Friday, April 30, 2010
Here are a few of the many passages I noted for consideration from chapter two.
"It will be shown that in the Bible, when understood properly, jealousy is not a minor incidental aspect of God's work in human history; rather,it is a deep and pervasive quality of his that is foundational to everything he does in human history." (34)
"God is jealous (1) for his own glory, and (2) for the faithfulness of his people. The latter is related to, and based on, the former. God is ultimately jealous for the faithfulness of his people because he is jealous for his own glory." (34)
"God's desire for his glory drives his constant revelation of himself in the lives of his people. He wants to be known, and recognized for who he is, so that he will receive his deserved glory. God wants humanity to know that he is Lord, and this motive is frequently given as the cause of his actions." (36)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
This is the third post concerning itself with the classic work by puritan Richard Sibbes called The Bruised Reed. This is part of the online program called Reading the Classics with Challies.
In chapter 5 of The Bruised Reed, Sibbes addresses how the church should deal with the weak brother. For Sibbes, there is no set formula for how the weaker brother should be dealt with. Much depends on their heart, whether they are mild or wild.
Regardless of where along that spectrum the weaker brother is to be found, Sibbes makes it clear that the church must deal with them. "The church suffers much from weak ones, therefore we may assert our liberty to deal with them, though mildly, yet oftentimes directly." Not addressing them, helping them, or directing them, is not an acceptable option.
Sibbes indicates that 'weaker vessels' need to be handled gently saying, "Weak Christians are like glasses which are hurt with the least violent usage, but if gently handled will continue a long time. This honor of gentle use we are to give to the weaker vessels (1 Pet. 3:7), by which we shall both preserve them and likewise make them useful to the church and ourselves."
Gentleness, however, does not indicate frailty or impotence; "Some must be `pulled out of the fire' (Jude 23) with violence, and they will bless God for us in the day of their visitation. We see that our Saviour multiplies woe upon woe when he has to deal with hard hearted hypocrites (Matt. 23:13), for hypocrites need stronger conviction than gross sinners, because their will is bad, and therefore usually their conversion is violent." Some will require a more direct and forceful correction, or, as Sibbes puts it, "A hard knot must have an answerable wedge".
Sibbes is suggesting that there is not set method to reproving struggling brothers. Wisdom must be used; "The wounds of secure sinners will not be healed with sweet words" and yet we must show "mildness towards those that are weak and are sensible of it."
In other words, it takes wisdom, with love and graciousness, in order to help the weaker brothers so that we might "preserve them and likewise make them useful to the church and ourselves."
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Fellow blogger Chris Power bought me this book at T4G. I hope to post some blogs as I read through it.
Here is a start:
"God's jealousy for his own glory is his inherent jealousy that desires that his glory be acknowledged and proclaimed.
God's jealousy is more than a passing mood; it springs from his innate character and is the foundation of all godly jealousy. It is one of the enduring characteristics that make up his communicable attributes. It is with jealousy that God always responds to the abrogation of his exclusive right to be acknowledged as the only true God. Gos 'will admit no derogation from his majesty.' God demands that his people recognize his exclusive claims on them (Deut. 6:13-15). When God is jealous, it means that he 'continually seeks to protect his own honor.' It is not only the emotion that leads to divine wrath, it is also the cause of God's loving pursuit of his rebellious people when they go astray." (22-23)
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Quotes I liked from The Meaning of the Pentateuch (Sailhamer, John. The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009.)
I will offer a different scenario of the identity of the authors of the OT. I will say that far from being the voice of Israel's religious authorities, such as the priesthood or monarchy, the voice that we hear most in the OT books is that of the prophets. (249)
What begins to emerge from these observations of narrative strategy is the notion that the biblical portrayal of the covenant at Sinai was not intended to be read in terms of a static unchangeable set of regulations. The author wants, instead, to show that Israel's relationship with God, established in no uncertain terms at Sinai, almost immediately began to undergo important changes, due principally to Israel's repeated failure to obey God. What began as a covenant between God and Israel, fashioned after that of the patriarchs (the Decalogue and the Covenant Code), had quickly become an increasingly more complex set of restrictions and laws primarily aimed at the priesthood (Priestly Code). (363)
Three major law collections-the Covenant Code, the Priestly Code, the Holiness Code-are now embedded in the whole of the Sinai narratives, and they are arranged around two similar narratives. Both narratives focus on the Lord's displeasure with Israel's fall into idolatry, the first involving idolatry in the form of calf worship, and the second that of goats. (365)
The people of Israel, led by the priests of the house of Aaron, quickly fell into idolatry in the incident of the golden calf. Even while the laws were being given to Moses on Mount Sinai, Aaron the priest was making the golden calf at the base of the mountain. Hence, the covenant was broken almost before it began (Ex 32). The golden calf marks a decisive moment in the course of the narrative. God, in his grace and compassion (Ex 33), did not cast off Israel. The covenant was renewed (Ex 34), but in its renewal, additional laws were given at the Sinai covenant. These are represented in the remainder of the code of priestly laws (Ex35-Lev 16). Although these laws appeared to keep the priests in check, it became apparent in the people's later sacrifices to goat idols (Lev 17:1-9) that the formulation of even laws was needed. To that end, God gave them the Holiness Code (Lev 17-25) and again renewed the covenant (Lev 26). With Deuteronomy comes the final addition of laws to the covenant, and eventually talk of a different covenant, not like that made at Sinai (Deut 28-30). (415)
The Pentateuch is arranged around certain themes ... pledge, faith, law. These three themes play off one another within the narratives and ultimately provide the central movement of the narratives ... The Pentateuch employs a poetic framework. I have urged in a number of places the “making” of the Pentateuch involved, among other things, the insertion of several key poems at the close of the central narratives of the book. These poems focus the reader of God's future work “in the last days” and his promise to send a king from the tribe of Judah. (466-7)
