J.I. Packer: On Reformed Evangelism (of course its worth reading…it’s J.I. Packer!)

19 12 2011

The Puritan type of evangelism, on the other hand, was the consistent expression in practice of the Puritans’ conviction that the conversion of sinner is a gracious sovereign work of Divine power.  We shall spend a little time elaborating this.

The Puritans did not use “conversion” and “regeneration” as technical terms, and so there are slight variations in usage. Perhaps the majority treated the words as synonyms, each denoting the whole process whereby God brings the sinner to his first act of faith.  Their technical term for the process was effectual calling; calling being the Scriptural word used to describe the process in Rom. 8:30, 2 Th.  2:14, 2 Tim. 1:9, etc., and the adjective effectual being added to distinguish it from the ineffectual, external calling mentioned in Mt. 20:16, 22:14.  Westminster Confession, X. i., puts “calling,” into its theological perspective by an interpretative paraphrase of Rom. 8:30: “All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism analyses the concept of “calling” in its answer to Q. 31: “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”

Concerning this effectual calling, three things must be said if we are to grasp the Puritan view:

(i) It is work of Divine grace; it is not something a man can do for himself or for another.  It is the first stage in the application of redemption to those for whom it was won; it is the time when, on the grounds of his eternal, federal, representative union with Christ, the elect sinner is brought by the Holy Ghost into a real, vital, personal union with his Covenant Head and Redeemer.  It is thus a gift of free Divine grace.

(ii) It is a work of Divine power. It is effected by the Holy Ghost, who acts both mediately, by the Word, in the mind, giving understanding and conviction, and at the same time immediately, with the Word, in the hidden depths of the heart, implanting new life and power, effectively dethroning sin, and making the sinner both able and willing to respond to the gospel invitation.  The Spirit’s work is thus both moral, bypersuasion (which all Arminians and Pelagians would allow), and also physical, by power (which they would not).

Owen said, “There is not only a moral, but a physical immediate operation of the Spirit…upon the minds or souls of men in their regeneration…The work of grace in conversion is constantly expressed by words denoting a real internal efficacy; such as creating, quickening, forming, giving a new heart…Wherever this work is spoken of with respect unto an active efficacy, it is ascribed to God.  He creates us anew, he quickens us, he begets us of His own will; but when it is spoken of with respect to us, there it is passively expressed; we are created in Christ Jesus, we are new creatures, we are born again, and the like; which oneobservation is sufficient to avert the whole hypothesis of Arminian grace.” (Works, ed.  Russell 1,1, II. 369). “Ministers knock at the door of men’s hearts (persuasion), the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door” (T. Watson, Body of Div., 1869, p. 154).  The Spirit’s regenerating action, Owen goes on, is “infallible, victorious, irresistable, or always efficacious” (loc cit.); it “removeth all obstacles, overcomes all oppositions, and infallibly produceth the effect intended.” Grace is irresistible, not because it drags man to Christ against his will, but because it changes men’s hearts so that they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.”(West.  Conf.  X. i). The Puritans loved to dwell on the Scriptural thought of the Divine power put forth in effectual calling, which Goodwin regularly described as the one “standing miracle” in the Church.  They agreed that in the normal course of events conversion was not commonly a spectacular affair; but Goodwin notes that sometimes it is, and affirms that thereby God shows us how great an exercise of power every man’s effectual calling involves. “In the calling of some there shoots up very suddenly an election-conversion (I use to call it so).  You shall, as it were, see election take hold of a man, pull him out with a mighty power, stamp upon him, the divine nature, stub up corrupt nature by the roots, root up self-love, put in a principle of love to God, and launch him forth a new creature the first day … He did so with Paul, and it is not without example in others after him.” (Works, ed.. Miller IX. 279). Such dramatic conversions, says Goodwin, are “visible tokens of election by such a work of calling, as all the powers in heaven and earth could not have wrought upon a man’s soul so, nor changed a man so on a sudden, but only that divine power that created the world (and) raised Christ from the dead.”

