Posted by: reiterations | March 4, 2015

Guarding the Gospel

So, when we see these things, be sure that the Holy Spirit has rightly made provision for such ills and has supplied us with a remedy so that each of us may, quietly and in all humility, obey God’s word.  And, when we see dissenters and scoffers rise up, intent on needling and tormenting us, let us shun them as we would the plague, and let that be an end to it.  If we want God to help us retain possession of the treasure of His gospel, let us, for our part, not side with those who wish to see everything undone, Christ’s flock scattered, and God’s house destroyed.  Lastly, because people today are as much consumed by stupid curiosity as they ever were, let us be careful to recall what Paul teaches us here: when we read God’s word and when we come to church, may our sole aim be to be taught sound doctrine – doctrine, that is, which advances our salvation so that we may continually grow in the faith of our Lord Jesus, being certain of the salvation which He has won for us and trusting in the grace which He has brought us. – John Calvin (1509-1564), from a sermon on Titus 1.1-4 (translated from the French by Robert White).

Posted by: reiterations | March 3, 2015

God Sent the Gospel

God’s intention in sending us His gospel was to draw us out of the world and to point us to Himself so that we might await, with confidence, the inheritance of everlasting life so dearly purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ.  To attain it, let us walk, in all purity, in the fear of God. . .In sending us His gospel, God sought nothing less than our salvation, which is the supreme happiness and the most perfect of blessings.  May we, therefore, be more willing to obey it and to take our places in Christ’s flock so that He may be our shepherd and our guide. – John Calvin (1509-1564), from a sermon on Titus 1.1-4 (translated from the French by Robert White)

Posted by: reiterations | March 2, 2015

Charles Spurgeon on Buying Books

If a man can purchase but very few books, my first advice to him would be, let him purchase the very best.  If he cannot spend much, let him spend well.  The best will always be the cheapest.  Leave mere dilutions and attenuations to those who can afford such luxuries.  Do not buy milk and water, but get condensed milk, and put what water you like to it yourself.  This age is full of word-spinners – professional book-makers who hammer a grain of matter so thin that it will cover a five-acre sheet of paper.  These men have their uses, as gold-beaters have, but they are of no use to you. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), from Lectures to My Students (1881).

Posted by: reiterations | March 1, 2015

For the Lord’s Day (370)

Now, if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead?  But, if there is no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And, if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified, about God, that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For, if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then, those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If, in Christ, we have hope in this life only, we are, of all people, most to be pitied.

But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as, by a man, came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For, as in Adam all die, so also, in Christ, shall all be made alive.  But, each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits, then, at His coming, those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  For “God has put all things in subjection under His feet” (Psalm 8.6).  But, when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that He is excepted who put all things in subjection under Him.  When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things under subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?  Why are we in danger every hour?  I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!  What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?  If the dead are not raised, “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah 22.13).  Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”  Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning.  For some have no knowledge of God.  I say this to your shame.  (1 Corinthians 15.12-34)

Posted by: reiterations | February 28, 2015

On Richard Sibbes’ Preaching

Sibbe’s style of expressing his theology – his preaching and the theology itself – are typical of the period.  His sermons are a paradigm of the practical divinity that so distinguished the English church at the time.  Even during his life, Sibbes was recognized as an eminent practical preacher.  In 1634, Samuel Hartlib referred to Sibbes as “one of the most experimental [that is, experiential – RZ] divines now living.”  Rarely polemical (with the exception of occasional attacks on Roman Pelagianism), his preaching was distinguished by its pacific tone, more concerned with comfort than controversy.  In the epistle “To the Reader” prefacing Sibbes’s The Glorious Feast of the Gospel, Arthur Jackson, James Nalton, and William Taylor wrote:

Alas!  Christians have lost much of their communion with Christ and His saints – the heaven upon earth – whilst they have wofully disputed away and dispirited the life of religion and the power of godliness into dry and sapless controversies about government of church and state.  To recover, therefore, thy spiritual relish of savory practical truths, these sermons of that excellent man of God, of precious memory, are published.

Later historians have realized Sibbes’s ability as a preacher.  William Haller has described Sibbes’s sermons as “among the most brilliant and popular of all the utterances of the Puritan church militant.”  Norman Pettit suggested that Sibbes had “the richest imagination of all.  Indeed, Sibbes was unique among spiritual preachers, perhaps the most original of his time.”  Yet, if his ability and success were singular, his theology and aims were not.

From: Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England by Mark Dever (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2000), pp. 1-2.