Here I want to make a few observations on three of the four major poems in the Pentateuch ( Gen 49; Num 24; Deut 33). These observations. I believe, move us closer to what the Pentateuch has to say about the biblical Jesus ...The first observation about these three poems is that each has an identical introduction linking it to events of “the last days.” ... A second observation about these three poems in the Pentateuch is their common reference point. Each one focuses the reader on a coming king who will bring peace and prosperity to the nations. (468)
In the earlier part of this book I argued that the central purpose of the Pentateuch is to teach the importance of a life of faith. As such, there is quite a lot of theological similarity between the Pentateuch and the NT books, especially those of the apostle Paul. Both stress the failure of the mosaic law and also God's offer of grace in the face of a heartfelt faith. (539)
To be sure, we believe that the events recounted in the Pentateuch are real, and the Bible has accurately depicted them. Our task, however, does not involve the reconstruction of those historical events apart from the biblical narratives. Our task is the exegesis of the biblical narratives in which those historical events are recounted. (540)
The aim of the Pentateuch is to be a textual expression of the prophetic hope grounded in the words of Moses. It is a hope that echoed throughout the OT (Tanak) and could be heard as far away as the NT and the church. At the center of that hope is a king whose reign is described in three large poems in the Pentateuch (Gen 49; Num 24; Deut 32/33). The Christian faith is in large measure an expression of the belief that Jesus is this king. (553)
The Pentateuch (OT) was written to Israel when they were under the Sinai covenant, but its purpose was to teach them the new covenant, not the old covenant. (556)
My general conclusion was that the message of the Pentateuch is not so much about the Mosaic law and the Sinai covenant as it is about the prophetic hope of a new covenant. At the center of that hope, and extending to the whole of the Pentateuch, is the role of the king from the house of Judah who will reign over Israel and the nations. (603)
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Some more quotes I liked from The Meaning of the Pentateuch (Sailhamer, John. The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009.)
History is God working out his will in the world. In Israel's history, God was, as it were, submerging himself into human events, making it increasingly more sacred and increasingly more messianic. Ultimately, Israel's sacred history tilts toward Christ in God's final act of stepping into history, the Incarnation. (230)
As van Hofmann says, “It is a long way between the death of an animal whose skin covered [human] nakedness, and the death of the Son of God whose righteousness covers [human] sin. Yet these are like the beginning and the end of the same journey.” - from Interpreting the Bible (230)
To be sure, the Pentateuch is about the Mosaic covenant and the law given at Sinai, but what it says about the law and Sinai anticipates Paul's message in Galatians 3. The law did not produce a living faith in the heart of the individual Israelite. There was nothing inherently wrong with the law, but it is clear that Israel failed to keep it. God gave Israel a future hope and laws to keep them until the arrival of that future. The Pentateuch is a commentary on the laws of the Sinai covenant. It, like the prophetic books, looks for a better covenant than one dependent on written laws and tablets of stone. That “something better” is a new covenant that embraces both Israel and the nations and has as its centerpiece a royal (messianic) redeemer. (245)
The books of the OT were written as the embodiment of a real, messianic hope-a hope in future redemption and a promised redeemer ... The central purpose of the books of the HB from the outset was to serve as the expression of the deep-seated messianic hope of a small group of faithful prophets and their biblically alert followers. (247)
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
We are considering chapters 2 and 3 of Richard Sibbes book The Bruised Reed in this installment of Reading the Classics with Challies.
I would like to comment on a section of chapter 2 that I found both interesting and helpful. It pertains to the bruising we receive as Christians and we ought to think about it. Sibbes gives us instructions saying, "First, we must conceive of bruising either as a state into which God brings us, or as a duty to be performed by us. Both are here meant." Sibbes teaches us that the bruising we encounter is and should be initiated by God and performed by us. Interesting.
The bruising we do towards ourselves is, according to Sibbes, very much like mortification. "We must lay siege to the hardness of our own hearts, and aggravate sin all we can." This aggravation of sin and laying siege to our own hearts points towards the killing of sin. I am reminded of John Owen's saying "Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you."
Our performance of self-bruising has in mind two goals according to this Puritan author: "(1) that we may prize Christ above all, and see that a Saviour must be had; and (2) that we reform that which is amiss". This reforming what is amiss is followed by the staement that drew my attention to the parallels 'bruising' has with mortification; "... though it be to the cutting off of our right hand, or pulling out of our right eye."
Whether we administer our own duty of bruising or are under God's hand in the bruising, Sibbes would counsel us "Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things." That sin would be sour and nothing would compare to the sweetness of Christ! With those ends in sight, the bruising does not seem so intimidating, does it?
Even as we experience sorrow and grief, we can direct those affections to a Godly profit for our souls: "And when God's hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin." Directing grief to consume sin is another motivating idea to consider when one finds themselves under a work of bruising.
One of the enjoyable and helpful aspects of many of the Puritan works I have read is there sensibility and practical advice. These men did not live in ivory towers or let their minds wander in ethereal, fantastical realms. They were 'down to earth' and acquainted with sorrows and difficulties; at least their advice points towards that.
Having just finished studying Romeo & Juliet with my grade 10 English class, we were watching the Luhrmann video rendition of it [the one that stars DiCaprio]. One of the soliloquies reminded me of a book I read last year; The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs.
The soliloquy under consideration is spoken by Friar Laurence in Act III Scene iii. Romeo has just killed Juliet's cousin Tybalt. Realizing that he has further jeopardized their tenuous marriage, Romeo has a 'hissy fit' in Friar Laurence's cell and prepares to kill himself; or feigns doing so.
Friar Laurence, appalled by his actions, verbally accosts him:
Hold thy desperate hand:After chastising the young Montague, Friar Laurence tries to help Romeo percieve his plight with a different perspective:
Art thou a man? thy form cries out thou art:
Thy tears are womanish; thy wild acts denote
The unreasonable fury of a beast:
Unseemly woman in a seeming man!