The reason why the Puritans thus magnified the quickening power of God is plain from the passages quoted:it was because they took so seriously the Bible teaching that man is dead in sin, radically depraved, sin’s helpless bondslave.  There is, they held, such a strength in sin that only omnipotence can break its bond; and only the Author of Life can raise the dead.  Where Finney assumed plenary ability, the Puritans taught total inability in fallen man.

(iii)   Effectual calling is and must be a work of Divine sovereignty. Only God can effect it, and He does so at His own pleasure.  “It is not of him that willith, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).  Owen expounds  this in a sermon on Acts 16:9, “A vision of unchangeable, free mercy in sending the means of grace to undeserving sinners” (XV, I ff.). He first states the following principle: “All events and effects, especially concerning the propagation of the gospel, and the Church of Christ, are in their greatest variety regulated by the eternal purpose and counsel of God,” He then illustrates it.  Some are sent the gospel, some not.  “In this chapter…the gospel is forbidden to be preached in Asia or Bithynia; which restraint, the Lord by His  providence as yet continueth to many parts of the world;” while “to some nations the gospel is sent…as in my text, Macedonia; and England…”  Now, asks Owen, why this discrimination?  Why do some hear and others not? And when the gospel is heard, why do we see “various effects, some continuing in impenitency, others in sincerity closing with Jesus Christ?…In effectual working of grace…whence do you think it takes its rule and determination . . . that it should be directed to John, not Judas; Simon Peter, not Simon Magus? Why only from this discriminating counsel of God from eternity…Acts 13:48…The purpose of God’s election, is the rule of dispensing saving grace.”

watch him contrast this with modern evangelism here





Jonathan Edwards: “The Admirable Conjunction of Diverse Excellencies in Christ Jesus”

19 12 2011

For all you guys who jumped on the “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” bandwagon but never read him, here’s your chance.  You’ll find him enormously difficult in diction and thought, nevertheless terribly rewarding.  I remember when I finally fought my way through “The End for Which God Created the World,” which was nothing short of mind blowing.  These few paragraphs below are intellectually and spiritually enriching, where Edwards takes such opposing thoughts as “highness” and “condescension” or “justice” and “grace” and shows how they meet in perfect union in Christ Jesus.

There is a conjunction of such excellencies in Christ as, in our manner of conceiving, are very diverse one from another. Such are the various divine perfections and excellencies that Christ is possessed of. Christ is a divine person, and therefore has all the attributes of God. The difference between these is chiefly relative, and in our manner of conceiving them. And those which, in this sense, are most diverse, meet in the person of Christ. I shall mention two instances.

There do meet in Jesus Christ infinite highness and infinite condescension.
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Prov. 30:4 “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, cannot reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8 “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist Him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world,” James 2:5. Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ does not despise. I Cor. 1:28 “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars Luke 16:22 and people of the most despised nations. In Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Col. 3:11). He that is thus high condescends to take a gracious notice of little children Matt. 19:14. “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.

Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for every thing that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend, to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual marriage. It is enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them. Yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!

Such a conjunction of infinite highness and low condescension, in the same person, is admirable. We see, by manifold instances, what a tendency a high station has in men, to make them to be of a quite contrary disposition. If one worm be a little exalted above another, by having more dust, or a bigger dunghill, how much does he make of himself! What a distance does he keep from those that are below him! And a little condescension is what he expects should be made much of, and greatly acknowledged. Christ condescends to wash our feet; but how would great men, (or rather the bigger worms,) account themselves debased by acts of far less condescension!

There meet in Jesus Christ, infinite justice and infinite grace.
As Christ is a divine person, he is infinitely holy and just, hating sin, and disposed to execute condign punishment for sin. He is the Judge of the world, and the infinitely just Judge of it, and will not at all acquit the wicked, or by any means clear the guilty.

