another Reformed systematic theology
it is actually more practical in nature and intended to provide
content for small group discussions as Christians gather to encourage
one another in the Christian life. It is one of the beautiful works of
the "Dutch Puritans."'

à Brakel quotations

"All true godliness proceeds from the knowledge of, and a believing
union with, the Lord Jesus. This generates love and all that proceeds
from love. Whatever does not proceed from this source cannot be called
godliness. Even though nature may give us an impression of God and
religion, it does not reveal this mystery. He who has only been
illuminated outwardly is also ignorant of the frame of heart which
proceeds from knowing Jesus (that is, as both God and man)."

"Many know Jesus according to the letter, but not internally by the
illumination of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, such also have no love
for Him. They do desire Him as a servant to protect them from hell and
to help them get into heaven--of which they also have no correct
perceptions. Beyond that they have no use for Him. There is no
entering into covenant with Him, no surrendering to Him, no receiving
of Him by faith unto justification and sanctification, no heart-union,
and no exercising of fellowship with Him. They are neither acquainted
with His presence nor with His absence. They are satisfied if they are
but good church-members, partake of the Lord's Supper, live honestly,
and have the illusion that they will be saved. On that basis they
proceed--even though Jesus remains a stranger to them, remaining
outside of their heart and thoughts. Since you are acquainted with
human love, you will thus perceive that you have no love to Jesus,
whom you ought to love more vehemently than men. You may say that you
love Jesus. But then I ask you, "How is this evident? Is there esteem
and reverence for Him? Do you grieve and long for Him? Do you endeavor
to live in immediate union with Him? Is there a resemblance between
your nature and His? Are you obedient and do you keep His
commandments? Is there love for the most eminent among the godly? Is
there an aversion toward the unconverted, of whom we have dealt with
in the above, and of whom you yourself are convinced? If you consider
your love toward men, and apply this to love toward Christ, then you
must be convinced that you do not love Jesus--whatever good thought
you may also have concerning yourself" (III: 278-279).

"A temporal believer concerns himself only with the benefits and has
no interest in Christ Himself. Believers, however, have communion with
the Person of Jesus Christ, but many neither meditate upon nor closely
heed their exercises concerning Christ Himself. They err in this,
which is detrimental to the strength of their faith and impedes its
growth. Therefore we wish to exhort them to be more exercised
concerning the truth of belonging to each other, and the union and
communion with Jesus Himself. They will then better perceive the
unsearchable grace and goodness of God that such wretched and sinful
men may be so intimately united with the Son of God. Such reflection
will most wondrously set the heart aflame with love. It will
strengthen their resolve to put their trust in Jesus without fear. It
will give them strength and liberty to obtain everything from Him to
fulfill the desires of their soul, causing them to grow in Him, which
in turn will generate more light and joy. Therefore, faith, hope, and
love are mentioned in reference to the Person of Christ. Scripture
speaks of receiving Him, believing in Him, trusting in Him, living in
Him, loving Him, and hoping in Him" (2:91).

"By faith, hold fast to the fact that you are reconciled to and are a
partaker of Him and His benefits, even if you do not perceive and feel
this. This belonging to Him is not based on feeling. If the souls may
truly believe this and be exercised therewith, this will lead the soul
toward communion with Him" (2:96).

"1. Take note of how intimately the Lord Jesus is united to His elect.
They have been given to Him by the Father, in order that, as His
children, He would deliver, preserve, and lead them to felicity. Would
He then not exercise tender care of them, and be compassionate towards
them when they are in distress? They are His bride, children and
members. He has their very own nature - "for which cause He is not
ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11). When they are in misery
and sorrow, they weep and long for Him, and cry out to Him for help
and comfort. How can it be any different but that the Lord Jesus is
greatly moved to compassion, especially since He is experientially
acquainted with the feeling of their suffering?

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

3. Believers on earth love Jesus, their hearts go out after Him, and
He is the focal point of the passions of their love. "Therefore do the
virgins love Thee" (Song of Sol. 1:3). The bride continually has the
word Beloved in her mouth. Just consider how each believer mourns when
Jesus is absent; how they long for His coming to them; and how
delighted they are when they may sweetly enjoy His fellowship. All
their asking, crying and weeping is for Jesus. In Jesus only they find
all their satisfaction".

"Jesus Himself delights in having communion with you" (2:93)...a
"sweetness and overflowing delight … Here they (Christians) find balm
for their sick souls, light to clear up their darkness, life for their
deadness, food and drink for their hunger and thirst, peace for their
troubled heart, blood to atone for their sins, the Spirit for their
sanctification, counsel when they are at their wit's end, strength for
their weakness, and a fullness of all for their manifold deficiencies"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sifting Words

The best summary of Sandy Gair's life is in the article by Rev. Douglas Somerset on the Separatists here

The following account is told of him. One day while crossing the moor, he inquired of a stranger who crossed his path if he had any news. The stranger, unaware of his questioner’s identity, replied that Sandy Gair’s two sons had been drowned that morning. This was his intimation of the tragedy. Broken and crushed by the stroke, his answer was, referring to himself, "He has not yet received what he deserves."

