Posted by: reiterations | November 30, 2015

Calvin, the Killjoy?

Where is your thanksgiving if you so gorge yourself with banqueting or wine that you are rendered useless for the duties of piety? – John Calvin (1509-1564)

Posted by: reiterations | November 29, 2015

For the Lord’s Day (409)

Though you play the whore, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty.  Enter not into Gilgal nor go up to Beth-aven, and swear not, “As the Lord lives.”  Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn.  Can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture?  (Hosea 4.15-16)

Posted by: reiterations | November 28, 2015

Saturday Spurgeon (15)

What a veil is lifted up by these words and what a disclosure is made!  It will be a humbling and profitable use for us to pause awhile and see this sad sight.  The iniquities of our public worship – its hypocrisy, formality, lukewarmness, irreverence, wandering of heart and forgetfulness of God – what a full measure have we there!  Our work for the Lord – its emulation, selfishness, carelessness, slackness, unbelief – what a mass of defilement is there!  Our private devotions – the laxity, coldness, neglect, sleepiness, and vanity – what a mountain of dead earth is there!  If we looked more carefully, we should find this iniquity to be far greater than appears at first sight.  Dr. Payson, writing to his brother, says, “My parish, as well as my heart, very much resembles the garden of the sluggard.  And, what is worse, I find that very many of the desires for the melioration of both proceed either from pride or vanity or indolence.  I look at the weeds which overspread my garden and breathe out an earnest wish that they were eradicated.  But, why?  What prompts the wish?  It may be that I may walk out and say to myself, ‘In what fine order is my garden kept!’  This is pride.  Or it may be that my neighbors may look over the wall and say, ‘How finely your garden flourishes!’  This is vanity.  Or I may wish for the destruction of the weeds because I am weary of pulling them up.  This is indolence.”  So that even our desires after holiness may be polluted by ill motives.  Under the greenest sods, worms hide themselves.  We need not look long to discover them.  How cheering is the thought that, when the High Priest bore the iniquity of the holy things, he wore, upon his brow, the words, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD.”  And, even so, while Jesus bears our sin, He presents before His Father’s face not our unholiness, but His own holiness.  O, for grace to view our great High Priest by the eye of faith! – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), a meditation on Exodus 28.38.

Posted by: reiterations | November 27, 2015

On Love

The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves. . .dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes, museth on her as he sits at the table, walks with her when he travels. . .She lies in his bosom and his heart trusts in her, which forceth all to confess that the stream of his affections, like a mighty current, runs with full tide and strength. – Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)

Posted by: reiterations | November 26, 2015

The Angel’s Touch

The same heavenly agent performs the same action on Peter and on Herod.  To the one, his touch brings freedom and the dropping off of his chains.  To the other, it brings gnawing agonies and a horrible death.  These two-fold effects of one cause open out wide and solemn thoughts, on which it is well to look.

1.  The one touch has a two-fold effect.

So it is always when God’s angels come or God Himself lays His hand on men.  Every manifestation of the divine power, every revelation of the divine presence, and all our lives’ experiences, are charged with the solemn possibility of bringing us one or other of two directly opposite results.  They all offer us an alternative, a solemn either-or.

The gospel, too, comes charged with that double possibility, and is the intensest and most fateful example of the dual effect of all God’s messages and dealings.  Just as the ark maimed Dagon and decimated the Philistine cities and slew Uzzah but brought blessing and prosperity to the house of Obed-edom, just as the same pillar was light to Israel all the night long but cloud and darkness to the Egyptians, so is Christ set for the fall of some and for the rising of others amidst the many in Israel, and His gospel is either the savor of life unto life or death unto death but, in both cases is, in itself, unto God, one and the same sweet savor in Christ.

2.  These two-fold effects are parts of one plan and purpose.

Peter’s liberation and Herod’s death tended in the same direction – to strengthen and conserve the infant church and, thus, to prepare the way for the conquering march of the gospel.  And so it is in all God’s self-revelations and manifested energies, whatever may be their effects.  They come from one source and one motive, they are, fundamentally, the operations of one changeless agent and, as they are one in origin and character, so they are made one in purpose.  We are not to separate them into distinct classes and ascribe them to different elements in the divine nature, setting down this as the work of love and that as the outcome of wrath or regarding the acts of deliverance as due to one part of that great whole and the acts of destruction as due to another part of it.  The angel was the same, and his celestial fingers were moved by the same calm, celestial will when he smote Peter into liberty and life and Herod to death.

God changes His ways, but not His heart.  He changes His acts, but not His purposes.  Opposite methods conduce to one end, as winter storms and June sunshine equally tend to the yellowed harvest.

3.  The character of the effects depends on the men who are touched.

As is the man, so is the effect of the angel’s touch.  It could only bring blessing to the one who was the friend of the angel’s Lord, and it could bring only death to the other, who was His enemy.  It could do nothing to the apostle but cause his chains to drop from his wrists nor anything to the vainglorious king but to bring loathsome death.

