Posted by: reiterations | November 27, 2014

For Thanksgiving Day

So wide and constant is our Lord’s bounty which He showers on us, and so mighty, admirable, and infinite are His miraculous works, whichever way we look, that we never lack motive and opportunity to praise, glorify, and extol Him, and to give thanks always and everywhere.John Calvin (1509-1564)

Posted by: reiterations | November 26, 2014

A Trinitarian Closing

14.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus.”  He closes the epistle with a prayer, which contains three clauses in which the sum of our salvation consists.  In the first place, he desires for them the “grace of Christ,” secondly, “the love of God,” and, thirdly, “the communion of the Spirit.” 

The term grace does not mean, here, “unmerited favor,” but is taken, by metonymy, to denote the whole benefit of redemption.  The order, however, may appear to be, here, inverted because the “love of God” is placed second, while it is the source of that grace and, hence, it is first in order.  I answer that the arrangement of the terms in the Scriptures is not always so very exact.  But, at the same time, this order, too, corresponds with the common form of doctrine which is contained in the Scriptures – that, “when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled by the death of His Son” (Romans 5.10), though the Scripture is wont to speak of this in two ways.  For it sometimes declares what I have quoted from Paul – that there was enmity between us and God before we were reconciled through Christ.  On the other hand, we hear what John says – that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” etc. (John 3.16).  The statements are, apparently, opposite, but it is easy to reconcile them because, in the one case, we look to God and, in the other, to ourselves.  For God, viewed in Himself, loved us before the creation of the world and redeemed us for no other reason than this – because He loved us.  As for us, on the other hand, as we see in ourselves nothing but occasion of wrath – that is, sin – we cannot apprehend any love of God towards us without a Mediator.  Hence it is that, with respect to us, the beginning of love is from the grace of Christ.  According to the former view of the matter, Paul would have expressed himself improperly had he put the love of God before the grace of Christ or, in other words, the cause before the effect.  But, according to the latter, it was a suitable arrangement to begin with the grace of Christ, which was the procuring cause of God’s adopting us into the number of His sons and honoring us with His love whom, previously, He regarded with hatred and abhorrence on account of sin.

The “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” is added because it is only under His guidance that we come to possess Christ and all His benefits.  He seems, however, at the same time, to allude to the diversity of gifts, of which he had made mention elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12.11) because God does not give the Spirit to everyone in a detached way, but distributes to each according to the measure of grace, that the members of the church, by mutually participating one with another, may cherish unity.John Calvin (1509-1564).  This is his comment on 2 Corinthians 13.14 (1546), the final verse of that book.

Posted by: reiterations | November 25, 2014

The Beginning of Paul’s Letter

1.  “Paul, an apostle.”  As to the reasons why he designates himself an “apostle of Christ” and adds that he has obtained this honor “by the will of God,” see the foregoing epistle, where it has been observed that none are to be listened to but those who have been sent by God and speak from His mouth and that, consequently, to secure authority for anyone, two things are required – a call, and fidelity on the part of the person who is called in the execution of his office.  Both of these Paul claims for himself.  The false apostles, it is true, do the same.  But then, by usurping a title that does not belong to them, they gain nothing among the sons of God, who can, with the utmost case, convict them of impertinence.  Hence, the mere name is not enough, if there be not the reality along with it, so that he who gives himself out as an apostle must also show himself to be such by his work.

“to the church of God.”  We must always keep it in view, his recognizing a church to exist – where there was such a conflux of evils.  For the faults of individuals do not prevent a society that has genuine marks of a religion from being recognized as a church.  But what does he mean by the expression – “with all saints”?  Were those “saints” unconnected with the church?  I answer, that this phrase refers to believers who were dispersed hither and thither throughout various corners of the province – it being likely that, in that greatly disturbed period, when the enemies of Christ were everywhere venting their rage, many were scattered abroad who could not conveniently hold sacred assemblies.John Calvin (1509-1564).  This is his exposition of 2 Corinthians 1.1 (1546).

