For the Lord’s Day (476)

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra.  A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.  He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.  Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.  As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.  So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.  (Acts 16.1-5)

The Proud Unbeliever

Proud men never love gracious men and, as they fear them, they veil their fear under a pretended contempt.  In this case, their hatred revealed itself in ridicule, and that ridicule was loud and long.  When they wanted sport, they made sport of the psalmist because he was God’s servant.  Men must have strange eyes to be able to see farce in faith and comedy in holiness.  Yet, it is sadly the case that men who are short of wit can generally provoke a broad grin by jesting at a saint.  Conceited sinners make footballs of godly men.  They call it roaring fun to caricature a faithful member of “The Holy Club.”  His methods of careful living are the material for their jokes about “the Methodist,” and his hatred of sin sets their tongues a-wagging at long-faced Puritanism and strait-laced hypocrisy.

If the psalmist was greatly derided, we may not expect to escape the scorn of the ungodly.  There are hosts of proud men, still, upon the face of the earth and, if they find a believer in affliction, they will be mean enough and cruel enough to make jests at his expense.  It is the nature of the son of the bondwoman to mock the child of the promise. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), commenting on Psalm 119.51.

Heart-Attitude Matters Most

Whether giving or praying, the great thing to be kept in mind is that we have to do with a heart-searching and all-knowing God.  Everything like formality, affectation, or mere bodily service is abominable and worthless in God’s sight.  He takes no account of the quantity of money we give or the quantity of words that we use.  The one thing at which His all-seeing eye looks is the nature of our motives and the state of our hearts.

Here lies a rock on which many are continually making shipwreck.  They flatter themselves that all must be right with their souls if they fulfill a certain number of religious duties.  They forget that God does not regard the quantity but the quality of our service. – J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), commenting on Matthew 6.1-8.

On the Ministry

Returning to the study of the actual ministry, as seen in the New Testament and the Prayer Book, it is essentially pastoral, never mediatorial, but always concerned with the work of preaching, teaching, and guiding the flock.  The minister is a prophet from God to the people, and not a sacrificing or mediating priest, either in the old Jewish or in the medieval meaning of the term.  Such being the case, the ministry must never be considered apart from the church as a whole.  While there is a general service of the entire church, there is also a specific ministry for the purpose of order and progress but, in all this, the minister is a medium, not a mediator; a mouthpiece, not a substitute; a leader, not a director.  The idea of the church always determines the form of the ministry, for the church, as a whole, was prior to the ministry, and the minister was intended to serve the entire community.  We must, therefore, take the greatest possible care not to exalt the ministry above the community, for no ministry can fulfill its mission if it claims to control the church.  The New Testament exalts the Body of Christ, and no trace can be found of any direct divine determination of the precise development of the ministry.  Any isolation of the ministry, of whatever Order, is spiritually harmful as tending to make them unrepresentative of the church.  The ministry only exercises its functions in connection with the church.

From: The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles by W. H. Griffith Thomas (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1930), p. 321.

Faith is “Incomparably the Greatest Work”

We know what faith is, and how to judge of it, from the manner of the Spirit’s working it in the soul.  It is incomparably the greatest work that passeth upon the soul from the Spirit of Christ; it is called “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe” (Ephesians 1.19).  Oh, observe with what a heap of expressions the Spirit of God loads our weak understandings, that, laboring under the weight of them, and finding the difficulty of reaching the significancy of them, we might be the more widened to conceive of that power which can never be fully understood by us – being, indeed, infinite, and so too big to be enclosed within the narrow walls of our understandings. . .What angel in heaven can tell us what all these amount to? – William Gurnall (1616-1679) in The Christian in Complete Armour

On Moral Instruction

Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities.  It is quacks and cranks who do that.  As Dr. Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”  The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see. – C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

For the Lord’s Day (475)

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory!  Amen and Amen!  (Psalm 72.18-19)

On the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy of the 1920s

We must not judge the original fundamentalists too harshly.  Their resources of scholarship were certainly limited, but their desire to defend the evangelical faith against a militant and aggressive liberalism was equally certainly right.  It was better to fight clumsily than not to fight at all.  However, there is no doubt that their evangelicalism was narrowed and impoverished by their controversial entanglements.  Their fundamentalism was evangelicalism of a kind, but of a somewhat starved and stunted kind – shriveled, coarsened and, in part, deformed under the strain of battle.  To be true to its own nature as evangelicalism, this fundamentalist tradition needs to be broadened, reformed, and refined by the Word of God which it defends.  It is the distinctive mark of evangelicalism to keep itself loyal to Christ by constantly measuring, correcting, and developing its faith and life by the standard of the Word of God.  And evangelicalism, at its best, has shown itself to be a much richer thing than this fundamentalism which we have been describing: intellectually virile, church-centered in its outlook, vigorous in social and political enterprise, and a cultural force of great power.  The careers and achievements of such men as John Calvin, John Owen, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Abraham Kuyper reflect something of the breadth of evangelicalism when it is true to itself.

From: “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Principles by J. I. Packer (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1958), pp. 33-34.