Posted by: reiterations | April 1, 2015

Remember

Remember, you shall die – and when and where and how you cannot tell.  Remember, the death of sinners is most terrible.  Remember, the death of God’s saints is most precious in His sight.  Remember, the multitude goeth the wide way, which windeth to woe.  Remember, the strait gate which leadeth to glory hath but few travelers.  Remember, Christ biddeth you strive to enter thereat.  Remember, he that trusteth in the Lord shall receive strength to stand against all the assaults of his enemies. – Letter: John Bradford (1510-1555) to Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford (ca. 1527-1585) (1551)

Posted by: reiterations | March 31, 2015

On the Providence of God

That this distinction may be the more manifest, we must consider that the providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes.  By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, i.e., that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried.  If one falls among robbers or ravenous beasts, if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck, if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree, if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death – all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune.  But whoso has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Matthew 10.30) will look farther for the cause and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God.

With regard to inanimate objects, again, we must hold that, though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, yet all of them exert their force only insofar as directed by the immediate hand of God.  Hence, they are merely instruments into which God constantly infuses what energy He sees meet and turns and converts to any purpose at His pleasure.  No created object makes a more wonderful or glorious display than the sun.  For, besides illuminating the whole world with its brightness, how admirably does it foster and invigorate all animals by its heat and fertilize the earth by its rays, warming the seeds of grain in its lap and, thereby, calling forth the verdant blade!  This it supports, increases, and strengthens with additional nurture till it rises into the stalk, and still feeds it with perpetual moisture till it comes into flower and from flower to fruit, which it continues to ripen till it attains maturity.

In like manner, by its warmth trees and vines bud and put forth their first leaves, then their blossoms, then their fruit.  And the Lord, that He might claim the entire glory of these things as His own, was pleased that light should exist and that the earth should be replenished with all kinds of herbs and fruits before He made the sun.  No pious man, therefore, will make the sun either the necessary or principal cause of those things which existed before the creation of the sun, but only the instrument which God employs because He so pleases, though He can lay it aside and act equally well by Himself.  Again, when we read that, at the prayer of Joshua, the sun was stayed in its course (Joshua 10.13), that, as a favor to Hezekiah, its shadow receded ten degrees (2 Kings 20.11), by these miracles, God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its true course, that He may renew the remembrance of His paternal favor toward us.  Nothing is more natural than for spring, in its turn, to succeed winter, summer spring, and autumn summer, but, in this series, the variations are so great and so unequal as to make it very apparent that every single year, month, and day is regulated by a new and special providence of God. – John Calvin (1509-1564), from Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.16.2.

Posted by: reiterations | March 30, 2015

On John Owen – 2 of 2

Owen began to gain a reputation as a theologian and preacher who supported the Puritans.  He had achieved such a significant renown that he was chosen to preach before Parliament on the day following the execution of Charles I in [January,] 1649.  This, of course, marked Owen as being in a very different camp from more moderate Puritans, such as Thomas Manton.  By this time, Cromwell had reached the height of his power and he found, in John Owen, a man on whom he could rely to advise him on ecclesiastical policy.  Cromwell appointed Owen as his chaplain during his campaign in Ireland.  Returning to England, he relied on Owen in his attempt to reorganize Oxford University, appointing him Dean of Christ Church in 1651 and then Vice-Chancellor of the university the following year.  For the next five years, he preached at St. Mary’s University Church, Oxford, every other week, alternating with Thomas Goodwin.  Owen, however, was hardly Cromwell’s “yes man.”  When Cromwell began to act too much like the king he had deposed, Owen opposed him and Cromwell let his displeasure be known.  But then, Cromwell’s days were numbered.  A year later, Owen was among the ministers who attended to him on his deathbed.  The Commonwealth soon came apart and Owen returned to his estate in Stadhampton, outside of Oxford, where he continued to write until his death in 1683, [aged 67].

During his twenty-five years of retirement, Owen was regarded as an elder statesman of the Puritan movement.  The repression of Puritan preaching relaxed from time to time, and he would preach in London where he helped organize an Independent congregation.  While never imprisoned himself, he was able to support several Puritans who had been.  Apparently, he was able to gather a Nonconformist congregation, from time to time, while living on his estate at Stadhampton, in Oxfordshire.  His works have been republished in [twenty-two] volumes.

From: Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church by Hughes Oliphant Old; edited, and with an introduction, by Jon D. Payne (Powder Springs: Tolle Lege Press, 2013), pp. 385-386.

Posted by: reiterations | March 29, 2015

For the Lord’s Day (374)

How, then, will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news [Isaiah 52.7]!”  But, they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us [Isaiah 53.1]?”  So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  (Romans 10.14-17)

Posted by: reiterations | March 28, 2015

On John Owen – 1 of 2

Owen’s education began with his attending a grammar school in Oxford.  He completed his preliminary courses very quickly.  In fact, he was something of a prodigy.  Shortly afterward, he matriculated at Queen’s College, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1632 and his Master of Arts in 1635.  In 1637, already ordained in the Church of England, he became chaplain and tutor to Sir Robert Dormer.  Sometime after that, we hear of his being appointed to a similar position with John, Lord Lovelace, in Berkshire.  Due to the increasing severity of Archbishop Laud toward those of Puritan leaning, Owen went to London and, apparently, there continued his theological studies, publishing his Display of Armianism in 1642.  Finally, he became pastor of St. Peter’s, Coggeshall, in 1646.  Owen was an especially gifted preacher, drawing large crowds of people.  In spite of his obscurity during these years, he was able to publish his masterpiece, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.  This classic of Reformed theology expounds the high Calvinistic doctrine of the atonement with both profundity and majesty.  This was only the first of many theological treatises that Owen would eventually produce.  His treatise on the Holy Spirit is also highly regarded.