What, rouse thee, man! thy Juliet is alive,He follows this perspective altering dialogue with the words that reminded me of Burrough's classic work on contentment:
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew'st Tybalt; there are thou happy too:
The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;Specifically, this reminded me of a point Burroughs makes while discussing what Christian contentment consisted of: "It is not so much the removing of the affliction that is upon us as the changing of the affliction, the metamorphosing of the affliction, so that it is quite turned and changed into something else."
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,
Thou pout'st upon thy fortune and thy love:
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.
Friar Laurence is trying not to remove Romeo's affliction, but rather he is trying to metamorphisize his affliction into something else. For the Christian, this is a task for grace, "There is a power of grace to turn this affliction into good; it takes away the sting and poison of it." Burroughs goes on to say,
Oh, take heed you do not speak in a scornful way of the ways of God; grace has the power to turn afflictions into mercies. Two men may have the same affliction; to one it shall be as gall and wormwood, yet it shall be wine and honey and delightfulness and joy and advantage and riches to the other. This is the mystery of contentment, not so much by removing the evil, as by metamorphosing the evil, by changing the evil into good.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
He comments that even though at first glance this line of thinking seems logical, it's not biblical. Here's a little bit of the post but you can find it in its entirety by clicking the title of this post.
God can work without means, or contrary to means, but he usually works through means; which means…he uses us. If you get in a bad car accident, God could save you by angelic intervention, or he could save you by a miracle when you should have been dead, but he can also save you with your seat belt. God uses means to achieve his purposes, and evangelism (and prayer for that matter) is one of those means.
God ordained proclamation to accomplish his purposes. We share the gospel out of joyful obedience, and in hope that the God who appoints the end also ordains the means. Someone asked Spurgeon once, “Why do you preach if you believe in election?” His response: “Because the elect don’t have yellow stripes down their back.” In other words, we don’t whom the elect are, so we declare the gospel without discrimination, trusting that the sheep will recognize the master’s voice.
Actually, the only evangelistic hope we really have in a hard-hearted, disobedient world is that the Lord has elect sheep out there, wandering though they now may be, who will hear his voice when we open our mouths to speak on behalf of the Good Shepherd.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Some quotes I liked from the first few chapters of The Meaning of the Pentateuch (Sailhamer, John. The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009.)
I have much to say in this book about the canonical shape of the OT, arguing throughout that its purpose was to provide the books of the OT with the best possible context for viewing them messianically. (17)
How does one go about finding the meaning of a text such as the Pentateuch? The answer that I offer is that one should approach the meaning of such a text in terms of its “big idea.” There are questions we must ask. What is this book all about? Where is the author going? What is he trying to say? Every part of the Pentateuch has its place within the context of its big idea. The meaning of the whole helps us see the importance of each of its parts. This is how texts such as the Pentateuch work. They are not randomly gathered bits of written facts. They give us whole pictures, and the meaning of the whole affects our understanding of the meaning of the parts. (20)
How do we know if our big idea fits the text? Here is a basic principle: the best big idea is that which explains the most and the most important features of the text. (20-1)
The Pentateuch looks beyond the law of God to his grace. The purpose of the Pentateuch is to teach its readers about faith and hope in the new covenant (Deut. 30:6). (26)
We have already seen that the Pentateuch begins at Genesis 1:1, and hence it begins not with law or promise or even with nature as a given; it begins with creation (ex nihilo) and thereby establishes a great theological moment at its beginning. All God's acts recorded in the Pentateuch are grounded in the “real world” (biblical realism). Also, the Pentateuch begins with the free act of God in creation. The Pentateuch also moves quickly to tell us that this free act was also for our “good” (e.g., Gen 1:4). Creation thus is cast as an act of grace, unmerited favor. From the point of view of the structure of the Pentateuch, the giving of the law, the promises of Abraham, and nature itself are grounded in God's gracious gift of creaturehood. The Pentateuch ultimately is about creation and grace (creation/grace). (32)
When viewed in light of its final composition, the overall literary strategy of the Pentateuch suggests that God's original plan for Israel at Sinai did not incude the vast collections of law found in the Pentateuch. Rather, the Pentateuch suggests that the Mosaic law was added to the Sinai covenant because of Israel's many transgressions in the wilderness (cf. Mt 19:8). (42)
Above all, the message of the Pentateuch is centered on God's grace. Israel continually fell short of obedience to his will. God did not cast them off. God gave them more law to guard them and to keep their lives pure and undefiled. The giving of the law to Israel is thus shown to be an act of God's grace. In the end, the Pentateuch makes it clear that something must be done about the human heart. (47-8)
Simply put, if the words of the Bible are inspired, their meaning is of central importance. This puts the emphasis in the right place: on the meaning of the words as a part of the language of the Bible. To ask why the author wrote the Pentateuch is a valid historical question, but that question should not be construed as an answer to the question of the meaning of the Pentateuch. One finds the meaning and message of the Pentateuch not in asking why it was written or how, but in asking what was written in the book itself. The author of the Pentateuch surely had specific reasons or motives for writing the Pentateuch, but those reasons should not be identified with the meaning of the Pentateuch. The meaning of the Pentateuch as intended by its author lies in its “verbal meaning,” be that literal, figurative, realistic or spiritual sense. (73-4)
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
In Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living, and Speaking the Gospel (IVP, 2010), J. Mack Stiles sets out something I’ve heard Don Carson say a number of times: “Losing the gospel doesn’t happen all at once, it’s much more like a four generation process too:
The gospel is accepted —>
The gospel is assumed —>
The gospel is confused —>
The gospel is lost.”
How do you know if your church is beginning to assume the gospel? The answer, Stiles says, is when you no longer hear the gospel. He asks a series of diagnostic questions:
Was the gospel in the sermon Sunday morning?
Could the uninitiated hear that sermon and come to real faith in Christ?
Are gospel principles governing organizational decisions?
Do you hear the gospel in people’s prayers?
Does your fellowship encourage you to say the gospel? And then is it more than just a memorized sketch? Sure, it may follow the form of “God, Man, Christ, Response,” but is it in people’s own words?
