Reading Machen (1 of 5)

All of the quotations for the next five days will come from this book: What is Faith? by J. Gresham Machen (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1925).

Certainly, we are not discouraging originality.  On the contrary, we desire to encourage it in every possible way, and we believe that the encouragement of it will be of immense benefit to the spread of the Christian religion.  The trouble with the university students of the present day, from the point of view of evangelical Christianity, is not that they are too original, but that they are not half original enough.  They go on in the same routine way, following their leaders like a flock of sheep, repeating the same stock phrases with little knowledge of what they mean, swallowing whole whatever professors choose to give them – and all the time imagining that they are bold, bad, independent young men merely because they abuse what everybody else is abusing, namely, the religion that is founded upon Christ.  It is popular today to abuse that unpopular thing that is known as supernatural Christianity, but original it certainly is not.  A true originality might bring some resistance to the current of the age, some willingness to be unpopular, and some independent scrutiny, at least, if not acceptance, of the claims of Christ.  If there is one thing more than another which we believers in historic Christianity ought to encourage in the youth of our day, it is independence of mind.  (Machen, p. 17)

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On the Lord’s Prayer

Q. 194.  What do we pray for in the fifth petition?

A.  In the fifth petition (which is: forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), acknowledging that we, and all others, are guilty both of original and actual sin and, thereby, become debtors to the justice of God, and that neither we nor any other creature can make the least satisfaction for that debt, we pray for ourselves and others that God, of His free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in His Beloved, continue His favor and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us, daily, more and more assurance of forgiveness – which we are the rather emboldened to ask and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves that we, from the heart, forgive others their offences. – from the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647).

Matthew Henry (38)

The consideration of God’s almighty power and sovereign dominion should both engage and encourage sinners to repent and turn to Him.  It is very desirable to have the Lord of Hosts our friend and very dreadful to have Him our enemy. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on Zechariah 1.1-6.

On Staying God-Focused

Saints know that a grain of heart’s-ease is of more value than a ton of gold.  He who wraps a threadbare coat about a good conscience has gained a spiritual wealth far more desirable than any he has lost.  God’s smile and a dungeon are enough for a true heart.  His frown and a palace would be hell to a gracious spirit. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), commenting on 2 Chronicles 25.9, from Morning and Evening for November 30 (morning).

“The Chief Point of Faith”

This, indeed, is the chief point of faith, that the Word of God is not only distinguished for fidelity and steadfastness for a time, but that it continues unchangeable forever.  Were it otherwise, it could not include within it the hope of eternal salvation.  That the assurance of this immutability of God’s Word may be rooted in our minds, the inward revelation of the Holy Spirit is, indeed, necessary for, until God seals within us the certainty of His Word, our belief in its certainty will be continually wavering.  Yet, the psalmist, not without cause, affirms that he learned this truth from the Word for, when God shines into us by His Spirit, He, at the same time, causes that sacred truth which endures forever to shine forth in the mirror of His Word. – John Calvin (1509-1564), commenting on Psalm 119.152.

The Friendship: Luther and Spalatin

Spalatin seems to have had a sure touch for negotiation and maneuver, a grasp of the possible, and a sense of realism that Luther lacked.  Like Luther, he was educated in Greek as well as Latin, and he became part of the humanist circles around Conrad Mutian and Nikolaus Marschalk at the University of Erfurt.  He did not possess Luther’s abrasive self-confidence and was a poor speaker.  But the two men formed a hugely creative partnership.  Spalatin bought books for the university library and supported university reforms that brought in biblical studies and those of the church fathers.  Together, they made a series of brilliant appointments, of whom Melanchthon was the star.  Repeatedly, Luther would recommend people to Spalatin, asking for small favors or pensions from Friedrich or seeking posts for them.  Spalatin worked tirelessly in the service of the Elector, often late into the night; he nevertheless found time to translate Luther’s Latin works into German, and did so with a fine musical sense.

We have just Luther’s side of the friendship because it is only his letters that have survived – carefully cataloged and reverentially annotated, often in Greek, by Spalatin.  As the sheer number of Luther’s letters indicates – more than four hundred – this was, perhaps, the central relationship in his life between 1518 and 1525.  He wrote more letters to Spalatin than to anyone else, even though they saw each other regularly.  To start with, their correspondence opened with the elaborate formulae of affection and regard that were the staple of humanist epistolary rhetoric but, increasingly, Luther’s letters became less carefully written and dispensed with flattery, coming straight to the point.  Spalatin became the sounding board for some of Luther’s most radical ideas; it was Spalatin, and then Johannes Lang, whom he first told, in 1519, about his growing conviction that the Pope was the Antichrist, “or at least his apostle.”  Perhaps he preferred to try out his new theological insights with Spalatin because he was not a theologian; his letters to Lang and  Wenzeslaus Linck, his brothers in the order, were often more defensive and less exploratory.  He also knew when to circumvent him.  As we have seen, at Leipzig he refrained from consulting Spalatin, pretending that he had not known where to find him; and, at Augsburg, too, he had avoided asking his advice, even though it was Spalatin who had set up the meeting with Cajetan in the hope of reaching a compromise.  In the months leading up to Worms, Luther wrote to Spalatin several times a week, sometimes even daily.

From: Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper (New York: Random House, 2016), pp. 162-164.

On the Effects of Rejoicing on Christians

Let us, therefore, bear in mind that this is a special remedy for correcting our impatience – to turn away our eyes from beholding present evils that torment us and to direct our views to a consideration of a different nature – how God stands affected towards us in Christ. – John Calvin (1509-1564), commenting on 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18.

Spurgeon on Election

There is no more humbling doctrine in Scripture than that of election, none more promotive of gratitude and, consequently, none more sanctifying.  Believers should not be afraid of it, but adoringly rejoice in it. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), excerpted from  Morning and Evening for November 25th (evening) commenting on Romans 9.15.

Matthew Henry (37)

Princes sign their edicts, grants, and commissions with their signet rings (Esther 3.10).  Our Lord Jesus is the signet on God’s right hand, for all power is given to Him and derived from Him.  By Him, the great charter of the gospel is signed and ratified, and it is in Him that all the promises of God are “Yea” and “Amen.” – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on Haggai 2.20-23.