Lancelot Andrewes: The Grace of Christ “clearly enough and more than enough”

27 03 2012

Rarely have I come across an account of the Gospel as beautiful as this.  Simply breathtaking…

And by justice sin must have death,- death, our death, for the sin was ours.  But if we had died to sin, we had perished in sin; perished here, and perished everlastingly.  That His love to us could not endure, that we should so perish.  Therefore, as in justice He justly might, He took upon Him our debt of sin, and said, as the Fathers apply that speech of His, Sinite abide hos, “Let these go their ways” (Joh 18.8).  And so that we might not die to sin He did.  We see why he died once.

Why but once?  because once was enough, ad auferenda , saith St. John; ad abolenda, saith St. Peter; ad exhaurienda, saith St. Paul; ‘to take away, to abolish, to draw dry,’ and utterly to exhaust all the sins, of all the sinners, of all the world.  The excellency of His Person that performed it was such; the excellence of the obedience that He performed, such; the excellency of His humility and charity wherewith He performed it, such; and of such value every of them, and all of them much more; as made that His once dying was satis superque, ‘enough, and enough again;’ which mae the Prophet call it copiosam redemptionem, “a plenteous redemption” (Ps 130.7).  But the Apostle, he goeth beyond all in expressing this; in one place terming it huperballon, in another huperekperisseuon, in another pleonazon,- mercy, rich, exceeding; grace over-abounding, nay, grace superfluous, for so is pleonazon, and superfluous is enough and to spare; superfluous is clearly enough and more than enough.  Once dying then being more than enough, no reason He should die more than once.  That of His death.

Lancelot Andrews, “A Sermon Preached Before the King’s Majesty at Whitehall, on the Sixth of April MDCVI, Being Easter Day on Romans vi 9-11”

Thomas Watson: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?

22 03 2012

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!  That’s the way that trite saying goes.  Well, first, we don’t make lemonade God does.  Second, he doesn’t make it out of lemons he makes it out of poison!  He takes our sin, shame, guilt, suffering, pain etc. and uses them for good.  He takes poison and makes medicine.  Thomas Watson, in the excerpt below, says far more eloquently than I ever could that God takes all things and works them to  the good of those who love him.  In fact, Mr. Watson actually wrote a book called All Things for Good.  Below is just a taste of the sweet things to be found in that remarkable book by Watson.

This expression ‘work together’ refers to medicine. Several poisonous ingredients put together, being tempered by the skill of the apothecary, make a sovereign medicine, and work together for the good of the patient. So all God’s providences being divinely tempered and sanctified, work together for the best to the saints. He who loves God and is called according to His purpose, may rest assured that every thing in the world shall be for his good. This is a Christian’s cordial, which may warm him – make him like Jonathan who, when he had tasted the honey at the end of the rod, ‘his eyes were enlightened’(1 Samuel 14:27). Why should a Christian destroy himself? Why should he kill himself with care, when all things shall sweetly concur, yea, conspire for his good? The result of the text is this. ALL THE VARIOUS DEALINGS OF GOD WITH HIS CHILDREN DO BY A SPECIAL PROVIDENCE TURN TO THEIR GOOD. ‘All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant’ (Psalm 25:10). If every path has mercy in it, then it works for good.

Thomas Watson, All Things For Good (Puritan Paperbacks) pg 11

Thomas Watson: A Scrapbook of God’s Grace

21 03 2012

Below an excerpt from Thomas Watson’s powerful The Great Gain of Godliness.  Following a section where Watson has encouraged us to remember our sins, that we might know the magnitude of God’s mercy, here he encourages us to keep a book of remembrance, or as I have called it above “a scrapbook” of God’s grace.  How different would our Christian discipleship look if we trained people to  focus on God’s goodness towards them as opposed to their goodness towards him?