And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for.

read it all here





Spurgeon: The Day of Atonement

19 12 2011

Thus have I led you to consider the person who made the atonement: let us now consider for a moment or two THE MEANS WHEREBY THIS ATONEMENT WAS MADE. You read at the 5th verse, “And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.” And at the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th verses, “And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” The first goat I considered to be the great type of Jesus Christ the atonement: such I do not consider the scapegoat to be. The first is a type of the means whereby the atonement was made, and we shall keep to that first.

Notice that this goat, of course, answered all the pre-requisites of every other thing that was sacrificed; it must be a perfect, unblemished goat of the first year. Even so was our Lord a perfect man, in the prime and vigour of his manhood. And further, this goat was an eminent type of Christ from the fact that it was taken of the congregation of the children of Israel, as we are told at the 5th verse. The public treasury furnished the goat. So, beloved, Jesus Christ was, first of all, purchased by the public treasury of the Jewish people before he died. Thirty pieces of silver they had valued him at, a goodly price; and as they had been accustomed to bring the goat, so they brought him to be offered: not, indeed, with the intention that he should be their sacrifice, but unwittingly they fulfilled this when they brought him to Pilate, and cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Oh, beloved! Indeed, Jesus Christ came out from the midst of the people, and the people brought him. Strange that it should be so! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not;” his own led him forth to slaughter; his own dragged him before the mercy seat.
Note, again, that though this goat, like the scapegoat, was brought by the people, God’s decision was in it still. Mark, it is said, “Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” I conceive this mention of lots is to teach that although the Jews brought Jesus Christ of their own will to die, yet, Christ had been appointed to die; and even the very man who sold him was appointed to it—so saith the Scripture. Christ’s death was fore-ordained, and there was not only man’s hand in it, but God’s. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” So it is true that man put Christ to death, but it was of the Lord’s disposal that Jesus Christ was slaughtered, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”
Next, behold the goat that destiny has marked out to make the atonement. Come and see it die. The priest stabs it. Mark it in its agonies; behold it struggling for a moment; observe the blood as it gushes forth. Christians, ye have here your Saviour. See his Father’s vengeful sword sheathed in his heart; behold his death agonies; see the clammy sweat upon his brow; mark his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth; hear his sighs and groans upon the cross; hark to his shriek, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” and you have more now to think of than you could have if you only stood to see the death of a goat for your atonement. Mark the blood as from his wounded hands it flows, and from his feet it finds a channel to the earth; from his open side in one great river see it gush. As the blood of the goat made the atonement typically, so, Christian, thy Saviour dying for thee, made the great atonement for thy sins, and thou mayest go free.

read the whole thing here





Spurgeon Part II: How Do We Battle Spiritual Depression?

19 12 2011

Last week I put out a post on a particularly striking sermon of Charles Spurgeon called “Songs in the Night.” I found the sermon not only spiritually edifying but also tremendously practical. Below is a brief attempt to summarize Spurgeon’s thoughts on battling spiritual depression.

Spurgeon says in times of “night”, which he here uses as a metaphor for spiritual depression, we may “sing” about three things to cheer our hearts. “Either we sing about the yesterday that is over, or else about the night itself, or else about the morrow that is to come.”

In times of spiritual depression we may first sing about the “yesterday that is over.” By this Spurgeon means that we take the time to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past in order that we may gain comfort in our present difficulties.  He writes:

“Christian, perhaps the best song thou canst sing, to cheer thee in the night, is the song of yester-morn. Remember, it was not always night with thee: night is a new thing to thee. Once thou hadst a glad heart, a buoyant spirit; once thine eye was full of fire; once thy foot was light; once thou couldst sing for very joy and ecstacy of heart. Well, then, remember that God, who made thee sing yesterday, has not left thee in the night. He is not a daylight God, who can not know his children in darkness; but he loves thee now as much as ever: though he has left thee a little, it is to prove thee, to make thee trust him better, and serve him more.”