Furthermore, do you see it in their actions? Is the gospel lived out?
Is membership based on a true commitment to the gospel or just because someone wants to join an organization—or maybe write an expose?
The healthy evangelist is asking these questions and looking for answers so as to guard the gospel. Here is the critical test.
Could you have preached that sermon if Christ had not died on the cross?
Could you have developed that leadership principle had Christ not been crucified?
I’m not saying be impractical—the Bible has much to say about being practical—but make sure that the practical is tied to the message of Jesus. Otherwise we are on the road to an assumption that will lose the gospel.
(p. 41, my emphasis)
May God give us grace to be men, women, and children of, by, and for the gospel!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
When, however, it comes to the meaning of the biblical texts as historical narratives, the evangelical view of history is such that historical reconstructions of the biblical events and narratives cannot and should not be allowed to take the place of close study of the written texts and the meaning they give to the events they recount.
It is not a question of whether one can accurately fill in the historical details that have been left out of the biblical picture. Evangelicals have always believed they could do so successfully. The ability to fill out the biblical picture is at the heart of the problem. Using modern historical tools, we have the same ability to fill in the historical details of scriptural narratives as we have of painting intricate details of seventeenth-century life over the shadows of a Rembrandt painting. By painting shadows, Rembrandt deliberately left out many historical details that may have given us much information about the events he recorded on canvas. Historians who understand the culture and life setting of seventeenth-century Europe could easily replace Rembrandt's dark shadows with historically accurate details of the world around him. In the same way, historians of the ancient world could fill in many historically accurate details about the events recorded in biblical narratives. They could, for example, help us to better understand the nature of biblical covenants by comparing them with ancient treaty documents. There is no end to the amount of material now available to "fill in" the biblical picture. The problem is that this would have the same effect on the biblical (OT) narratives as on Rembrandt's paintings. Filling in the biblical narratives with additional historical material may teach us things about the events of which the biblical writers were speaking, but the evangelical's goal in interpretation and biblical theology is not an understanding of those events as such. The goal, as evangelical must see it, is the biblical author's understanding of those events in the inspired text of the Bible (OT). We should not seek to know what lies behind or beneath Rembrandt's shadows. It is the shadows that are a central part of the paintings, not the historical details that lie behind the shadows and are thus not in the painting. Rembrandt's meaning lies as much in what is not seen in his painting as in what is seen. The shadows, by blocking out the irrelevant details, help us focus on what is seen. The effect of us adding more details to the painting would be to lose Rembrandt's focus. The task for evangelicals is to recover the sense of what the biblical texts intend to tell us about the events they are recounting. We can arrive at that goal only by exegesis of the text. (104)
Thursday, April 15, 2010
It is time again for Reading the Classics with Challies, or, RCC for short. This time around Challies has decided to read a book by Puritan Richard Sibbes. Here is a brief biography from Theopedia.com:
Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) a Puritan cleric and divine, "was born in Tostock, Suffolk, the first-born son of a wheelwright. In 1595, against his father's wishes that he carry on the family trade, Sibbes joined St John's College, Cambridge. Though of his own spiritual progress we know little, we do know that he undoubtedly heard the preaching of William Perkins in Cambridge, and that he was ultimately converted under the ministry of Perkins' successor, Paul Baynes.It is the book referred to in the last line of the biography above that Challies has decided to read; The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax. You can read along at Monergism.com; thay have an online copy of the book.
"After earning his B.D. in 1610, he was appointed as a lecturer at Holy Trinity in Cambridge, a position from which he was relieved five years later because of his Puritan tendencies. Sibbes, however, had by then become widely known for his preaching, and through the influence of some powerful friends, in 1617 he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray's Inn, one of the most influential pulpits in London. At Gray's Inn, Sibbes' eminence and influence as a preacher continued to grow, to the extent that his foes did not dare move against him.
"In 1626, he came back to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine's Hall, while retaining his position at Gray's Inn. And in 1633, he returned to Holy Trinity, this time by crown appointment "to its perpetual curacy." Sibbes continued his preaching ministry both there and at Gray's Inn, as well as maintaining his duties at St Catherine's. until his death on 5th July 1635, at the age of 58.
"During his lifetime, Sibbes authorised the publishing of only three volumes of his work. One is a treatise entitled The Soul's Conflict with Itself and Victory over itself by Faith, and the other two are collections of sermons under the titles The Saint's Safety in Evil Times and The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax. Both The Soul's Conflict and The Saint's Safety are able works, exposing their author as a master at the practical application of Scripture and theology. But it is in The Bruised Reed that we find crystallised the foundation and essence of Sibbes' own ministry and preaching."
As opposed to giving summaries as I did for Redemption Accomplished and Applied, the last book we looked at for RCC, this time I will try and focus on a quote or passage that grabs my attention.
In the first chapter, I came across this line:
In time of temptation, apprehensive consciences look so much to the present trouble they are in that they need to be roused up to behold him in whom they may find rest for their distressed souls.
This line was quite intriguing, and the first thing that caught my attention was the whiff of paradox it contains. Whether it be Chesterton on bravery, "It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die"; or Shakespeare, as in "Fair is foul and foul is fair"; or Christ, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it"; paradox is an interesting and attention-grabbing literary device.
Sibbes puts this device to use when he suggests that those with apprehensive consciences need to be "roused" to "find rest". How does being roused help one find rest? This paradoxical statement, I would suggest, was intentional and it draws our attention to the rousing. Sibbes suggests that those in temptation need to be roused so that they can look to "him in whom they may find rest."
