Posted by: reiterations | October 9, 2015

No Room for Despair

Yet, there is, in the Christian life, no room for despair.  Only, our hopefulness should not be founded on the sand.  It should be founded, not upon a blind ignorance of the danger, but solely upon the precious promises of God.  Laymen, as well as ministers, should return, in these trying days, to the study of the Word of God.

If the Word of God be heeded, the Christian battle will be fought both with love and with faithfulness.  Party passions and personal animosities will be put away but, on the other hand, even angels from heaven will be rejected if they preach a gospel different from the blessed gospel of the cross.  Every man must decide upon which side he will stand.  God grant that we may decide aright!

What the immediate future may bring we cannot presume to say.  The final result, indeed, is clear.  God has not deserted His church.  He has brought her through even darker hours than those which try our courage now, yet the darkest hour has always come before the dawn.  We have, today, the entrance of paganism into the church in the name of Christianity.  But, in the second century, a similar battle was fought and won.  From another point of view, modern liberalism is like the legalism of the middle ages, with its dependence upon the merit of man.  And another Reformation, in God’s good time, will come.

From: Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (New York: Macmillan, 1923), p. 178.

Posted by: reiterations | October 8, 2015

On the Fundamental Requirement of Being Convicted of Sin

But, the acceptance of the supernatural depends upon a conviction of the reality of sin.  Without the conviction of sin, there can be no appreciation of the uniqueness of Jesus.  It is only when we contrast our sinfulness with His holiness that we appreciate the gulf which separates Him from the rest of the children of men.  And, without the conviction of sin, there can be no understanding of the occasion for the supernatural act of God.  Without the conviction of sin, the good news of redemption seems to be an idle tale.  So fundamental is the conviction of sin in the Christian faith that it will not do to arrive at it merely by a process of reasoning.  It will not do to say merely, “All men (as I have been told) are sinners.  I am a man.  Therefore, I suppose I must be a sinner, too.”  That is all the supposed conviction of sin amounts to, sometimes.

But, the true conviction is far more immediate than that.  It depends, indeed, upon information that comes from without.  It depends upon the revelation of the law of God.  It depends upon the awful verities set forth in the Bible as to the universal sinfulness of mankind.  But, it adds to the revelation that has come from without a conviction of the whole mind and heart, a profound understanding of one’s own lost condition, an illumination of the deadened conscience, which causes a Copernican revolution in one’s attitude toward the world and toward God.  When a man has passed through that experience, he wonders at his former blindness.  And, especially does he wonder at his former attitude toward the miracles of the New Testament and toward the supernatural Person who is there revealed.  The truly penitent man glories in the supernatural, for he knows that nothing natural would meet his need.  The world has been shaken once in his downfall, and shaken again it must be if he is to be saved.

From: Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (New York: Macmillan, 1923), pp. 105-106.

Posted by: reiterations | October 7, 2015

On Convincing People That They Are Sinners

But, if the consciousness of sin is to be produced, the law of God must be proclaimed in the lives of Christian people, as well as in word.  It is quite useless for the preacher to breathe out fire and brimstone from the pulpit if, at the same time, the occupants of the pews go on taking sin very lightly and being content with the moral standards of the world.  The rank and file of the church must do their part in so proclaiming the law of God by their lives that the secrets of men’s hearts shall be revealed.

All these things, however, are, in themselves, quite insufficient to produce the consciousness of sin.  The more one observes the condition of the church, the more one feels obliged to confess that the conviction of sin is a great mystery which can be produced only by the Spirit of God.  Proclamation of the law, in word and in deed, can prepare for the experience, but the experience itself comes from God.  When a man has that experience, when a man comes under the conviction of sin, his whole attitude toward life is transformed.  He wonders at his former blindness, and the message of the gospel, which, formerly, seemed to be an idle tale becomes, now, instinct with light.  But, it is God, alone, who can produce the change.