So what kind of things did Spurgeon have in mind when he encourages us to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past?  We can remember the electing love of God (Eph 1.4), which is a faithfulness to us which began before the foundations of the world.  We can remember his mighty act of redemption in Jesus Christ.  We can remember his giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  But we can also remember when we were first called to Christ.  We can remember times of particularly intense fellowship with him.  We can remember when he has delivered us from evil, temptation or strife.  If for one reason or another we cannot think of God’s faithfulness to us in the past, Spurgeon encourages us to think of God’s faithfulness to others most often applied to the great protagonists in the scriptures.  Spurgeon’s exhortation to remember when we were first called to Christ is particularly moving.  He writes:

What! man, canst thou not sing a little of that blessed hour when Jesus met thee; when, a blind slave, thou wast sporting with death, and he saw thee, and said: “Come, poor slave, come with me?” Canst thou not sing of that rapturous moment when he snapped thy fetters, dashed thy chains to the earth, and said: “I am the Breaker; I came to break thy chains, and set thee free?” What though thou art ever so gloomy now, canst thou forget that happy morning, when in the house God thy voice was loud, almost as a seraph’s voice, in praise? For thou couldst sing: “I am forgiven! I am forgiven:”

“A monument of grace, A sinner saved by blood.”  Go back, man; sing of that moment, and then thou wilt have a song in the night.

We might also sing of “the night itself”.  This is the shortest section of the sermon and perhaps the most brutal in its honesty.  Whatever “night” you and I are enduring, Spurgeon reassures us that things are not as bad as they could be, nor are they as badas we deserve.  Psalm 103 vs 10 reads “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us for our iniquities.”  The application of this verse is the crux of Spurgeon’s argument in this section.  To make it very simple and very clear, no matter what you are currently suffering through it is not hell.  When describing a particularly trying event people will occasionally say “it was hell.”  But of course it wasn’t.  Hell is a place of unimaginable torment.  Spurgeon’s point here is that you are not in hell, even though you deserve to be.  So take some comfort and derive some joy from the fact that God has indeed had mercy upon you through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Spurgeon says we can sing a song in the night by singing about the day to come.  I was speaking with a man recently who suffers from depression.  He said to me, “at least I know I will one day be happy in heaven.”  This is true!  He will one day be happy in heaven, and he can derive some joy from that now by resting in that hope and allowing some of that future joy to break into his present life.  Perhaps the most ready analogy is that of a pregnancy.  When a family is expecting a child, the day they long for and wait for is the day when their baby is born.  But in the meantime, the imminent birth of that child breaks into their present day lives.  They put together a crib, they paint a nursery, they buy diapers and blankets, they select the perfect teddy bear.  The expectation they have of the future gives them joy and motivates behavior in the present.  So too can our joy and expectation of a future with Jesus in heaven break into our lives now, shaping and affecting us.





Calvin: God, Worship, and Idolatry

19 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from John Calvin’s Institutes on the Christian Religion ch 12. I have linked through to the whole of his Institutes on CCEL (fantastic resource!). Calvin’s Institutes (two volume set) is one of the most cherished works in my library. It was given to me by a dear friend and old prayer partner Adam Chapman. I have read them and re-read them a number of times and am always impressed and the knew wealth of knowledge and insight that Calvin is still able to provide. For example, you may notice in Section 1.1 that knowledge of God is incomplete unless it is enjoined with worship of God. What a timely and stern warning to students of theology who love accumulating knowledge but do not accumulate a love for God! These and other jems you will find below. Some come out easy, some only with hard work. Either way I hope you enjoy it.

GOD DISTINGUISHED FROM IDOLS, THAT HE MAY BE THE EXCLUSIVE OBJECT OF WORSHIP.

Sections.

1. Scripture, in teaching that there is but one God, does not make a dispute about words, but attributes all honour and religious worship to him alone. This proved, 1st, By the etymology of the term. 2d, By the testimony of God himself, when he declares that he is a jealous God, and will not allow himself to be confounded with any fictitious Deity.

2. The Papists in opposing this pure doctrine, gain nothing by their distinction of δυλια and λατρια.

3. Passages of Scripture subversive of the Papistical distinction, and proving that religious worship is due to God alone. Perversions of Divine worship.

