Posted by: reiterations | May 23, 2015

Sin is Opposed to God’s Creation

All sin is, essentially, irrational and opposed to the whole motion of the universe and must, necessarily, be annihilated and come to nothing. – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Luke 22.53.

Posted by: reiterations | May 22, 2015

The Christian’s Hope of the Inheritance

Eternal life is set before us in the promise, the Spirit works faith in us and hope of that life, and so are we made heirs of it and have a kind of possession of it even now.  Faith and hope bring it near and fill [us] with joy in the well-grounded expectation of it.  The meanest believer is a great heir.  Though he has not his portion in hand, he has good hope through grace and may bear up under all difficulties.  There is a better state in view.  He is waiting for an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him.  How well may such [believers] comfort themselves with these words! – Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Posted by: reiterations | May 21, 2015

Say What?

The difference between the PCA and the OPC is like that between the superintendent of schools in a county outside Birmingham and a plumber who fixes toilets in the suburbs of Toledo. – D. G. Hart, post: “Al Mohler to the Rescue,” (posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2015)

Posted by: reiterations | May 20, 2015

The Importance of Maintaining the Biblical View of Man

How glorious a being was man, as thus endowed with rational faculties, robed in righteousness and true holiness, made the steward of God on earth, and vested with a regency which was limited only by his primary relations to Deity!  Surely it is not wise to set aside this biblical and confessional view of man as created and to substitute for it any of those naturalistic theories which, in order to subvert the biblical doctrine of a moral fall from this lofty primeval condition, represent man, rather, as starting from some low estate of savagery, gradually accumulating mental capacity and acquiring knowledge of himself and his earthly environment, and slowly and painfully developing, through long ages, into his present estate of comparative maturity.  To say nothing of the radical conflict between such theories and the biblical records, many considerations will arise in our further study of the moral condition and experience of mankind to show that these theories are, on both philosophic and ethical grounds, untenable.  It is sufficient here to note, first, the low estimate which is thus put upon man and his moral endowments; secondly, the evidences afforded by human history of extensive moral lapses in the career of men and races; and, thirdly, the witness of Christian experience, not to a spiritual development from antecedent germs of character but to a moral restoration or renovation such as certifies in consciousness to the dreadful reality of that antecedent moral fall which the Word of God faithfully describes.

From: Theology of the Westminster Symbols: A Commentary Historical, Doctrinal, Practical on the Confession of Faith and Catechisms and the Related Formularies of the Presbyterian Churches by Edward D. Morris (Columbus: The Champlin Press, 1900), p. 246.

Posted by: reiterations | May 19, 2015

Eulogizing Queen Victoria

And now I may turn, without passing beyond the bounds of the pulpit on such an occasion as the present, to look at the great illustration of the Christian ideal which the royal life, now closed, has given.  I venture to say that, without exaggeration and without irreverence, our Queen might have taken, for her own, the declaration of our Lord Himself on this occasion: “I am among you as one who serves.”  She served her people by the diligent discharge of the duties that were laid upon her.  During a strenuous reign of sixty-three years [1837-1901 – RZ], she left no arrears, nothing neglected, nothing postponed, nothing undone.  In sorrow, as in joy, when life was young and the love of husband and family were joys anew, as when husband and children were taken away and she was an old woman, lonelier because of her throne, she labored as “ever in the great Taskmaster’s eye.”  That was serving her nation by the will of God.  She served her people by that swift, sincere sympathy which claimed a share alike in great national and in small private sorrows.  Was there some shipwreck or some storm that widowed humble fisherfolk in their villages?  The Queen’s sympathy was the first to reach them.  Were the blinds drawn down in some colliery village because of an explosion?  The Queen’s message was there to bring a gleam of light into darkened homes.  Did some great name in literature or science pass away?  Who but she was first to recognize the loss, to speak gracious words of appreciation?  Did some poor shepherd die in the strath where she made her Highland home?  The widowed Queen was beside the widowed peasant, to share and to solace.  Knowing sorrow herself only too well, she had learned to run to the help of the wretched.  Dowered doubly with a woman’s gift of sympathy, she had not let the attitude of a throne freeze its flow.