If God records our services, then let us record his mercies; let us have our book of remembrances.  A Christian should keep two books always beside him; one to write his sins in, that he may be humble; the other to write God’s mercies in, that he may be thankful.  David had his book of remembrance: ‘He appointed certain Levites…to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel’ (1 Chron 16.4).  We should keep a book to record God’s mercies- though I think it will be hard to get a book big enough to hold them.  At such and such a time we were straitened circumstances, and God supplied us; at another time under sadness of spirit, and God dropped in the oil of gladness; at another near death, and God miraculously restored us.  If God be mindful of what we do for him, shall not we be mindful of what he does for us?  God’s mercies, like jewels, are too good to be lost:  get a book of remembrance.

-Thomas Watson, The Great Gain of Godliness pg 108 (Banner of Truth Trust: 2008)

Martin Luther: The “dear sun” of Jesus Christ

18 03 2012

When the dear sun rises in the heavens, all other fires, lights, and stars are obscured by its brightness, and we take no notice of them.  Similarly, whenever Christ shines through the message of the Holy Spirit and it becomes known that we have God’s grace and eternal life through Him, then all subsidiary lights that try to point the way to salvation in our night and our darkness must go out of their own accord.

–Luther, Vol 24 pg 371-371

Rob Sturdy: Being Nice to People and Avoiding Hell

15 03 2012

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

(Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

The above parable, from Luke’s Gospel is challenging and unsettling for a variety of reasons.  In terms of the human element, the rich man himself is unsettling.  He “feasted sumptuously every day,” all the while a poor man named Lazarus suffered under horrific conditions, seemingly unaided by the rich man who could only (maybe not even?) spare scraps from his table.  Even worse, Lazarus, covered in sores is licked by dogs, apparently to feeble to shoo them off.  Of course the rich man winds up in Hell.  What else would we expect!  And yet, this in and of itself is quite unsettling.  Though it is in vogue to fashion one’s self as part of the “99%,” the reality is that being a college educated person with an iPhone makes you part of the 1%, even if you have taken off a few months to live in a tent on Wall Street.  In all reality, if you live in North America odds are you are part of the global 1%, and I say this to indicate that you and I are very much implicated in the same sin as this rich man.  Which means his ultimate destination, that being Hell, should make us a bit nervous.

It is also unsettling because this man who is condemned to Hell knows Abraham, indeed he calls him Father.  This too is a bit unsettling, every bit as unsettling as Jesus telling us that there will be some who used his name to work miracles but will nevertheless be told to depart from his presence (Matt 7.23).  Also, quite unsettling is the fixed chasm which no one can cross!  Yes, the whole thing should leave us fairly shaken.

So how might we avoid such a fate?  The implication is clear.  Be nice to people.  Consider the poor.  Then you won’t go to Hell.  At least, that’s what the text seems to imply and that’s what I heard a very well regarded theologian preach recently.  Is that what we’re meant to take away from this?  Well, not so fast.

The rich man seems to have a bit of a change of heart.  His change of heart does not so much include Lazarus, who he still regards as his servant (send Lazarus to preach!).  Rather he has regard for his kin which I thinks we might regard as a bit of personal growth on his part.  Abraham replies, ironically, “even if someone where to come back from the dead they will not listen.”  I say that Abraham said this ironically, because this is indeed exactly what the Christian Gospel proclaims.  A man did come back from the dead, but many did not listen.  The reader would be alert to this reading Luke and immediately think you the resurrection of Christ.  The implication is, that if they would be ready to listen to the man come back from the dead it would have some moral and spiritual benefit on their manner of life and this is the important point.

When interpreting passages such as the one above, we must be careful not to interpret them as if the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus counted for nothing.  By this I mean, if our take home point is “if the rich man was nice to the Lazarus, he wouldn’t be in hell!”  Not so.   The rich man has deeper problems.  He is not listening to God through Moses and the Prophets, he is not listening to God’s gift to us, Jesus Christ, the man risen from the dead.  If he had listened to them, how might it have affected him?