Posted by: reiterations | November 24, 2014

Spiritual Advice

Never leave off watching, reading, praying, and striving until you experientially find Christ Jesus formed within you.  In a particular manner, my dear friend, watch against all temptations to sloth.  When you receive the sacrament, earnestly endeavor to be inwardly bettered by it the week following.  Live every day as holily as you can.  Be frequent in self-examination morning and evening.  Pray earnestly from your heart.George Whitefield (1714-1770), in a letter dated April 2,1736.

Posted by: reiterations | November 23, 2014

For the Lord’s Day (356)

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will tell you everything.  I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts.  Peace be to the brothers and love, with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.  (Ephesians 6.21-24)

Posted by: reiterations | November 22, 2014

Thinking About Re-Thinking Luther

There are reasons why a good deal of received academic opinion should be unfriendly towards Martin Luther.  There is the modest reaction against the judgments of the Victorian age, not least among those who have shed the Protestantism of their fathers.  The virile theological tradition deriving from the Oxford Movement has made great and positive theological contributions to English religion but, from the time of Hurrell Froude onwards, it’s blind spot has been a rigid, narrow, and wooden hostility towards the Reformers and their works.  Then, there is the tradition of the liberal historians, with their wishful preference for a Reformation “along Erasmian lines” which, they consider, might have been but for the violent intervention of Luther and his friends.  To the liberal historians and theologians, aloof from theology and dogma, Martin Luther could hardly be a congenial figure.  The events of our generation have hardly disposed us to a sympathetic judgment of the course of German history, and made only too plausible the arguments of those who derive all our ills from the Reformation, and not a few from the influence of Martin Luther.

The case for the reconsideration of Luther is that all these judgments, good or ill, rest upon an insufficient consideration of facts.  Of the many thousands of Luther’s writings, hardly more than a score have been available in English throughout the greater part of four centuries.  There has been little awareness of the problems and discoveries of modern Luther study which, both in detail and in principle, have been of a quality and intricacy high among historical disciplines, second only, it may be, to that of biblical criticism.

From: The Righteousness of God: Luther Studies: the Birkbeck Lectures in Ecclesiastical History for 1947 by Gordon Rupp (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1953), p. 4.

Posted by: reiterations | November 21, 2014

Regarding Sacred Music

The music world of our century does not feel quite at home with religious subjects, any more than the directors of our religious establishments feel confident about contemporary composition.  The making of a joyful noise unto the Lord and the praising of Him upon a loud instrument are practiced, in our time, with more timidity than gusto.  A lugubrious respectability overlays nearly all our religious music-making.  And our best composers tend, more and more, to reserve their joyful noises, as well as their really terrifying ones, for secular circumstances.

The basis of this timidity is not so much, I fancy, a lack of religious faith on the part of musicians or any suspicion of music’s efficacy on the part of religious administrators as it is an erroneous conception, by both, of what constitutes a proper sacred style.  It is thought that profane associations invalidate stylistic elements for religious usage.  And yet, the history of religion, if it proves anything at all about music, proves the contrary.  The exchange of material and device between sacred and secular usage is the one constant pattern discernible in the musical history of the last twelve hundred years.  And, at no point in that time, is it possible to distinguish, save by sheer functional criteria, such as instruments or verbal texts employed, the music of worship from that of sheer entertainment.

Professionals of religion have constantly tried to censor the music used in their establishments.  But, whenever the censorship of tune or of technical device becomes strict, inspiration moves over to the market place.  The “purification” of church music that followed the pronouncements of the Council of Trent provoked, in less than fifty years, the invention of the opera.  And the real originality of the seventeenth-century operatic style caused its adoption, within twenty-five years, by the religious establishments.  The modernized plain-chant of the Benedictine monks made possible, too, the writing of Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” and Satie’s “Socrate,” although it has not yet produced one first-class piece of church composition.