It seems that, from the start, this Puritan author will have our gaze Christ-centered, cross-centered, and gospel-centered. In the first chapter alone we read of service, salvation, sacrifice, reconciliation, redemption, mediation, and grace. This loving, graceful response of Christ is necessary since we are bruised reed and the smoldering flax:
The bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it, for, whatever pretences sin makes, they come to an end when we are bruised and broken. He is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and, seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another, with some hope, which a little raises him out of himself to Christ, though he dare not claim any present interest of mercy. This spark of hope being opposed by doubtings and fears rising from corruption makes him as smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The final chapter of The Mortification of Sin in the Believer begins with Owen declaring that the previous chapter's directions are only preparatory work in mortification. "Now, the considerations which I have hitherto insisted on are rather of things preparatory to the work aimed at then such as will it effect. It is the heart's due preparation for the work itself, without which it will not be accomplished, that hitherto I have aimed at."
For Owen, the actual means of mortification are few:
1. Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.Fortunately for the reader, Owen explains each of these two points. In regards to the first point, Owen anticipates a question from the reader, "But thou wilt say, "How shall faith act itself on Christ for this end and purpose?" " Owen's answer to this question is twofold.
2. I have only, then, to add the heads of the work of the Spirit in this business of mortification, which is so peculiarly ascribed to him.
(1.) By faith fill thy soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose, that all thy lusts, this very lust wherewith thou art entangled, may be mortified.
(2.) Raise up thy heart by faith to an expectation of relief from Christ.
Let this, then, be fixed upon thy heart, that if thou hast not relief from him thou shalt never have any. All ways, endeavours, contendings, that are not animated by this expectation of relief from Christ and him only are to no purpose, will do thee no good; yea, if they are any thing but supportments of thy heart in this expectation, or means appointed by himself for the receiving help from him, they are in vain.
Owen encourages the reader to expect Christ to work in such a manner with the following:
(1.) Consider his mercifulness, tenderness, and kindness, as he is our great High Priest at the right hand of God.
(2.) Consider His faithfulness who hath promised; which may raise thee up and confirm thee in this waiting in an expectation of relief.
Expecting Christ to engage in such a fashion has its advantages:
[1.] It engages him to a full and speedy assistance. Nothing doth more engage the heart of a man to be useful and helpful to another than his expectation of help from him, if justly raised and countenanced by him who is to give the relief. Our Lord Jesus hath raised our hearts, by his kindness, care, and promises, to this expectation; certainly our rising up unto it must needs be a great engagement upon him to assist us accordingly.
[2.] It engages the heart to attend diligently to all the ways and means whereby Christ is wont to communicate himself to the soul; and so takes in the real assistance of all graces and ordinances whatever. He that expects any thing from a man, applies himself to the ways and means whereby it may be obtained.
Two final suggestions for point #1, "First, act faith peculiarly upon the death, blood, and cross of Christ; that is, on Christ as crucified and slain. Mortification of sin is peculiarly from the death of Christ, which shall assuredly be accomplished by it. He died to destroy the works of the devil ... Secondly, then act faith on the death of Christ, and that under these two notions, -- first, In expectation of power; secondly, In endeavours for conformity."
As to point #2, Owen emphasizes that this, mortification, is our duty and it is empowered by the Spirit.
(1.) He alone clearly and fully convinces the heart of the evil and guilt and danger of the corruption, lust, or sin to be mortified. Without this conviction, or whilst it is so faint that the heart can wrestle with it or digest it, there will be no thorough work made.
(2.) The Spirit alone reveals unto us the fullness of Christ for our relief; which is the consideration that stays the heart from false ways and from despairing despondency
(3.) The Spirit alone establishes the heart in expectation of relief from Christ; which is the great sovereign means of mortification, as hath been discovered
(4.) The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power; for by the Spirit are we baptized into the death of Christ
(5.) The Spirit is the author and finisher of our sanctification; gives new supplies and influences of grace for holiness and sanctification, when the contrary principle is weakened and abated
(6.) In all the soul's addresses to God in this condition, it hath supportment from the Spirit. Whence is the power, life, and vigour of prayer? whence its efficacy to prevail with God? Is it not from the Spirit?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
At the very end of the chapter Owen relays a question the reader may, and likely should, have; "When God speaks it, we must receive it, that is true; but how shall we know when he speaks?"
I found Owen's reply absolutely fascinating!
(1.) I would we could all practically come up to this, to receive peace when we are convinced that God speaks it, and that it is our duty to receive it. But, --
(2.) There is, if I may so say, a secret instinct in faith, whereby it knows the voice of Christ when he speaks indeed[emphasis mine]; as the babe leaped in the womb when the blessed Virgin came to Elisabeth, faith leaps in the heart when Christ indeed draws nigh to it. "My sheep," says Christ, "know my voice," John 10:4; -- "They know my voice; they are used to the sound of it;" and they know when his lips are opened to them and are full of grace. The spouse was in a sad condition, Cant. 5:2, -- asleep in security; but yet as soon as Christ speaks, she cries, "It is the voice of my beloved that speaks!" She knew his voice, and was so acquainted with communion with him, that instantly she discovers him; and so will you also. If you exercise yourselves to acquaintance and communion with him, you will easily discern between his voice and the voice of a stranger. When he doth speak, he speaks as never man spake; he speaks with power, and one way or other will make your "hearts burn within you," as he did to the disciples, Luke 24. He doth it by "putting in his hand at the hole of the door," Cant. 5:4, -- his Spirit into your hearts to seize on you.
He that hath his senses exercised to discern good or evil, being increased in judgement and experience by a constant observation of the ways of Christ's intercourse, the manner of the operations of the Spirit, and the effects it usually produceth, is the best judge for himself in this case.
Secondly, If the word of the Lord doth good to your souls, he speaks it; if it humble, if it cleanse, and be useful to those ends for which promises are given, -- namely, to endear, to cleanse, to melt and bind to obedience, to self-emptiness, etc. But this is not my business; nor shall I farther divert in the pursuit of this direction. Without the observation of it, sin will have great advantages towards the hardening of the heart.
I found this short discussion on God speaking very surprising and incredibly interesting. I am definitely going to try and find out if Owen writes more about this.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Owen elaborates on this direction:
- That as it is the great prerogative and sovereignty of God to give grace to whom he pleases ... so among those so called and justified, and whom he will save, he yet reserves this privilege to himself, to speak peace to whom he pleaseth, and in what degree he pleaseth, even amongst them on whom he hath bestowed grace.