Perhaps he would have fallen under conviction that he is selfish and an oppressor of the poor.  Perhaps he would’ve realized that because of the sin in his life, he was actually the one in moral and spiritual poverty.  Perhaps he would’ve realized that though he was physically rich in this life, he was destined for an eternity of deep poverty in Hell.  In other words, the rich man would have discovered that he is Lazarus, destitute and covered in sores.  And perhaps in his poverty, he would have called out for mercy, a few scrapes, from a rich man.  And perhaps, if he had paid very close attention, he would have discovered that for all the spiritual poor and destitute who did cry out, they did have a rich man, namely Jesus Christ, who was willing to give them more than just scrapes but to give them all things.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

This Gospel saves us from the fate of the rich man in two ways.  It saves us from the rich man’s fate (hell) and it saves us from the rich man’s life (oppression).  It saves us from the rich man’s fate by paying our debt, as Christ suffered and bore the wrath, the Hell of God on the cross as a full and sufficient sacrifice to pay for sins, even the sins of this man.  Second, it saves us from this rich man’s life.  You see, Christ is our rich man and we are his Lazarus.  Only in this instance, Christ as our rich man left his sumptuous table, cleaned our wounds and gave us all things.  Having experienced this in its fullness, how could we continue to live selfishly?  Or to oppress the poor?  In other words, the proclamation of the Gospel is meant to give us more than assurance, it is meant to affect us.  Through the Gospel we are given charity where we are selfish, compassion where we are oppressive, and mercy where we are judgmental.

So don’t be like this rich man.  Listen to the prophets, and Moses.  Listen to the voice of the one raised from the dead, Jesus Christ our righteousness.  He became poor that, by his poverty we might become rich.  This Gospel not only saves us, it transforms us.


Richard Sibbes: Redeemed from Ourselves

12 03 2012

Below is a wonderful quote from the English Puritan and presbyter in the Church of England, Richard Sibbes.  The following is taken from his little work Christ’s Exaltation Purchased by His Humiliation, found in Sibbes collected works Vol V pg 351.  Not only is Sibbes instructive in reminding us that we need not only be redeemed from Hell and death, but we need to be redeemed from ourselves.  Also, I found Sibbes’ “complaining to Christ” to be very helpful in terms of how we pray through such matters.  And perhaps for me, the best line of this section “No, Lord Jesus, do thine office!”  Of course the line won’t make sense unless you read the whole thing carefully, which I of course would encourage you to do!

We must know beloved that we are redeemed from ourselves;  and therefore make this use of it when we are tempted by sin:  Christ is my Lord; I am redeemed from my base lusts.  What have I to do with this anger?  what have I do to with this ambition?  I am no debtor to the flesh.  I am under Christ.  I am under grace.  He hath redeemed me from my vain conversation.  I owe it nothing but mortification and denial.  Therefore, in all solicitations of corruption, learn this lesson, fetch arguments hence.  Christ hath done great matters for me.  He lived and died, and lives for ever and ever, that is Lord of me living and dying.  There is no greater slave than he that is a slave to his own flesh and to his own lusts.  therefore when we are stirred to anything by our base nature, which must die, or else we shall never live eternal, we must kill it more and more daily; and death is the sum and accomplishment of mortification.  When we are stirred to anything, go to Christ and complain to him.  Blessed Savior, thou didst die, and rise, and revive, that though mightiest be Lord of the living and the dead.  I beseech thee, claim thine own interest in me.  Bring all into captivity to thine own Spirit.  What hath this base affection to do with me?  What have I to do with it?  I am freed from it; I am redeemed from myself.  What have I to do with myself but deny all?  I am thine altogether; therefore take thine own interest in me, possess me, fill me with thy Spirit, be all in all in me; let pride and ambition and such things have no footing in me.  It is good pouring out the soul to God to that purpose:  to complain to Christ when it is thus with us, because it is his office to rule us.  Now, Lord Jesus, do thine office.  Thy office is to be king; to rule in me.  Other lords would fain rule in me.  Pride, and lust, and base covetousness would fain rule, as the prophet saith, Isa. xxvi.13; but what hat other lords to do with me?  Thou are my Lord, and hast right to me living and dying.