Only, let us not try to do without the Spirit of God.  The fundamental fault of the modern church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task – she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance.  Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the church without requiring them to relinquish their pride.  They are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin.  The preacher gets up into the pulpit, opens the Bible, and addresses the congregation somewhat as follows: “You people are very good,” he says.  “You respond to every appeal that looks toward the welfare of the community.  Now, we have, in the Bible – especially in the life of Jesus – something so good that we believe it is good enough even for you good people.”  Such is modern preaching.  It is heard every Sunday in thousands of pulpits.  But, it is entirely futile.  Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance and, probably, we shall be no more successful than He.

From: Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (New York: Macmillan, 1923), pp. 67-68.

Posted by: reiterations | October 6, 2015

“The Hallowed Heart”

They went out to do their work, and to them was fulfilled the old saying: “I, being in the way, the Lord met me.”  Jesus Christ will come to you and me in the street if we carry the waiting heart there, and in the shop and the factory and the counting-house and the kitchen and the nursery and the study, or wherever we may be.  For all things are sacred when done with a hallowed heart, and He chooses to make Himself known to us amidst the dusty commonplaces of daily life. – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on John 21.2.

Posted by: reiterations | October 5, 2015

On Balancing Doctrine and Practice

Human nature is like a drunken peasant: if you put him up on the horse on the one side, he is sure to tumble down on the other. – Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Posted by: reiterations | October 4, 2015

For the Lord’s Day (401)

Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.  (Malachi 4.5-6)

Posted by: reiterations | October 3, 2015

Saturday Spurgeon (7)

Seek to lie very low and know more of your own nothingness.  As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward – having nearer approaches to God in prayer and more intimate fellowship with Jesus.  May God the Holy Spirit enable you to “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.”  He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus refuses to be blessed. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), from a meditation on 2 Peter 3.18.

Posted by: reiterations | October 2, 2015

On Calvin’s Working Methods

Calvinism must be understood as a way of thinking before it can be effectively estimated as a set of beliefs.  Calvin, who did not distinguish the theologian’s task from the preacher’s, composed his Institutio in the same way that he prepared his sermons – namely, by disciplining himself to echo and apply what he found taught in the inspired Scriptures and to exclude all lines of thought which, however attractive otherwise, lacked biblical sanction.  To him, the doctrina of the Bible was the self-testimony of God, the Word of the Creator delineating Himself to sinful men as their Redeemer through Jesus Christ and teaching them how to acknowledge and serve Him in His dual capacity.  The Institutio, which sets out and safeguards this knowledge should, accordingly, be read as a vast expository sermon with the whole Bible as its text, a systematic confession of divine mysteries learned from God’s own mouth. – J. I. Packer (born in 1926), from his article, “Calvin the Theologian,” originally published in 1963.

Posted by: reiterations | October 1, 2015

God’s Expression of Love

I don’t know, for certain, why God should choose to share the making of decisions and the implementing of them with other heavenly beings, as I don’t know why God chooses to use human beings in fulfilling His purpose rather than doing everything Himself, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it arises out of a delight in sharing responsibility rather than insisting that one does everything oneself.  In other words, it’s an expression of love.  I guess also that, in a paradoxical way, the awareness that God involves subordinate heavenly beings as God’s agents heightens the sense that God is the real King.  A king does not do everything himself.  The idea that God shares responsibility and rule in this way also has significant explanatory power, like the awareness that God shares authority with human beings.  Both heavenly and earthly beings have the capacity to ignore the directions God gives them for the exercise of their power, and that offers part of the explanation of why things go so wrong – in heaven, evidently, and not just on earth.

From: Job for Everyone by John Goldingay; Old Testament for Everyone series (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), pp. 11-12.  Comment on Job 1.6-12.

Posted by: reiterations | September 30, 2015

On Neglecting the Lord’s Day

It is but a few steps from “no Sabbath” to “no God.” – J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

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