- As God creates it for whom he pleaseth, so it is the prerogative of Christ to speak it home to the conscience.
- We speak peace to ourselves when we do it slightly.
- Whoever speaks peace to himself upon any one account, and at the same time hath another evil of no less importance lying upon his spirit, about which he hath had no dealing with God, that man cries "Peace" when there is none.
- When men of themselves speak peace to their consciences, it is seldom that God speaks humiliation to their souls.
In regards to #1 and #2 above, Owen wants to clarify his position concerning "rules whereby men may know whether God speaks peace to them, or whether they speak peace to themselves only."
1. Men certainly speak peace to themselves when their so doing is not attended with the greatest detestation imaginable of that sin in reference whereunto they do speak peace to themselves, and abhorrency of themselves for it. When men are wounded by sin, disquieted and perplexed, and knowing that there is no remedy for them but only in the mercies of God, through the blood of Christ, do therefore look to him, and to the promises of the covenant in him, and thereupon quiet their hearts that it shall be well with them, and that God will be exalted, that he may be gracious to them, and, yet their souls are not wrought to the greatest detestation of the sin or sins upon the account whereof they are disquieted, -- this is to heal themselves, and not to be healed of God ... When God comes home to speak peace in a sure covenant of it, it fills the soul with shame for all the ways whereby it hath been alienated from him ... Let a man make what application he will for healing and peace, let him do it to the true Physician, let him do it the right way, let him quiet his heart in the promises of the covenant; yet, when peace is spoken, if it be not attended with the detestation and abhorrency of that sin which was the wound and caused the disquietment, this is no peace of God's creating, but of our own purchasing. It is but a skinning over the wound, whilst the core lies at the bottom, which will putrefy, and corrupt, and corrode, until it break out again with noisomeness, vexation, and danger.
2. When men measure out peace to themselves upon the conclusions that their convictions and rational principles will carry them out unto, this is a false peace, and will not abide. I shall a little explain what I mean hereby. A man hath got a wound by sin; he hath a conviction of some sin upon his conscience; he hath not walked uprightly as becometh the gospel; all is not well and right between God and his soul. He considers now what is to be done. Light he hath, and knows what path he must take, and how his soul hath been formerly healed. Considering that the promises of God are the outward means of application for the healing of his sores and quieting of the heart, he goes to them, searches them out, finds out some one or more of them whose literal expressions are directly suited to his condition. Says he to himself, "God speaks in this promise; here I will take myself a plaster as long and broad as my wound;" and so brings the word of the promise to his condition, and sets him down in peace. This is another appearance upon the mount; the Lord is near, but the Lord is not in it. It hath not been the work of the Spirit, who alone can "convince us of sin, and righteousness, and judgement," but the mere actings of the intelligent, rational soul.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The eighth direction which John Owen gives the reader for the mortification of a sin is "Use and exercise thyself to such meditations as may serve to fill thee at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of thine own vileness." He proceeds to explain how one might do this through the rest of the chapter.
1. Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him.
Many thoughts of it cannot but fill thee with a sense of thine own vileness, which strikes deep at the root of any indwelling sin ... Be much in thoughts of this nature, to abase the pride of thy heart, and to keep thy soul humble within thee. There is nothing will render thee a greater indisposition to be imposed on by the deceits of sin than such a frame of heart. Think greatly of the greatness of God.
2. Think much of thine unacquaintedness with him.
Though thou knowest enough to keep thee low and humble, yet how little a portion is it that thou knowest of him ... Labour with this also to take down the pride of thy heart. What dost thou know of God? How little a portion is it! How immense is he in his nature! Canst thou look without terror into the abyss of eternity? Thou canst not bear the rays of his glorious being.
Owen continues throughout most of the chapter on the theme of 'how little we really know' God. His purpose in this is primarily to exalt God and humble human beings. That being said, near the end of the chapter he realizes that this lack of acquaintedness we have with God may lead one to suggest that we are not responsible for our actions due to this distance from Him.
To this, Owen retorts,
The truth is, we all of know enough of him to love him more than we do, to delight in him and serve him, believe him, obey him, put our trust in him, above all that we have hitherto attained. Our darkness and weakness is no plea for our negligence and disobedience. Who is it that hath walked up to the knowledge that he hath had of the perfections, excellencies, and will of God? God's end in giving us any knowledge of himself here is that we may "glorify him as God;" that is, love him, serve him, believe and obey him, -- give him all the honour and glory that is due from poor sinful creatures to a sin-pardoning God and Creator. We must all acknowledge that we were never thoroughly transformed into the image of that knowledge which we have had. And had we used our talents well, we might have been trusted with more.
He also adds,
Comparatively, that knowledge which we have of God by the revelation of Jesus Christ in the gospel is exceeding eminent and glorious. It is so in comparison of any knowledge of God that might otherwise be attained, or was delivered in the law under the Old Testament, which had but the shadow of good things, not the express image of them; this the apostle pursues at large, 2 Cor. 3. Christ hath now in these last days revealed the Father from his own bosom, declared his name, made known his mind, will, and counsel in a far more clear, eminent, distinct manner than he did formerly, whilst he for the most part, is intended in the places before mentioned. The clear, perspicuous delivery and declaration of God and his will in the gospel is expressly exalted in comparison of any other way of revelation of himself.
Finally, I enjoyed this quote from the chapter,
The excellency of a believer is, not that he hath a large apprehension of things, but that what he doth apprehend, which perhaps may be very little, he sees it in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light; and this is that which gives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts or curious-raised notions.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The seventh sermon of Jonathan Edwards from the book Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997) is entitled Christ The Example Of Ministers and was delivered at Portsmouth, at the ordination of the Rev. Mr. Job Strong, June 28, 1749.
The outline for the sermon is as follows:
Doctrine: It is the duty of ministers of the gospel, in the work of their ministry, to follow the example of their great Lord and Master.