She served her people yet more by letting them feel that she took them into her confidence, spreading before them, in the days of her widowhood, the cherished records that her happy pen had written in the vanished days of her wifehood, opening her heart to us in mute petition, that we might give our hearts to her.  She served her people by the simplicity of her tastes and habits in these days of senseless luxury and fierce, sensuous excitement of living.  She served her people by the purity of her life and, so far as she could, by putting a barrier around her court, across which nothing that was foul could pass.  “He who works iniquity shall not tarry in my house,” said an ancient king, on taking his throne.  And our Queen, to the utmost of her power, said the same and frowned down – stern, for once, in a righteous cause – impurity in high places.  Una had her lion, and this protest of a woman’s delicacy against the vices of modern society is not the least of the services for which we have to thank her.

Let me remind you that all this patient self-surrender had its roots in Christian faith.  She had taken her Lord for her example because her faith had knit her to Him as her Savior.

Therefore, she, as no other English sovereign, conquered the heart of the nation and was best loved by the best men and women.  Never was there a more striking confirmation of the truth that whoever, in any region, reigns to serve will serve to reign. – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Luke 22.25-26.

Note: Queen Victoria died on Tuesday, January 22, 1901, at the age of 81, after 63 years as Queen of England.  The earliest Lord’s Day on which this sermon could have been preached was the following Sunday, January 27, 1901.

Posted by: reiterations | May 18, 2015

The Essential Parts of Christian Public Worship – 7 of 7

Finally, in complete public worship, there should be the regular use of the two sacraments which Christ appointed in His church.  By baptism, new members should be continually added to the congregation and publicly enrolled in the list of professing Christians.  By the Lord’s Supper, believers should be continually offered an opportunity of confessing their Master, and continually strengthened and refreshed and put in remembrance of His sacrifice on the cross.  I believe, with every feeling of respect for Quakers and Plymouth Brethren, that no one who neglected these two sacraments would have been regarded as Christian by Paul and Peter, James and John.  No doubt, like every other good thing, they may be painfully misused and profaned by some and superstitiously idolized by others.  But, after all, there is no getting over the fact that baptism and the Lord’s Supper were ordained by Christ Himself as means of grace, and we cannot doubt He meant them to be reverently and duly used.  A man who preferred to worship God for many years without ever receiving the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a man, I am firmly persuaded, who would not have been thought in a right state in the days of the apostles.

From: Worship: Its Priority, Principles, and Practice by J. C. Ryle (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), pp. 21-22.  This volume is excerpted from Ryle’s Knots Untied (1877).

Posted by: reiterations | May 17, 2015

For the Lord’s Day (381)

He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.  (Psalm 126.6)

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  (Psalm 127.1)

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house.  Your children will be like olive shoots around your table.  Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.  (Psalm 128.3-4)

The Lord is righteous.  He has cut the cords of the wicked.  (Psalm 129.4)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!  (Psalm 130.1)

Posted by: reiterations | May 16, 2015

The Essential Parts of Christian Public Worship – 6 of 7

In complete public worship, there should be united public praise.  That this was the custom among the first Christians is evident from Paul’s words to the Ephesians and Colossians, in which he commanded the use of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5.19; Colossians 3.16).  That it was a custom so widely prevalent as to be a mark of the earliest Christians is simply a matter of history.  Pliny records that, when they met, they “used to sing a hymn to Christ as God.”  No one, indeed, can read the Old Testament and not discover the extremely prominent place which praise occupied in the temple service.  What man in his senses can doubt that the “service of song” was meant to be highly esteemed under the New Testament?  Praise has been truly called the flower of all devotion.  It is the only part of our worship which will never die.  Preaching and praying and reading shall, one day, be no longer needed.  But praise shall go on forever.  A congregation which takes no part in praise or leaves it all to be done by deputy through a choir can be hardly thought in a satisfactory state.