This, too, is a universal truth.  It is we, ourselves, who settle what God’s words and acts will be to us.  The trite proverb, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” is true in the highest regions.  It is eminently, blessedly, or tragically true in our relation to the gospel, wherein God’s self-revelation reaches its climax, wherein the arm of the Lord is put forth in its most blessed energy, wherein is laid on each of us the touch, tender and more charged with blessing than that of the angel who smote the calmly sleeping apostle.  That gospel may either be to us the means of freeing us from our chains and leading us out of our prison-house into sunshine and security or to be the fatal occasion of condemnation and death.  Which it shall be depends on ourselves.  Which shall it be for myself? – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), a meditation on Acts 12.7, 23.

Posted by: reiterations | November 25, 2015

The “Theological Pedagogy” of Psalm 23

Just as Psalm 8 is an oasis amid laments that focus our attention on the glorious creation, so Psalm 23 is another oasis focusing our attention on the paths of righteousness that are the goodness and grace of God, which cannot be broken through by adversity.  This perspective casts further light on the ambiguous preposition, “neged,” of 23.5.  If the oil and the wine of the table prepared is the righteous path of life that God lays down for the sake of His name, “neged” truly means “against” the adversary of fear – that is, against the fear of losing one’s moral and spiritual grounding in the face of adversity.  This is the fear that is stilled by the care-taking shepherd.  The “sheep” lack nothing (23.1) because God supplies the need that truly enables them to dwell in His house throughout their lives.  The tracks for a morally strong life are secure.  This reading carries us back to Psalm 1, which links happiness to God’s teaching.  Considered in light of Psalm 23, that happiness is the freedom from the fear that one might become one of the evil ones whose deeds and malevolent aspirations haunt the lament psalms.

From: Psalms 1-50: Sighs and Songs of Israel by Ellen T. Charry; Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2015), pp. 120-121.

Posted by: reiterations | November 24, 2015

Where to Buy a Book

Anyone wanting to buy a book from a bookseller, rather than an occasional seller who, by definition, sold books when it suited the vendor rather than the consumer, had to know where to go to find them.  Outside London this was, perhaps, not particularly difficult.  Although there was marked growth over the period, even at the beginning of the seventeenth century most provincial centers had at least one bookshop.  These would be well known, with some located next to the churches and cathedrals whose clergy were regular customers.  Others were simply part of a shop which sold other things, notably grocers’.  Some of these shops, like the Foster bookshop in York, were considerable operations, but many more were smaller makeshift outlets.  That smaller urban centers had fewer bookshops, often just one, means that a bookseller ran considerable risks in supply illicit books.  But some clearly did, and sometimes in support of the puritan cause.  Thomas Smith, a Manchester stationer, was an active proponent of puritanism in the 1630s.  He was charged with attending conventicles and was known as “a hot zealot or a strict nonconformist,” and he used his shop to sell to the Manchester godly “divers Scottish and other schismatical books, containing in them…bitter invectives and railings against the government and discipline of the Church of England.”

From: Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript, and Puritanism in England, 1580-1720 by Andrew Camber; Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 193.

Posted by: reiterations | November 23, 2015

On Church Divisions

Sometimes division, though not desirable, is inescapable – the best thing the situation admits of.  Still, it is always a sad thing when the situation arises which makes it the best thing to do.

First, there are divisions about beliefs and doctrine.  In the New Testament, you have divisions whereby the authentic church differentiates itself from what is, really, the non-church (as in 1 John 2.18-19) where, previously, the two were confused.  This sort of division, which identifies the body rather than divides it, can clear the air in a helpful way.  Second, there are occasions when the faithful church withdraws from the scandalous church.  The historical sixteenth-century Reformation was one such case.  Third, there are divisions when a forthright church (or a forthright group of Christians) withdraws from a fuzzy church, where faithful believers have tried, but failed, to maintain a clear witness of God’s grace, according to the Scriptures.  It may be a matter of withdrawing from a particular denomination or withdrawing from a local congregation.  Fourth, there are divisions over church order.  Incompatible views about how the church should order its life have broken surface and particular groups have had to go their own separate ways.  Fifth, there are divisions for non-theological reasons – for example, over people’s race, class, age, or style.

We must reject, however, divisions over such non-theological factors as the personalities of leaders, like the division described in 1 Corinthians 1.  We must reject that sort of division because, Paul says, it is wrong.  To be sure, we have our favorite preachers, but that is no reason for dividing the local congregation.  Do not divide the body over that!  It would be Spirit-quenching, very much the devil’s work, and very dishonoring to the Savior to be part of a division over preachers. – J. I. Packer (born in 1926), from Serving the People of God (2008)

Posted by: reiterations | November 22, 2015

For the Lord’s Day (408)

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  You heard Me say to you, “I am going away, and I will come to you.”  If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  And now, I have told you before it takes place so that, when it does take place, you may believe.  I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.  He has no claim on Me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.  Rise, let us go from here.  (John 14.25-31)

Posted by: reiterations | November 21, 2015

Saturday Spurgeon (14)

Soul!  Christ is near to you in ties of relationship.  Christ is dear to you in bonds of marriage union, and you are dear to Him.  Behold, He grasps both of your hands with both His own and says, “My sister, My spouse.”  Mark the two sacred holdfasts by which your Lord gets such a double hold of you that He neither can nor will ever let you go.  Be not, O beloved, slow to return the hallowed flame of His love. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), from a meditation on Song of Solomon 4.12.

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