Dr Kennedy, Dingwall writes:

'No one, able to appreciate talent, could listen to one of his addresses, without admiring the originality of his views, and the clear terseness of his diction. In apt illustration, and in scathing satire, few could excel him. Twice only did the writer ever hear him, but one of his sayings he can not forget. Speaking of the advantage possessed by the Christian over the worldly in the security of his portion, he said, "It was not much that Jacob took with him, when he left the house of Laban to return to his kindred, but amidst the little which he brought away, Laban lost his gods; but though Satan stripped Job, till he left not even his skin on him, the patriarch still could say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Speaking, on another occasion, of the very different estimates, of their respective services, formed by the Christian and the hypocrite, he said, "Of the offering accepted on Mount Carmel, the fire from heaven left only the ashes to Elijah; but, had the priests of Baal survived, they might have fed them selves fat on their rejected sacrifice."'

William Sinclair, Wick records in his diary November 26th 1846:
'Sandy Gair said many a sifting word if I could only record them. He said, "When Saul was at war with his enemies he made a vow that he would not eat till he gained the victory; but Jonathan ate of the honey and gained the victory. If we were eating of the honey of the promise we would get greater victories over our spiritual enemies, but we have more of the spirit of Saul than of Jonathan." He made also a good comparison between a bad watch and a bad heart as to how to repair them. "A man had a bad watch which would work now and stop next time, so he sent it to Inverness, but it was as bad as ever when it came back. He then tried it at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, but with no better speed. One day he opened it and discovered the maker's name and address on it. He at once sent it there and got it back in perfect order. Do this with your heart when none else will do, send it to the Maker."'

Gair once wrote to a theological student warning him to beware of the “great pot” out of which the sons of the prophets get their pottage, for there is “death in it” (2 Kings 4:40) which can only be cured by the “handful of meal”. Gair explained, “The pot is the college; the death in it is learning without grace, and the meal is the good food ground on Calvary between the millstones of law and justice, which can be gotten only by the hand of faith”.

In the book "Records of Grace in Sutherland", Rev. Donald Munro records the following incident about Gair:

'Sitting by the fireside at the end of the evening after family worship Angus Bailie of Strath Brora, to the surprise of other family members threw a fresh supply of peat on the fire. When his wife asked him the reason, he replied - "Oh I expect that before the peats are consumed, one of the Lord's people will come who may be in sore need of a good fire". A short time later, footsteps were heard outside and a distressed young man, soaked to the skin, entered. He was immediately recognised as the renowned Sandy Gair who, in extreme spiritual distress, had crossed Loch Brora! His needs, both physical and spiritual were attended to and would later recall, on more than one occasion, that the night spent in this home was one of the happiest he ever spent in his life.'

Household baptism in the Old Testament

Household baptism is a New Testament term and it may seem strange to associate it with the Old Testament. There are indeed five household (oikos) baptisms in the New Testament(Cornelius’, Acts 10:48; Lydia’s, Acts 16:15; the Philippian jailer’s, Acts 16:31; Crispus’, Acts 18:8; and Stephanus’, 1 Cor. 1:16). These five
household baptisms illustrate a principle seen throughout Scripture that, the obedience of the entire household is required as part of the obedience of the head. This is due to federal responsibility thus when the head of a household believed, baptism of his whole household followed.

As a note of interest at this point, these five baptisms are among only nine where baptism is specifically mentioned. In Acts there are 7: the Ethiopian eunuch, Simon Magus, Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and Crispus of Corinth. In 1 Corinthians there are 2: Gaius and Stephanas. Of these nine baptisms, there are two where no household was present: the Ethiopian eunuch and Saul of Tarsus. We are not informed about the households of two others: Simon Magus and Gaius. In the other five cases, the entire household was baptized. There is a clear principle that in every case where the apostles administered baptism to the head of a household, they also administered it to the entire household as well. For the Jews, the conversion and baptism of proselytes was on a household basis. In the case of the Philippian jailer the grammar emphasises the head of household’s action through singular verbs "rejoiced" and "believed" (Acts 16:34).

In addition to baptised households, there are also references to household
salvation: Zacchaeus’, Luke 19:6-10; the official’s, John 4:53; the 3,000 believers on Pentecost Sunday who were told that the promise of salvation was “for you and for your children,” Acts 2:38-39; and Onesiphorus’, 2 Tim. 1:16.

The solidarity of the household or posterity with the head is explicit in all the Old Testament covenants. It is made clear to Noah (Gen. 7:1; Heb. 11:7), to Abraham ("I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him", Gen. 18:19), to Jacob (Gen. 47:12), to Israel (Exod. 1:1), and to Rahab (Jos. 6:25). The word for household in Greek ,Oikos is used in the Septuagaint (the Greek translation of the OT) of Noah's family (Gen 7:19), of the covenant with Abraham and the circumcision and instruction of his household (Gen 17:13, 18:19), regarding the families in Passover (12:27), and David's descendants in the Davidic covenant (2Ch 21:7).