I. I would observe wherein ministers of the gospel ought to follow the example of Christ.
II. Give some reasons why they should follow his example.
III. I would endeavor to make a proper application of those things to myself, and others that are called to this work of the ministry.
IV. Show what improvement should be made of them by the people of this church and congregation.
Edwards elaborates his first point in stating, "Then, I would show wherein ministers of the gospel ought, in the work of their ministry, to follow the example of their great Lord and Master, Jesus Christ."
Edwards delivers his first sub-point as such; "First, in general, ministers should follow their Lord and Master in all those excellent virtues, and in that universal and eminent holiness of life, which he set an example of in this human nature."
Under this heading he suggests that ministers should:
- be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of: the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord
- be of the same spirit of heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world
- be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God
- follow the example of his prayerfulness
- follow Christ’s example, in his strict, constant, and inflexible observance of the commands which God has given him, touching what he should do and what he should say
- be persons of the same quiet, lamb-like spirit that Christ was of, the same spirit of submission to God’s will, and patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men
- be of the same spirit of zeal, diligence, and self-denial for the glory of God, and advancement for his kingdom, and for the good of mankind; for which things’ sake Christ went though the greatest labors, and endured the most extreme sufferings
His next sub-point is declared, "Second, more particularly should ministers of the gospel follow the example of their great Master, in the manner in which they seek the salvation and happiness of the souls of men." Under this sub-point he lists, in much greater detail, 10 ways in which ministers should follow Christ's example.
- They should follow his example of love to souls.
- They should have the same spirit of compassion to men under their spiritual calamities and miseries that he had.
- Ministers should imitate their great Master in his fervent prayers for the good of the souls of men.
- Ministers should follow the example of Christ in his diligence and laboriousness in his work.
- Ministers should follow the example of Christ, in his readiness not only to labor, but suffer, for the salvation of souls, to spend and be spent for them.
- In like manner should ministers travail for the conversion and salvation of their hearers.
- They should imitate the faithfulness of Christ in his ministry, in speaking whatsoever God had commanded him, and declaring the whole counsel of God.
- They should imitate him the manner of his preaching.
- Ministers should follow their Master in his zeal, so wonderfully mixed and tempered with gentleness and condescension in his dealing with souls, preaching the gospel to the poor, and taking a gracious notice from time to time of little children.
- And they should imitate their Lord in his following the work of ministry, not from mercenary views, or for the sake of worldly advantages, but for God’s glory, and men’s salvation.
Friday, April 9, 2010
The second main point of this sermon is "to be pure in heart, is the certain and only way to attain to this blessedness. 'This blessedness refers to the first point which states that it is a truly blessed thing to the soul of man to see God.
The aspect I will focus on, hence drawing your focus to, is introduced with "But the purity of heart with respect to sin, that may be obtained in this life, consists in the following things". The following things are listed below with some quotes.
1. It implies that the soul sees the filthiness that there is in sin, and accordingly abhors it. "Sin, that is so filthy in itself, is become so sensibly to the man whose heart is pure. He sees its odiousness and deformity, and it is become nauseous to him ... But he who has become pure in heart hates sin. He has antipathy to it. He does not love to be near it. If he sees any of it hanging about him, he abhors himself for it. He seems filthy to himself. He is a burden to himself. He abhors the very sight of it, and shuns the appearance of it. If he sees sin in others, it is a very unpleasant sight to him. As sin, and as committed against God, it is grievous and uncomfortable to him wherever he discovers it. It is because his heart is changed, and God has given him a pure nature."
2. It implies godly sorrow for sin. "The pure heart has not only respect to that spiritual filthiness that is present to abhor it and shun it, but it has also respect to past sin. The consideration of that grieves it; it causes shame and sorrow to think that it ever rejoiced in such defilement, that it ever was so abominable as to love it and feed upon it. Every transgression leaves a filth behind it upon the soul, and this remaining filth occasions pain to the renewed and purified heart. By godly sorrow the heart exerts itself against the filthiness of past sins, and does, as it were, endeavor to cast it off, and purge itself from it."
3. It implies that sin is mortified in the heart, so that it is free from the reigning power and dominion of it. "Though the heart is not perfectly free from all sin, yet a freedom is begun. Before, spiritual filth had the possession of the heart, corruption had the entire government of the soul, every faculty was so wholly defiled by it, that all its acts were filthy, and only filthy, the heart was entirely enslaved to sin ... But now the power of sin is broken, the strong bands by which it was tied and fastened to the heart are in a great measure loosed, so that corruption has no longer the possession and government of the heart as before. The principal seal, the throne of the heart, that was formerly possessed by corruption, is now purged, and filthiness does now as it were only possess the inferior and exterior parts of the soul."
4. The heart that is pure will be continually endeavoring to cleanse itself from all remaining filthiness. "So he who is pure in heart will never suffer himself to live in any sin. If he be overtaken in a fault he will return and cleanse himself again by repentance, and reformation, and a more earnest care that he may avoid that sin for the future."
5. The heart is said to be pure, especially with respect to its cleanness from, and opposition to, the lust of uncleanness. "This kind of wickedness we find to be more especially called uncleanness and filthiness in Scripture. It brings a peculiar turpitude upon the soul, and defiles the temple of God."
We must not think to excuse ourselves by saying that it is God’s work, that we cannot purify our own hearts. For though it be God’s work in one sense, yet it is equally our work in another ... If you do not engage in this work yourselves, and purify your own hearts, they never will be pure. If you do not get a pure heart, the blame of it will be laid to your own backwardness. The unclean soul hates to be purified. It is opposite to its nature. There is a great deal of self-denial in it. But be content to contradict the nature and bent of your own heart, that it may be purified. However grating it may be to you at first, yet consider how blessed the issue will be. Though the road be a little rough in the beginning, yet it will grow pleasanter and pleasanter, till at last it will infallibly lead to that lightsome and glorious country, the inhabitants of which do see and converse with God.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
3. Load thy conscience with the guilt of it.Under direction #3, load thy conscience with the guilt of it, Owen gives an interesting sub-point to light. He says,
4. Being thus affected with thy sin, in the next place get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of it.
5. Consider whether the distemper with which thou art perplexed be not rooted in thy nature, and cherished, fomented, and heightened from thy constitution. A proneness to some sins may doubtless lie in the natural temper and disposition of men.