1. We said at the commencement of our work (chap. 2), that the knowledge of God consists not in frigid speculation, but carries worship along with it; and we touched by the way (chap. 5 s. 6, 9, 10) on what will be more copiously treated in other places (Book 2, chap. 8)—viz. how God is duly worshipped. Now I only briefly repeat, that whenever Scripture asserts the unity of God, it does not contend for a mere name, but also enjoins that nothing which belongs to Divinity be applied to any other; thus making it obvious in what respect pure religion differs from superstition. The Greek word εὐσέβεια means “right worship;” for the Greeks, though groping in darkness, were always aware that a certain rule was to be observed, in order that God might not be worshipped absurdly. Cicero truly and shrewdly derives the name religion from relego, and yet the reason which he assigns is forced and farfetched—viz. that honest worshipers read and read again, and ponder what is true.9191 Cic. De Nat. Deor. lib. 2 c. 28. See also Lactant. Inst. Div. lib. 4 c. 28. I rather think the name is used in opposition to vagrant license—the greater part of mankind rashly taking up whatever first comes in their way, whereas piety, that it may stand with a firm step, confines itself within due bounds. In the same way superstition seems to take its name from its not being contented with the measure which reason prescribes, but accumulating a superfluous mass of vanities. But to say nothing more of words, it has been universally admitted in all ages, that religion is vitiated and perverted whenever false opinions are introduced into it, and hence it is inferred, that whatever is allowed to be done from inconsiderate zeal, cannot be defended by any pretext with which 105the superstitious may choose to cloak it. But although this confession is in every man’s mouth, a shameful stupidity is forthwith manifested, inasmuch as men neither cleave to the one God, nor use any selection in their worship, as we have already observed.

But God, in vindicating his own right, first proclaims that he is a jealous God, and will be a stern avenger if he is confounded with any false god; and thereafter defines what due worship is, in order that the human race may be kept in obedience. Both of these he embraces in his Law when he first binds the faithful in allegiance to him as their only Lawgiver, and then prescribes a rule for worshipping him in accordance with his will. The Law, with its manifold uses and objects, I will consider in its own place; at present I only advert to this one, that it is designed as a bridle to curb men, and prevent them from turning aside to spurious worship. But it is necessary to attend to the observation with which I set out—viz. that unless everything peculiar to divinity is confined to God alone, he is robbed of his honour, and his worship is violated.

It may be proper here more particularly to attend to the subtleties which superstition employs. In revolting to strange gods, it avoids the appearance of abandoning the Supreme God, or reducing him to the same rank with others. It gives him the highest place, but at the same time surrounds him with a tribe of minor deities, among whom it portions out his peculiar offices. In this way, though in a dissembling and crafty manner, the glory of the Godhead is dissected, and not allowed to remain entire. In the same way the people of old, both Jews and Gentiles, placed an immense crowd in subordination to the father and ruler of the gods, and gave them, according to their rank, to share with the supreme God in the government of heaven and earth. In the same way, too, for some ages past, departed saints have been exalted to partnership with God, to be worshipped, invoked, and lauded in his stead. And yet we do not even think that the majesty of God is obscured by this abomination, whereas it is in a great measure suppressed and extinguished—all that we retain being a frigid opinion of his supreme power. At the same time, being deluded by these entanglements, we go astray after divers gods.

2. The distinction of what is called δυλια and λατρια was invented for the very purpose of permitting divine honours to be paid to angels and dead men with apparent impunity. For it is plain that the worship which Papists pay to saints differs in no respect from the worship of God: for this worship is paid without distinction; only when they are pressed they have recourse to the evasion, that what belongs to God is kept unimpaired, because they leave him λατρια. But since the question relates not to the word, but the thing, how can they be allowed to sport at will with a matter of the highest moment? But not to insist on this, the utmost they will obtain by their distinction is, that they give worship to God, and service to the others. For λατρεὶα in Greek has the same meaning as worship in Latin; whereas 106δουλεὶα properly means service, though the words are sometimes used in Scripture indiscriminately. But granting that the distinction is invariably preserved, the thing to be inquired into is the meaning of each. Δουλεὶα unquestionably means service, and λατρεὶα worship. But no man doubts that to serve is something higher than to worship. For it were often a hard thing to serve him whom you would not refuse to reverence. It is, therefore, an unjust division to assign the greater to the saints and leave the less to God. But several of the ancient fathers observed this distinction. What if they did, when all men see that it is not only improper, but utterly frivolous?

