We have, in this part of the parable, a vivid picture of the reception which the gospel is continually meeting with wherever it is proclaimed. Thousands are continually doing what the parable describes. They are invited to come to Christ, and they will not come. It is not ignorance of religion that ruins most men’s souls. It is want of will to use knowledge or love of this present world. It is not open profligacy that fills hell. It is excessive attention to things which, in themselves, are lawful. It is not avowed dislike of the gospel which is so much to be feared. It is that procrastinating, excuse-making spirit which is always ready with a reason why Christ cannot be served today. Let the words of our Lord on this subject sink down into our hearts. Infidelity and immorality, no doubt, slay their thousands. But decent, plausible, smooth-spoken excuses slay their tens of thousands. No excuse can justify a man in refusing God’s salvation and not coming to Christ. – J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) on Luke 14.15-24.
When I was an undergraduate, one of our lecturers presented us with a book list containing over ninety titles. Daunted, I read none of them. One might feel the same before the fifty volumes of the Calvin Translation Society. How should one set about reading Calvin? Most people start with the “Institutes” and make rather heavy weather of Book I. The “Institutes” needs working up to and should only be attempted when one has a taste for Calvin and some knowledge of others of his works.
I would suggest that the “Commentary on St. John’s Gospel” makes a good introduction to Calvin and, after that, one might go on to the “Commentary on Ephesians.” At the same time, one might dip into his letters. If, after this, one’s blood is up and the hunt for what Calvin can give us is on, we can go straight for the “Institutes,” either reading it right through or, better still, picking out subjects that have a particular interest for us and reading those chapters to see what Calvin has to say about them. After that, we have the whole of the fifty volumes to browse in as we will.
In English, the usual edition of the works is the Calvin Translation Society, published at Edinburgh in the nineteenth century, and now being reprinted in America. It contains commentaries, theological tracts, and the “Institutes,” but no sermons. This edition is not at all well-edited and there are, sometimes, faults in the translation. For those who prefer the excitement of Elizabethan prose to the stiff writing of the mid-nineteenth century, many of his works are available in early translations, including some volumes of sermons that have not been translated since.
From: Portrait of Calvin by T. H. L. Parker (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), pp. 47-48.
He showed the same reticence about the illness that caused his retirement from Cambridge and that eventually killed him. He accepted it with a sort of saintly patience. Right to the end, he was his usual gay and humerous self. Only about a fortnight before his death, I received a card from him from Oxford: “Have been reading ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses.’ What a book! Come to lunch on Friday (fish) and tell me about it.” I’m glad to say that I went and, of course, it was Jack who told me about it and not the other way around.
But, imagine – C. S. Lewis reading “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” when on the point of death! All in all, I don’t think it uncharacteristic. I, somehow, felt that it was the last time we should meet and, when he escorted me, with his usual courtesy, to the door, I think he felt so, too. Never was a man better prepared.
From: “In Cambridge” by Richard W. Ladborough, in Remembering C. S. Lewis: Recollections of Those Who Knew Him, edited by James T. Como; 3rd edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), p. 199. Originally published in 1979.
Since the rise of modern anti-intellectualistic views of revelation, the idea of a unitary biblical ethic, of one coherent and consistent moral requirement that lays claim on all men at all times has, more and more, been doubted, and even assailed. This mood has found it profitable to exploit the differences between Old and New Testament ethics. It represents them as being in conflict over central features of human behavior. The most elementary New Testament standard is critical of practices which the Old Testament is said, if not to have approved, at least to have condoned – e.g., bigamy, polygamy, divorce. These appear in the record without overt disapprobation and with no penalties. The impropriety of viewing the Old Testament in such a light should be obvious at once from our earlier discussions of the Decalogue. The condemnation of adultery and of other transgressions is implicit in the creation ethics of man’s state of integrity as well as explicit in the law of Sinai. Without question, the level of achievement in certain periods of Old Testament history falls below others, and Israel went, at last, into captivity because of ethical disobedience. But, the criterion of ideal behavior is never to be defined even by the achievement of the regenerate man, whether as an individual or in the entire community of faith, for man is still imperfect. A coherent divine standard cannot be distilled from an empirical survey, even though a pattern may, doubtless, be inferred from the consensus of sanctified moral opinion.
From: Christian Personal Ethics by Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957), pp. 327-328.
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36.5)
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. – A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)
It is a most grand delusion to imagine that the doctrines of grace tend to lull the soul to sleep in supine indolence or slothful stupidity. The believer has not so learned Christ. Though he is saved by grace freely, yet he is called to labor diligently. By faith, he looks forward to the fulfillment of awful predictions and precious promises. Hence, we are excited to daily diligence in the performance of duties, the use of means, and the exercise of graces. – William Mason (1719-1791)