Mark Dever is Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

Posted by: reiterations | February 27, 2015

Charles Spurgeon on Books

Congregations must be the better for their ministers having a fresh store of mental food. . .for, if preachers are supplied with sound literature, which they value, their ministries must be influenced for good. – Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), from The Sword and the Trowel magazine (1880)

Posted by: reiterations | February 26, 2015

A Book Recommendation

The best introduction to the spirit of St. Thomas is, to my mind, the small book by G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas.  This is not a scholarly work, in the proper sense of the word.  It might be called journalistic – for which reason I am somewhat chary about recommending it.  Maisie Ward, co-owner of the British-American publishing firm which publishes the book, writes, in her biography of Chesterton that, at the time her house published it, she was seized by a slight anxiety.  However, she goes on to say, Etienne Gilson read it, and commented: “Chesterton makes one despair.  I have been studying St. Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a book.”  Still troubled by the ambiguity of this comment, Maisie Ward asked Gilson, once more, for his verdict on the Chesterton book.  This time, he expressed himself in unmistakable terms: “I consider it as being, without possible comparison, the best book ever written on St. Thomas. . .Everybody will, no doubt, admit that it’s a ‘clever’ book, but the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years studying St. Thomas Aquinas and who, perhaps, have themselves published two or three volumes on the subject, cannot fail to perceive that the so-called ‘wit’ of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame. . .He has said all that which they were more or less clumsily attempting to express in academic formulas.”

From: Guide to Thomas Aquinas by Josef Pieper; translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston; reprint (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987), pp. 7-8.  The English translation was originally published in 1962 by Pantheon Books.

Posted by: reiterations | February 25, 2015

The Messiah

If Messiah had been a sinless and perfect man, and no more, He might have yielded a complete obedience to the will of God, but it could have been only for Himself.  The most excellent and exalted creature cannot exceed the law of his creation.  As a creature, he is bound to serve God with his all, and his obligations will always be equal to his ability.  But an obedience acceptable and available for others, for thousands and millions, for all who are willing to plead it, must be connected with a nature which is not thus necessarily bound.  A sinner, truly convinced of his obnoxiousness, to the displeasure of God, must sink into despair, notwithstanding the intimation of a Savior, if he were not assured by the Scripture that it was a divine person in the human nature who engaged for us.  It is this, alone, which affords a solid ground for hope, to know that He who was before all, by whom all things were made and by whom they consist, assumed the nature of man, that the great lawgiver Himself submitted to be under His own law.  This wonderful condescension gave an immense value and dignity to all that He did, to all that He suffered.  Thus, He not only satisfied but honored the law.  So that we may, without hesitation, affirm that the law of God was more honored by the Messiah, in His obedience to it, during the few years of His residence upon earth, and terminated by His last and highest acts of obedience in submitting to the death of the cross than it could have been by the un-sinning obedience of all mankind to the end of time.

From: Messiah: Fifty Expository Discourses on the Series of Scriptural Passages Which Form the Subject of the Celebrated Oratorio of Handel, Preached in the Years 1784 and 1785 in the Parish Church of St. Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street by John Newton (New Haven: Nathan Whiting, 1826), pp. 63-64.  This extract is from sermon no. 5, on Isaiah 7.14.  The volume this extract is from comprises Volume 3 of The Works of the Rev. John Newton.

Posted by: reiterations | February 24, 2015

Spurgeon and the Puritans

In all his exuberance for the Puritans, however, Spurgeon was not ill-informed on the mistakes of church-state relationships in their manner of putting down heresy.  Speaking of his detestation of Puseyism – that is, Anglican high-church sacramentalism consistent with Roman Catholicism – Spurgeon called for the “God of Gideon to be with the few whom He may make worthy to smite the great host who have covered the land!”  He is quick to add, however, that “the Puritans erred in using carnal weapons and, hence, their victory was short-lived.”  That interpretation of Puritan greatness and weakness persisted throughout Spurgeon’s years.  Speaking to his College Conference in 1886, he said, “Our Puritan forefathers raised their walls and laid their stones in fair colors, building well the city of God.”  Then came Oliver Cromwell, the “greatest of heroes” who handled the sword of steel as few have ever done.  The carnal weapon, however, “agreed not with the temple of the Lord.”  The Lord seemed to say to him, as to David, “Thou hast been a man of blood and, therefore, thou shalt not build the house of the Lord.”  On that error, Puritanism faltered, and “all its exceeding stateliness of holiness, because its sons saw not that the kingdom of the Lord is not of church and state, not of the law of nations, but purely of the Spirit of the Lord.”

From: Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Tom Nettles (Fearn: Mentor, 2013), p. 25.

Posted by: reiterations | February 23, 2015

The Little Things

It seems, to us, that our Lord gave more prominence to cups of cold water, and garments made for the poor, and caring for little ones, than most people do nowadays.  We would encourage our friends to attend to those humble, unobtrusive ministries which are seldom chronicled and, yet, are essential to the success of the more manifest moral and spiritual work. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), in The Sword and the Trowel (August, 1883), p. 425.

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