Posted by: reiterations | August 27, 2014

The Bible’s True Theological Dividing Point

Here is this great book.  We divide it up, and we call it the Old Testament and the New Testament, and we all know what we mean by that.  But, you know, if we were to be strictly accurate, we would not describe it in that way.  The real division of the Bible is this: first, everything you get from Genesis 1.1 through Genesis 3.14, then everything from Genesis 3.15 to the very end of the Bible.  What you have up through Genesis 3.14 is the account of the creation and of God’s original covenant of works with man and of how that failed, because man broke it.  Beginning with Genesis 3.15, you get the announcement of the gospel, the covenant of grace, the way of salvation – and that is the whole theme of the Bible until you come to the last verse of the Book of Revelation.  That is the real division of the Bible.D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)

Posted by: reiterations | August 26, 2014

On Thomas Cranmer’s Catholicity

Foxe’s “Acts and Monuments,” four times reprinted in full (on 6,000 large quarto volumes) between 1837 and 1877, and read in most pious Victorian homes in a standard one-volume abridgement known as “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” has stamped, on the English mind, the image of Thomas Cranmer as a martyred Protestant.  This is not false, but it would be nearer Cranmer’s own mind to say that he was burned for being a catholic.  It was a happy irony that allowed him to make his last speech in response to an invitation to show himself “a catholic indeed,” for that was just what he believed he was doing when he abjured his recantations, the papal claims, and the real presence.  To him, as to all the Reformers, Protestantism (unlike Anabaptistry) was precisely a quest for catholicism – that is, for solidarity with the catholic church that Jesus founded.  The Reformation was the work of churchmen and, as such, was neither a lay-minded reaction against ecclesiastical superstition and graft nor an outbreak of nationalistic sectarianism but a conscious attempt to restore to the church of the West the catholicity that it had so long lost…

Cranmer judged that, for three or four centuries before his time, due to papal absolutism, priestcraft, the theology of the mass, and neglect of the Bible, the church in England, as throughout Europe, had lapsed grievously from the catholic norm, and his overriding concern as churchman, theologian, and praying Christian was to see this deviation corrected.  Cranmer’s passion to regain and hold fast catholicity gave unity to his work as Archbishop of Canterbury and is the clue to understanding both him and it.

From: The Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer: Volume 4: Honoring the People of God by J. I. Packer (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1999), p. 237.

Posted by: reiterations | August 25, 2014

One Reason the Bible is Necessary for Us

The Bible is also necessary because God no longer reveals Himself by dreams and visions and prophets.  Those vehicles of revelation are no longer needed and they no longer function.  William Gouge, a Puritan patriarch at the Westminster assembly, argued that “pretence of new light and immediate inspiration in these daies, is a mere pretence.”  Francis Cheynell complained of people in his day who too quickly gave a platform to anyone who had persuaded himself that he had some spiritual interpretation of the Word by “inspiration, suggestion” or “assistance of the Holy Ghost.”  And George Walker, yet another member of the assembly who wrote on the topic, had hard words for weak men who told ladies to marry them because of some “pretence of inspiration and divine revelation.”  Whether out of laziness or desperation, men should not try to push a woman a little closer to a wedding because “God had said” they were meant for each other.

From: Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith by Chad Van Dixhoorn (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014), p. 6.

Chad Van Dixhoorn serves as Associate Professor of Church History at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.  He is also Associate Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia.

Posted by: reiterations | August 24, 2014

For the Lord’s Day (343)

But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me in Your saving faithfulness.  (Psalm 69.13)

Posted by: reiterations | August 23, 2014

God is Personal

No one has ever doubted that the God of the Old Testament related to His people in personal terms.  He spoke to His people, heard their prayers, and acted on their behalf.  Although there was a strict prohibition against making idols of God (Exodus 20.4) and the notion that it is possible to see God was always firmly rejected, even in the New Testament (John 1.18; 1 John 4.12), there are many instances in which God is described as if He were a heavenly man.  Phrases like the “arm of the Lord” and the “eyes of the Lord” are common in the Old Testament, and He is even portrayed as a king whose throne is heaven and whose footstool is the earth (Proverbs 15.3; Isaiah 51.9; 66.1).  No one has ever taken this imagery literally, but the use of such phrases is enough to remind us that God is portrayed as a person in relationship with His people, not as an abstract power that determines their fate without any contact or interaction between them.

From: God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology by Gerald Bray (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), p. 168.

Posted by: reiterations | August 22, 2014

On Christian Ethics

Christian ethics not merely recognizes the duty of love to men but sets it as the foundation of all other duties.  It is root and trunk, all others are but the branches into which it ramifies.  Christian ethics not merely recognizes the duty but takes a man by the hand, leads him up to his Father God, and says: “There, that is your pattern,” and a child who loves his Father will try to copy His ways and be made like Him by His love.  So, morality passes into religion and, through the transition, receives power beyond its own.  The perfection of worship is imitation and, when men call Him Father whom they adore, imitation becomes the natural action of a child who loves.Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Matthew 5.43-48.

Posted by: reiterations | August 21, 2014

Jesus as a Teacher

Christ’s originality as a moral teacher lies not so much in the absolute novelty of His commandments as in the perspective in which He sets them and in the motives on which He bases them and, most of all, in His being more than a teacher – namely, the giver of power to fulfill what He enjoins.Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Matthew 5.43-48.

Posted by: reiterations | August 20, 2014

A Peak at John Calvin’s Pastoral Experience?