Church music in our century, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, has been conservative and, compared to the music of theater and concert, inexpressive.  It lacks self-confidence, liberty, assertion.

From: “Styles in Sacred Music,” by Virgil Thomson, in Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles, 1940-1954, edited by Tim Page; The Library of America, Volume 258 (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 2014), pp. 227-228.  “Styles of Sacred Music” originally appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on July 23, 1944.

Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) was an American composer, music critic, and author.  He was Chief Music Critic and Head of the Music Department at the New York Herald Tribune from 1940 to 1954.

Posted by: reiterations | November 20, 2014

Involvement in the Sins of Other People

Ministers make themselves partakers in the sins of their people when those sins are occasioned by their own negligence, by their example, or by unfaithfulness in the discharge of their official duties.  But, why do I mention this to you?  Not because you are in danger of partaking, in this way, of other men’s sins, but because my subject naturally leads to this remark, because I am willing to preach to myself as well as to you, and because this remark suggests a sufficient excuse, if excuse be necessary, for the pointed observations which I may be called upon to make in the progress of my discourse for, from this remark, it follows that, if you are in danger of sharing in the guilt of other men’s sins, it is my duty, as a minister of Christ, to warn you plainly of that danger and to point out the way in which you may avoid it and, should I neglect thus to warn you, I should myself share in the guilt of all your sins and of all the sins of which you make yourselves partakers.  Now this I can, by no means, consent to do.  I am willing to participate in all your sorrows and afflictions, but I am not willing to share in your sins.  I have enough – and more than enough – of my own to answer for, without participating in yours.  Let this be my apology if, in this, as well as in my other discourses, I use great plainness of speech.

From: “Participation in Other Men’s Sins,” a sermon on 1 Timothy 5.22, preached by Edward Payson.

Edward Payson (1783-1827) was Pastor of Second Congregational Church in Portland, Maine, from 1811 until his death.  This sermon appears among the three volumes of Payson’s sermons that appeared not long after his death.

Posted by: reiterations | November 19, 2014

A Glimpse Into Medieval Christianity

You must understand that, as St. Gregory says, there are, in the church, two ways of life which lead to salvation.  One is called the active life, the other the contemplative.  Every man who is saved is so by one or other of these.  The active life consists in love and charity manifested exteriorly by good works.  It means the keeping of God’s commandments and the performance of the seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy for one’s fellow Christians.  This is the life proper to men of the world who are rich and have plenty of worldly goods, and it belongs, also, to those who hold office and authority over other men and have the administration of property or wealth, whether they are learned or ignorant, laymen or ecclesiastics.  Such are bound to fulfill these duties to the best of their abilities, as reason and discretion shall dictate.  If they are possessed of great fortune, it will be their duty to do much good.  If their fortune is small, less is expected of them.  If they possess nothing, they must, at least, have good will.  These are the works of an active life, whether it is exercised in temporal or spiritual authority.  Exercises of bodily mortification, such as fasting, vigils, and other severe forms of penance, also pertain to the active life.  The flesh must be chastised, with discretion, to atone for past sins and to restrain sinful inclinations and to make the body obedient and compliant to the soul.  These works, active though they are, dispose a man, in the early stages, to come to the contemplative life, provided that they are used discreetly.

From: The Scale of Perfection by Walter Hilton; translated from Medieval English by Gerard Sitwell (London: Burns Oates, 1953), p. 4.  The Scale of Perfection, written in the 14th century, was first published in 1494.

Walter Hilton was probably an Augustinian canon of Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire, England.  He died in about 1400.

Posted by: reiterations | November 18, 2014

On Christ’s Death

If it were not for the purchase of a Mediator’s death, if it were not that Jesus Christ had bought us with a price, even with the price of His own death, you and I should never have had, you and I could never have had, the grace of God manifested, at all, to our souls.George Whitefield (1714-1770)

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