From: Worship: Its Priority, Principles, and Practice by J. C. Ryle (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), p. 21.  This booklet is excerpted from Ryle’s Knots Untied (1877).

Posted by: reiterations | May 15, 2015

The Essential Parts of Christian Public Worship – 5 of 7

In complete public worship, there should be the public reading of the Holy Scriptures.  This was, evidently, a part of the service of the Jewish synagogue, as we may learn from what happened at Nazareth and at Antioch in Pisidia (Luke 4.16; Acts 13.15).  We cannot doubt that the Christian church was intended to honor the Bible as much as the Jewish.  To my eye, Paul points to this when he says to Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to the reading” (1 Timothy 4.13).  I do not believe that “reading” in that text means “private study.”  Reason and common sense alike teach the usefulness of the practice of publicly reading the Scriptures.  A visible church will always contain many professing members who either cannot read or have no will or time to read at home.  What safer plan can be devised for the instruction of such people than the regular reading of God’s Word?  A congregation which hears but little of the Bible is always in danger of becoming entirely dependent on its minister.  God should always speak in the assembly of His people as well as man.

(There is nothing in the public worship of the Church of England which I admire so much as the large quantity of Scripture which it orders to be read aloud to its members.  Every Churchman who goes to church twice on Sunday hears two chapters of the Old Testament and two of the New besides the Psalms, the Epistle, and the Gospel.  I doubt if the members of any other church in Christendom hear anything like the same proportion of God’s Word.)

From: Worship: Its Priority, Principles, and Practice by J. C. Ryle (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), pp. 20-21.  This booklet is excerpted from Ryle’s Knots Untied (1877).

Posted by: reiterations | May 14, 2015

The Essential Parts of Christian Public Worship – 4 of 7

In complete public worship, there should be united public prayer.  I can find no account of religious assemblies in the New Testament in which prayer and supplication do not form a principle business.  I find Paul telling Timothy, “I exhort, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Timothy 1.21).  Such prayers should be plain and intelligible, that all the worshipers may know what is going on and be able to go along with him who prays.  They should, as far as possible, be the joint act of all the assembly and not the act of one man’s mind alone.  A congregation of professing Christians which only meets to hear a grand sermon and takes no part or interest in the prayers seems to me to fall far short of the standard of the New Testament.  Public worship does not consist only of hearing.

(The reader is requested to observe that I purposely abstain from saying anything about the vexed question whether public prayers in the congregation should be liturgical and pre-composed or extemporaneous.  I say nothing because nothing is said about it in Scripture.  Neither liturgies nor extemporaneous prayers are expressly sanctioned or expressly prohibited in God’s Word.  A large liberty is mercifully given to the churches.  I think the Christian (so-called) who anathematizes and abuses his brother because he uses a liturgy is an ignorant, narrow-minded bigot on one side.  I think the Christian (so-called) who anathematizes and excommunicates his brother because he does not use a liturgy is a narrow-minded, ignorant bigot on the other side.  Both are wrong.

My own mind has been long made up.  If all ministers prayed extempore always, as some ministers pray sometimes, I should be against a liturgy.  But, considering what human nature is, I decidedly think it better, both for minister and people in the regular, habitual, and stated assemblies of the church, to have a liturgy.  With all its imperfections, I am very thankful for the Book of Common Prayer.  It may have defects because it was not compiled by inspiration.  But, for all that, it is an admirable and matchless manual of public devotion.  I would not impose the use of it on a brother’s conscience for a thousand worlds.  But I claim the right to use it myself undisturbed.)

From: Worship: Its Priority, Principles, and Practice by J. C. Ryle (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), pp. 19-20.  This booklet is excerpted from Ryle’s Knots Untied (1877).

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