3. Laying aside subtleties, let us examine the thing. When Paul reminds the Galatians of what they were before they came to the knowledge of Gods he says that they “did service unto them which by nature are no gods,” (Gal. 4:8). Because he does not say λατρια, was their superstition excusable? This superstition, to which he gives the name of δυλια, he condemns as much as if he had given it the name of λατρια. When Christ repels Satan’s insulting proposal with the words, “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” (Mt. 4:10), there was no question of λατρια. For all that Satan asked was προσκὺνεσις (obeisance). In like manners when John is rebuked by the angel for falling on his knees before him (Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9), we ought not to suppose that John had so far forgotten himself as to have intended to transfer the honour due to God alone to an angel. But because it was impossible that a worship connected with religion should not savour somewhat of divine worship, he could not προσκὺνει̑ν (do obeisance to) the angel without derogating from the glory of God. True, we often read that men were worshipped; but that was, if I may so speak, civil honour. The case is different with religious honour, which, the moment it is conjoined with worship, carries profanation of the divine honour along with it. The same thing may be seen in the case of Cornelius (Acts 10:25). He had not made so little progress in piety as not to confine supreme worship to God alone. Therefore, when he prostrates himself before Peter, he certainly does it not with the intention of adoring him instead of God. Yet Peter sternly forbids him. And why, but just because men never distinguish so accurately between the worship of God and the creatures as not to transfer promiscuously to the creature that which belongs only to God. Therefore, if we would have one God, let us remember that we can never appropriate the minutest portion of his glory without retaining what is his due. Accordingly, when Zechariah discourses concerning the repairing of the Church, he distinctly says not only that there would be one God, but also that he would have only one name—the reason being, that he might have nothing in common with idols. The nature of the worship which God requires will be seen in its own place (Book 2, c. 7 and 8). He has been pleased to prescribe in his Law what is lawful and right, and thus restrict men to a certain rule, 107lest any should allow themselves to devise a worship of their own. But as it is inexpedient to burden the reader by mixing up a variety of topics, I do not now dwell on this one. Let it suffice to remember, that whatever offices of piety are bestowed anywhere else than on God alone, are of the nature of sacrilege. First, superstition attached divine honours to the sun and stars, or to idols: afterwards ambition followed—ambition which, decking man in the spoils of God, dared to profane all that was sacred. And though the principle of worshipping a supreme Deity continued to be held, still the practice was to sacrifice promiscuously to genii and minor gods, or departed heroes: so prone is the descent to this vice of communicating to a crowd that which God strictly claims as his own peculiar right!

read Calvin’s Institutes online by clicking here





John Bunyan: Prayer is a pouring out of the heart

19 12 2011

The following was written by John Bunyan from an English jail cell, where he was imprisoned for refusing to pray according to the forms contained in the Book of Common Prayer.  Spurgeon said of this work that it had the “smell of the jail cell about it.”  I am grateful for the heritage of the Anglican Communion and grateful for the theologically informed and beautiful prayers contained in our liturgy.  NEVERTHELESS, God help the Christian whose prayer life is limited to the forms in the Book of Common Prayer!!!  God help the Christian who knows no deeper communion with God than reading words on a page!  I pray that God’s Spirit will assist each of us in praying according to the manner which Bunyan sets forth below. 