Many people do not take that as seriously as it ought to be assimilated and practiced.  It is very rare that households govern themselves in peace and harmony.  The husbands and wives are more likely to be like cats and dogs.  Although they do not all live with the same intensity, very few follow the pattern which God established.  It is true that not all husbands want to murder their wives enough to want to poison them nor do all wives scheme to murder their husbands, even though there are more such monsters than we need.  And God still keeps the human race bridled so that they do not all reach their limits, but the husband will not be able to tolerate anything from his wife if she is bitter and hard to get along with, and he would want to get a divorce every day.  The same is true for the wife if she cannot conform to her husband’s character, and she would like to be set free immediately.  And then follow harsh words, squabbles, and disagreements.  They will spite each other.  If the husband thinks about angering his wife by hurting her, he will do so.  The wife will also use harsh words to anger and distress her husband.  In short, the devil will rule there in such a way  that there will be awful and unreasonable chaos.  All the more, then, must we practice the teaching that the husband and wife are of one flesh.  And yet, the man would do better to leave his father and his mother, which is not lawful for him because it is wrong, against nature, and ignoble, than to leave his wife.  And that is the meaning of what our Lord Jesus Christ said in the nineteenth chapter of Matthew: “What, therefore, God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19.6).

From: “The Inviolable Union of Adam and Eve, God’s Will for All Time,” a sermon on Genesis 2.22-24, preached at St. Peter’s Church in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, October 2, 1559, in Sermons on Genesis 1.1 – 11.4 by John Calvin; translated from the French by Rob Roy McGregor (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), pp. 203-204.

Posted by: reiterations | August 19, 2014

On Infant Baptism

…the doctrine of child membership – a membership established at birth and certified in the rite of baptism – is, as we have already had occasion to see, a tenet clearly sustained by Scripture and palpably confirmed in the experience of Christendom. 

But we must go back of such experimental evidence to the Old Testament teachings respecting the spiritual as well as the natural unity of the pious family respecting the divine covenant with the heads of such holy households, respecting the religious significance of circumcision regarded as an outward sign and seal of said covenant, respecting the transmission of piety through the sanctified home from generation to generation, respecting the relation of the home to the church and the ordained perpetuity of the church through the appointed ordinances of grace – we must turn back to these primal teachings to find the initial warrant for the application of the water of baptism to the children of believing parents.  We must turn, also, to the example of our Lord in blessing little children and proclaiming them heirs of heaven, to His tender instruction concerning them (even as lambs in His earthly flock), to the teachings of the apostles respecting the godly family and, especially, the Pauline instruction as to the federal holiness of the offspring of pious parentage, and the illustrations of household as well as individual baptism recorded in the New Testament.

We must also recognize the essential oneness of the church in all dispensations, the practical identity between the faith of Abraham and Christian faith, the transmission of other ordinances (such as the paschal supper), and the close relation between circumcision as a type under the new economy of grace.  It is important, also, to note, in close conjunction, the recorded usage of the early church (if not, in all instances, still in many), and the historic growth of such usage, avowedly on biblical rather than traditional authority, until it came to be the general practice of the church in both its western and its oriental divisions.  To all this may be added the manifest values of this sacramental observance to the Christian parent as a guide and stimulant to the training of his children for Christ – to the child thus consecrated, even from infancy, to the divine service and nurtured, from the outset, into holy manhood or womanhood – and to the church, as an encouragement to supply, so far as possible, all needful help in such nurture, and as an assurance that, in the instructive words of Knox, a holy seed shall be preserved and continued through all the ages.

If Romanism can justify itself in the baptizing of infants and incorporating them, by that sign, within its ecclesiastical fold, a thousand times more may evangelical Protestantism, counting its youth, even from their birth, as members of its holy family and devoting itself to their training for complete membership in after life, set this seal upon them and, by that act, openly acknowledge its relationship to them and its purpose and faith with respect to their spiritual relationship to Christ.

From: Theology of the Westminster Standards: A Commentary Historical, Doctrinal, Practical on the Confession of Faith and Catechisms and the Related Formularies of the Presbyterian Churches by Edward D. Morris (Columbus: The Champlin Press, 1900), pp. 683-684.

Edward Dafydd Morris (1825-1915), a native of Utica, New York, taught at Lane Theological Seminary from 1867 to 1897, first as Professor of Church History and Polity (1867-1874), then as Professor of Systematic Theology (1874-1897).  This work, his magnum opus, was published the year he turned 75.  He lived to be 90.

Posted by: reiterations | August 18, 2014

A Definition

“Symbolism” may be defined as that branch of general theology which treats of the history, contents, teaching, and influence of the accepted creeds of the Christian church.  In such treatment, these historic symbols are to be studied generally with respect to their sources, position, and issues, and also specifically with respect to their statements of particular doctrines and to their special presentations of Christian truth.  As each of these creeds or confessions has an individual history and exhibits peculiar characteristics in structure, contents, and spirit, the examination of the individual formulary, with reference to such elements, may be styled “particular symbolism.”  As the creeds or confessions of the church, originating at various periods in its development, sustain many interesting relations to each other, both in their outer connections ecclesiastically and in their interior teaching and tendency, the study of these creeds in such relations, with special reference to their mutual affiliations and contrasts, may be styled “comparative symbolism.”  The general aggregate of divine truth obtained by these processes and, especially, the scheme of Christian doctrine thus derived is, in a proper sense of the word, “symbolic theology.”

(In this type of study, the word “symbols” is used because scholars refer to the individual creeds, confessions, and catechisms of any particular denomination as the “symbols” of that denomination. – RZ)

From: Theology of the Westminster Symbols: A Commentary Historical, Doctrinal, Practical on the Confession of Faith and Catechisms and the Related Formularies of the Presbyterian Churches by Edward D. Morris (Columbus: The Champlin Press, 1900), p. 1.

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