John Owen on Substitutionary Atonement and the Lord’s Supper

7 03 2012

Below is an excerpt from Owen’s Sacramental Discourse #8.  Here he puts an interesting twist on the notion of representation.  In some understandings of the Lord’s Supper, the sacrifice of Christ is represented to God.  Owen on the other hand sees the sacrifice of Christ as represented to us, to soothe our consciences and lead us to worship.  One final note, for Owen “representation” means really and truly present by faith.  Thus for Owen, taking communion makes the substitutionary atonement of Christ really and truly present to us by faith.  Think about that next time you take the Lord’s Supper!

Consider truly and really this great substitution of Jesus Christ (the just suffering for the unjust) in our stead, in our room, – undergoing what we should have undergone.  The Lord help us to admire the infinite holiness, righteousness, and truth, that is in it.  We are not able to comprehend these things in it (Christ’s substitution); but if God enables us to exercise faith upon it, we shall admire it.  Whence is it that the Son of God should be substituted in our place?  Pray remember that we are now representing (in the Supper) this infinite effect of divine wisdom in substituting Jesus Christ in our room, to undergo the wrath and curse of God for us.

Owen, Sacramental Discourse 8

J.C. Ryle: Cranmer brought out “like Samson in the hands of the Philistines”

7 03 2012

Below is an excerpt from Bishop Ryle’s essay “Why were our Reformers Burned?” from a collection of essays in his famous Knots Untied.  You’ll notice that I’ve been trying to post at least one thing per week on Anglican history, because Anglican history is rich and inspiring.  Not only is it rich and inspiring, but sadly it is neglected.  Our Anglican Reformers were faithful, Gospel centered, Jesus loving pastors, many of whom gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  Below is Ryle’s account of Cranmer’s martyrdom.  If you are unfamiliar with Cranmer’s martyrdom, the language of “recantations” may be cause for confusion.  The short story is that Cranmer recanted his Gospel faith and was meant to re-join “Bloody Mary’s” church.  However at the last minute he “recanted his recantation.”  The account is below.  Click through the link to read the entire essay.  

I need hardly remind you how, on the 21st March, the unhappy Archbishop was brought out, like Samson in the hands of the Philistines, to make sport for his enemies, and to be a gazingstock to the world in St. Mary’s Church. I need hardly remind you how, after Dr. Cole’s sermon, he was invited to declare his faith, and was fully expected to publicly acknowledge his alteration of religion, and his adhesion to the Church of Rome. I need hardly remind you how, with intense mental suffering, the Archbishop addressed the assembly at length, and at the close suddenly astounded his enemies by renouncing all his recantations…Such a sight was certainly never seen by mortal eyes since the world began!

But then came the time of Cranmer’s triumph. Light of heart and clear in conscience, he allowed himself cheerfully to be hurried to the stake amidst the frenzied outcries of his disappointed enemies. Boldly and undauntedly he stood up at the stake while the flames curled around him, steadily holding out his right hand in the fire and saying, with reference to his having signed a recantation, “This unworthy right hand,” and steadily holding up his left hand towards heaven.(5) Of all the martyrs, strange to say, none at the last moment showed more physical courage than Cranmer did. Nothing, in short, in all his life became him so well as the manner of his leaving it. Greatly he had sinned, but greatly he had repented. Like Peter he fell, but like Peter he rose again. And so passed away the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury.

Click here to read the whole thing

John Bunyan: My “gold” is in Christ in Heaven!

6 03 2012

Below is my favorite excerpt from Bunyan’s autobiography. Note his discussion on “green graces.” By “green graces” Bunyan means those areas of spiritual growth that Christians experience in the work of sanctification. Look what he compares them to and now look at what he considers his true treasure.

231. For by this scripture I saw that the Man Christ Jesus, as He is distinct from us, as touching His bodily presence, so He is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here therefore I lived, for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; Oh! methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes: I was not now (only) for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considering Him as a whole Christ! as He in whom all these, and all His other virtues, relations, offices and operations met together, and that He sat on the right hand of God in heaven.

232. ’Twas glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because now I could look from myself to Him and should reckon, that all those graces of God that now were green on me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home: Oh! I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ my Lord and Saviour. Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.