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, and an AFFECTIONATE pouring out of the soul to God. O! the heat, strength, life, vigour, and affection, that is in right prayer! “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psa 42:1). “I have longed after thy precepts” (Psa 119:40). “I have longed for thy salvation” (ver 174). “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psa 84:2). “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times” (Psa 119:20). Mark ye here, “My soul longeth,” it longeth, it longeth, &c. O what affection is here discovered in prayer! The like you have in Daniel. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God” (Dan 9:19). Every syllable carrieth a mighty vehemency in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James. And so again, “And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). Or had his affections more and more drawn out after God for his helping hand. O! How wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, PRAYER in God’s account! Alas! The greatest part of men make no conscience at all of the duty; and as for them that do, it is to be feared that many of them are very great strangers to a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out their hearts or souls to God; but even content themselves with a little lip-labour and bodily exercise, mumbling over a few imaginary prayers. When the affections are indeed engaged in prayer, then, then the whole man is engaged, and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without that good desired, even communion and solace with Christ. And hence it is that the saints have spent their strengths, and lost their lives, rather than go without the blessing (Psa 69:3; 38:9,10; Gen 32:24,26).

All this is too, too evident by the ignorance, profaneness, and spirit of envy, that reign in the hearts of those men that are so hot for the forms, and not the power of praying. Scarce one of forty among them know what it is to be born again, to have communion with the Father through the Son; to feel the power of grace sanctifying their hearts: but for all their prayers, they still live cursed, drunken, whorish, and abominable lives, full of malice, envy, deceit, persecuting of the dear children of God. O what a dreadful after-clap is coming upon them! which all their hypocritical assembling themselves together, with all their prayers, shall never be able to help them against, or shelter them from.

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul. There is in prayer an unbosoming of a man’s self, an opening of the heart to God, an affectionate pouring out of the soul in requests, sighs, and groans. “All my desire is before thee,” saith David, “and my groaning is not hid from thee” (Psa 38:9). And again, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me” (Psa 42:2,4). Mark, “I pour out my soul.” It is an expression signifying, that in prayer there goeth the very life and whole strength to God. As in another place, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, – pour out your heart before him” (Psa 62:8). This is the prayer to which the promise is made, for the delivering of a poor creature out of captivity and thralldom. “If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deut 4:29).

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul TO GOD. This showeth also the excellency of the spirit of prayer. It is the great God to which it retires. “When shall I come and appear before God?” And it argueth, that the soul that thus prayeth indeed, sees an emptiness in all things under heaven; that in God alone there is rest and satisfaction for the soul. “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God” (I Tim 5:5). So saith David, “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline thine ear to me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: – for thou art my rock and my fortress; deliver me, O my God, – out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For thou art my hope, O Lord God, thou art my trust from my youth” (Psa 71:1-5). Many in a wording way speak of God; but right prayer makes God his hope, stay, and all. Right prayer sees nothing substantial, and worth the looking after, but God. And that, as I said before, it doth in a sincere, sensible, and affectionate way.

John Bunyan, Prayer (Banner of Truth Trust: 2005 pg 16-17)





Richard Baxter: How to Spend the Day with God

19 12 2011

This was written by Baxter for his parishioners as a useful guide on how to make Sunday morning relevant for the rest of the week. Some people might be a bit put off by Baxter’s apparent legalism, let me just say however that having read much of the man he is no legalist. Rather, there are certain practices that enhance the depth of grace a person experiences in their life. For example, one may experience the message of God’s grace in a conversation at a coffee shop but if that person doesn’t go back and make a habit of scripture reading then his experience of grace will likely be quite shallow. The other thing that strikes me about this little guide is how much more seriously previous generations of Christians took their journey with God than Christians in the church do today. As a final thought, I’m left wondering about young people who come to the church seeking guidance on how to grow spiritually. The church in recent decades has taken a “discover for yourself” approach becaue they think to do anything more would be arrogant. But because the young people didn’t get the guidance they were looking for, they just hop on over to new age which has NO PROBLEM giving them lists on how to spend their day. Sorry for the random asides. Check out Baxter’s list. Maybe try it out for a week and report back how it went.

A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties – with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.

Sleep
Measure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labour, and not to slothful pleasure.

First Thoughts
Let God have your first awaking thoughts; lift up your hearts to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before and cast yourself upon Him for the day which follows.