From: Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church by Hughes Oliphant Old; edited by Jon D. Payne (Powder Springs: Tolle Lege Press, 2013), p. 385.

Posted by: reiterations | March 27, 2015

Knowledge and Wisdom

In the preceding discourse, I spoke of God’s knowledge.  There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.  The apostle speaks of them as different gifts of the Spirit in men: To one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.9).  Knowledge respects things considered absolutely and in themselves.  Wisdom respects things in the relation they have to one another as means and ends.  So that knowledge is the root of wisdom and wisdom is the fruit of knowledge.  Knowledge is the foundation of wisdom and wisdom is the superstructure upon knowledge.  Knowledge is only an act of the understanding, but wisdom is an act both of the understanding and of the will.  Knowledge belongs to speculation, but wisdom belongs to practice and is the splendor and luster of knowledge shining forth in our resolutions and actings.  And, as these two are different gifts and excellencies in men, so also they are distinct perfections in God, according to our manner of conceiving.  His knowledge is the simple understanding of things, but His wisdom is His skilful contriving and appointing, ordering and disposing of all things.  The apostle speaks of them as distinct perfections: O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11.33)!

From: Theologia, or, Discourses of God Delivered in 120 Sermons by William Wisheart; 2 volumes; reprint (Paisley: Robert Reid, 1787), 1:169-170.  Originally published in 1716.

William Wisheart (or Wishart) (1660-June 11, 1729) was Principal of Edinburgh University (1716-1728).

Posted by: reiterations | March 26, 2015

How is Your Heart?

What, then, is the state of your heart?  Is it supremely set on the trifles, the vanities, the pursuits of the present life?  Or is it set on “those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3.1)?  Is it the abode of unholy passions?  Or is it a temple of the Holy Ghost, filled with peace, love, and holy joy?  What is the state of your life? – James Cameron (1809-1873), Scottish Congregationalist minister

Posted by: reiterations | March 25, 2015

Close Acquaintance with God

For the pious soul has the best view of God and may almost be said to handle Him when it feels that it is quickened, enlightened, saved, justified, and sanctified by Him. – John Calvin (1509-1564), Institutes 1.13.13.

Posted by: reiterations | March 24, 2015

Losing the Message of Christianity

I’m not convinced that the church is convinced in the actual power of the Word of God to save and transform people.  They think, “If I don’t have flashy videos, I can’t see people come to Christ.”  If they really believed in the power of the Word to transform people, then they would be teaching the Bible a bit more.  The church is a bit confused about its real mission during this age.  Are we here to transform culture?  Do we have a cultural commission and a Great Commission?  That’s confused.  When the church really wants to impact culture, they minimize the real distinctives of Christianity, like propitiation and judgment.  We want to accommodate too much in order to be heard.  When we focus on just overcoming social problems, then we become more moralistic, and the message of Christianity is lost. – Robert L. Saucy (1930-2015)

(His last name is pronounced “SO-see”.)

Posted by: reiterations | March 23, 2015

Revelation in the Period of Moses

Again, the deliverance from Egypt was a signal demonstration of the sovereign grace of God.  The Egyptians were judged with respect to their idolatry and the Israelites were rescued and spared in spite of having become associated with their oppressors in idolatrous practices.  It is plain that the principle of sovereign grace alone will account for such facts.  This is called “putting a difference between Israelites and Egyptians” (Exodus 8.23; 11.7).  In harmony with this, it is repeatedly stated in the Pentateuch that the source of Israel’s privilege lies exclusively in free divine grace, not in any good qualities possessed by the people from themselves (Deuteronomy 7.7; 9.4-6).  True, God’s love for the Mosaic Israel is traced back to His love for the fathers.  This carries the relationship of free choice one step farther back but does not, in substance, alter its nature, for the fathers, too, were chosen in the sovereign love of God.  The idea of sonship, here for the first time emerging (compare Genesis 6.2), belongs to the same train of thought (Exodus 4.22; Deuteronomy 32.6).  Sonship is, from the nature of the case, unmeritorious.  We also meet, again, the peculiar affectionate use of the verb “to know” previously met with in regard to Abraham (Exodus 2.24-25).  Also, the verb “to choose” is used.  This is peculiar to Deuteronomy (7.6-7; 14.2).  Finally, the term “redemption” enters into religious use here.  It’s specific meaning (different from such general terms as “to rescue,” “to deliver”) lies precisely in this, that it describes the loving re-acquisition of something formerly possessed.  There is not yet, in the Old Testament, any reflection on that element, so easily associated with the conception, viz., that a redemption-price is paid.  Only by way of metaphor this thought emerges in an isolated instance (Isaiah 43.3).  The sense is, in the Pentateuchal passages, simply that of attachment shown in the renewal of the ancient ownership.  Hence, in the later chapters of the prophecy of Isaiah, where the background is that of deliverance from exile, the term attains to great frequency.  The passages in the Pentateuch are: Exodus 6.6; 15.13; Deuteronomy 7.8; 9.26; 13.5; 21.8.

From: Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments by Geerhardus Vos (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948), pp. 128-129.

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