The household reference is frequently made:

- Gen 7:1 – Noah
- Gen 17:12-13, 23, 27 – Abraham
- Ex 12:27 – Passover
- Num 3:15 – Levites numbered according to household membership
- Deut 29:10-13 – Covenant renewal
- Joshua 24:15 – “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

There are also promises made to heads of households: Deut. 4:37-40; Psalm 78:4-7; 100:5; 102:28; 103:17-18; Isa. 44:3; 54:13; 59:21; 65:23; Jer. 32:38-39; 35:19; Ezek. 37:25; Zec. 10:6-7.

We should note, however, that there are also many instances in which God judges households in relation to the sin of the head of that household:
- Gen 20:17-18 – Abimilech
- Ex 20:5, 34:7 – Punishments for breaking the law
- Joshua 7:15, 24-25 – Achan
- 1 Sam 3:12-14 – Eli
- 2 Sam 12:10 – David

We should note also that neglect of the commandment of circumcision (the sign of household solidarity) incurred judgement (Gen. 17:14). The family is an organic unity, in which, if the head sins, all the parts of the organic unit are held to be sinful with it.

There is a particular ceremony in the Old Testament that parallels household baptism. It is the sprinkling of blood that was done at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. Pharaoh was willing to let the men go, but not the little ones (Ex. 10:7-11).

- It was a ceremony performed by the head of the household not for their own benefit but for the firstborn son who was liable to destruction as part of the nation of Egypt and under Pharaoh's dominion. The firstborn son did not do it for himself.
- It was a household action, lamb was to be taken by the head of the household and slain for the household who would partake of it. Noone feasted alone.
- It was a token or sign of the covenant which signified spiritual realities
- It was a family token.
- It distinguished the firstborn of Israel from the firstborn of Egypt (Ex 11:7).
- It solemnly signified that the firstborn of Israel belonged to a holy and ransomed nation.
- It signified the deliverance of Israel as houses (Ex 12:27) and their being gathered to serve and worship the Lord as a corporate unit.
- It was done in faith (Heb 11:28)
- It signified the blood of Christ and his merits and offered it to them(1 Cor 5:7)
It signified being under God's protection
It signified separation unto God from sin and the world. Not a hoof was to be left behind.
- It was the basis of instruction: Exod. 12:26 : "And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, when he passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt; when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses."
-It was open to Gentiles. Exod. 12:48: "When a stranger will sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males ba circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land. One law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you."
- It was a corporate action of the Church. The slaying of the lamb is ascribed to the "whole assembly of the congregation", because it was to be slain by their order, and in their name, for their use and in their presence (Ex 12:6).
- It signified deliverance from national judgement (as with the baptism of John the Baptist cp. 1 Cor.10.1 ff, exodus from Egypt; 1 Pet. 3.19-21, of the flood)
- It was like circumcision a sign of God's judgement if the stipulations of the covenant (including circumcision) were not kept. Thus a solemn judgement is also signified if baptised people do not enter into the reality of the blood of Christ and trample it under foot as an unholy thing.
- It was a seal of God's ownership.
- It was effected by sprinkling as with the purifications elsewhere described in Scripture (Exodus 24:1-8; Leviticus 14:4-7, 16, 49-53, 16:19; and Numbers 8:5-7,
19:18, 19; Hebrews 12:22-24; 1 Peter 1:2). The Old Covenant sprinkling of blood has been replaced by the New Covenant washing with water.
- It meant that the firstborn were sanctified and sacred to God
- It meant a general, external adoption of the nation to be God's firstborn (Exod 4:22)

Monday, February 02, 2009

what is now, and what was then

This poem by John Flavel written in 1691 was recorded by William Sinclair of Wick in his diary which is online here. William Sinclair was (I think) the father of Rev. James S. Sinclair.

"Then did the sunshine of Thy face,
And sweetest glimpses of Thy grace,
Like April showers and warming gleams,
Distil their dews, reflect their beams.
My dead affections then were green,
And hopeful buds were to be seen;
Oh joyful days, thrice happy state,
Each place was Bethel, heaven's gate.
What sweet discourse, what heavenly talk,
While daily I did with Thee walk;
Mine eyes o'erflow, my heart doth sink,
As oft upon those days I think.
For strangers now have come between
My God and me, and may be seen;
For what is now, and what was then,
'Tis just as if I were two men.
My fragrant branches blasted be,
No fruits like those now can I see;
Some canker worm lies at my root,
Which fades my leaves, destroys my fruit.
My soul is banished from Thy sight,
For this it mourneth day and night;
Yet why dost thou desponding lie?
Like Jonah, cast a backward eye,
That God who made the Spring at first,
When I was barren and accurst,
Can much more easily restore
My state to what it was before;
A word or smile on my poor soul
Would make it perfect, sound and whole."