Familiarise yourself so consistently to this that your conscience may check you when common thoughts shall first intrude. Think of the mercy of a night’s rest and of how many that have spent that night in Hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonising pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives.

Think of how many souls were that night called from their bodies terrifyingly to appear before God and think how quickly days and nights are rolling on! How speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time and seek it without delay.

Prayer
Let prayer by yourself alone (or with your partner) take place before the collective prayer of the family. If possible let it be first, before any work of the day.

Family Worship
Let family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.

Ultimate Purpose
Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day’s work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do.

Do no activity which you cannot entitle God to, and truly say that he set you about it, and do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify and enjoy Him. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Diligence in Your Calling
Follow the tasks of your calling carefully and diligently. Thus:

(a) You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.
(b) You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind, that swarm in the minds of idle persons.
(c) You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.
(d) You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.
(e) You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle persons have no time for praying and reading because they lose time by loitering at their work.
(f) You may expect God’s blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.
(g) it may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul.

Temptations and Things That Corrupt
Be thoroughly acquainted with your temptations and the things that may corrupt you – and watch against them all day long. You should watch especially the most dangerous of the things that corrupt, and those temptations that either your company or business will unavoidably lay before you.

Watch against the master sins of unbelief: hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, flesh pleasing and the excessive love of earthly things. Take care against being drawn into earthly mindedness and excessive cares, or covetous designs for rising in the world, under the pretence of diligence in your calling.

If you are to trade or deal with others, be vigilant against selfishness and all that smacks of injustice or uncharitableness. In all your dealings with others, watch against the temptation of empty and idle talking. Watch also against those persons who would tempt you to anger. Maintain that modesty and cleanness of speech that the laws of purity require. If you converse with flatterers, be on your guard against swelling pride.

If you converse with those that despise and injure you, strengthen yourself against impatient, revengeful pride.

At first these things will be very difficult, while sin has any strength in you, but once you have grasped a continual awareness of the poisonous danger of any one of these sins, your heart will readily and easily avoid them.

Meditation
When alone in your occupations, improve the time in practical and beneficial meditations. Meditate upon the infinite goodness and perfections of God; Christ and redemption; Heaven and how unworthy you are of going there and how you deserve eternal misery in Hell.

The Only Motive
Whatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.

Redeeming The Time
Place a high value upon your time, be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let worthless recreations, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time.

Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life that would rob you of your time than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.

Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way that you can and do not prefer a less profitable way before one of greater profit.

Eating and Drinking
Eat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health, not for unprofitable pleasure. Never please your appetite in food or drink when it is prone to be detrimental to your health.

Remember the sin of Sodom: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness” – Ezekiel 16:49.

The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their minds on earthly things, being enemies to the cross of Christ” – Philippians 3:18-19. O then do not live according to the flesh lest you die (Romans 8:13).

Prevailing Sins
If any temptation prevails against you and you fall into any sins in addition to habitual failures, immediately lament it and confess it to God; repent quickly whatever the cost. It will certainly cost you more if you continue in sin and remain unrepentant.

Do not make light of your habitual failures, but confess them and daily strive against them, taking care not to aggravate them by unrepentance and contempt.

Relationships
Remember every day the special duties of various relationships: whether as husbands, wives, children, masters, servants, pastors, people, magistrates, subjects.

Remember every relationship has its special duty and its advantage for the doing of some good. God requires your faithfulness in this matter as well as in any other duty.

Closing the Day
Before returning to sleep, it is wise and necessary to review the actions and mercies of the day past, so that you may be thankful for all the special mercies and humbled for all your sins.

This is necessary in order that you might renew your repentance as well as your resolve for obedience, and in order that you may examine yourself to see whether your soul grew better or worse, whether sin goes down and grace goes up and whether you are better prepared for suffering, death and eternity.

May these directions be engraven upon your mind and be made the daily practice of your life.

If sincerely adhered to, these will be conducive to the holiness, fruitfulness and quietness of your life and add to you a comfortable and peaceful death.

This was adapted by Matthew Vogan and can be found in its original context here