6. Consider what occasions, what advantages thy distemper hath taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.
7. Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground.
Bring thy lust to the gospel, -- not for relief, but for farther conviction of its guilt; look on Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. Say to thy soul, "What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace? Do I thus requite the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, that the blessed Spirit hath chosen to dwell in? And can I keep myself out of the dust? What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold up my head with any boldness before him? Do I account communion with him of so little value, that for this vile lust's sake I have scarce left him any room in my heart? How shall I escape if I neglect so great salvation? In the meantime, what shall I say to the Lord? Love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, consolation, -- I have despised them all, and esteemed them as a thing of nought, that I might harbour a lust in my heart. Have I obtained a view of God's fatherly countenance, that I might behold his face and provoke him to his face? Was my soul washed, that room might be made for new defilements? Shall I endeavour to disappoint the end of the death of Christ? Shall I daily grieve that Spirit whereby I am sealed to the day of redemption?" Entertain thy conscience daily with this treaty. See if it can stand before this aggravation of its guilt. If this make it not sink in some measure, I fear thy case is dangerous.
Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, "Thus far it shall go, and no farther." If it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel, -- if it once break out, it will have its course. Its not acting is easier to be compassed than its bounding. Therefore doth James give that gradation and process of lust, chap 1:14,15, that we may stop at the entrance. Dost thou find thy corruption to begin to entangle thy thoughts? Rise up with all thy strength against it, with no less indignation that if it had fully accomplished what it aims at. Consider what an unclean thought would have; it would have; -- murder and destruction is at the end of it. Set thyself against it with no less vigour than if it had utterly debased thee to wickedness. Without this course thou wilt not prevail. As sin gets ground in the affections to delight in, it gets also upon the understanding to slight it.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Get a clear and abiding sense upon thy mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of that sin wherewith thou are perplexed.Concerning the his admonition to "get a clear sense" of the guilt of one's sin he writes, "Innumerable ways there are whereby sin diverts the mind from a right and due apprehension of its guilt. Its noisome exhalations darken the mind, that it cannot make a right judgment of things. Perplexing reasonings, extenuating promises, tumultuating desires, treacherous purposes of relinquishment, hopes of mercy, all have their share in disturbing the mind in its consideration of the guilt of a prevailing lust." Owens sense of the value of guilt is not one I have been taught in my walk of faith. It is something I need to study and understand more.
To this seeking of a clear sense of guilt, Owen adds some considerations. First, Owen suggests that the fact that we have grace in our lives points to the fact the abiding sin should and does increase and aggravate our guilt.
Second, Owen wants the reader to consider that though God sees more excellency in the motives of the heart and the actions of His servants, He also suggests God also sees "a great deal of evil in the working of lust in their hearts, yea, and more than in the open, notorious acts of wicked men, or in many outward sins whereinto the saints may fall, seeing against them there is more opposition made, and more humiliation generally follows them."
His next point is in regards to getting a clear sense of the danger of the sin in our hearts. The danger lies in 4 areas:
- The danger of being hardened by its deceitfulness. "Sin will grow a light thing to thee; thou wilt pass it by as a thing of nought; this it will grow to."
- The danger of a great temporal correction from God because of it. "I do not mean that God doth send all these things always on his in anger; God forbid! but this I say, that when he doth so deal with thee, and thy conscience bears witness with him what thy provocations have been, thou wilt find his dealings full of bitterness to thy soul."
- The danger of loss of peace and strength. "If ever, then, thou hast enjoyed peace with God, if ever his terrors have made thee afraid, if ever thou hast had strength to walk with him, or ever hast mourned in thy prayer, and been troubled because of thy weakness, think of this danger that hangs over thy head. It is perhaps but a little while and thou shalt see the face of God in peace no more. Perhaps by to-morrow thou shalt not be able to pray, read, hear, or perform any duties with the least cheerfulness, life, or vigour; and thou mayst carry about thee broken bones, full of pain and terror, all the days of thy life."
- The danger of eternal destruction. "[1.] That there is such a between a connection between a continuance in sin and eternal destruction, that though God does resolve to deliver some from a continuance in sin that they may not be destroyed, yet he will deliver none from destruction that continue in sin; so that whilst any one lies under an abiding power of sin, the threats of destruction and everlasting separation from God are to be held out to him. [2.] That he who is so entangled, as above described, under the power of any corruption, can have at that present no clear prevailing evidence of his interest in the covenant, by the efficacy whereof he may be delivered from fear of destruction; so that destruction from the Lord may justly be a terror to him; and he may, he ought to look upon it, as that which will be the end of his course and ways."
- It grieves the holy and blessed Spirit, which is given to believers to dwell in them and abide with them.
- The Lord Jesus Christ is wounded afresh by it; his new creature in the heart is wounded; his love is foiled; his adversary gratified.
- It will take away a man's usefulness in his generation.
This chapter is a difficult one for me. I certainly do not take my sin into account the way Owen suggests we ought to. As a matter of fact, much of the teaching I have received is contrary to what Owen teaches here. I have much to learn in this area and this study on mortification is helping significantly. Owen sums up this chapter with these words,
This, then, is my second direction, and it regards the opposition that is to be made to lust in respect of its habitual residence in the soul :-- Keep alive upon thy heart these or the like considerations of its guilt, danger, and evil; be much in the meditation of these things; cause thy heart to dwell and abide upon them; engage thy thoughts into these considerations; let them not go off nor wander from them until they begin to have a powerful influence upon thy soul, -- until they make it to tremble.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
- Here we may see one instance wherein the revelation of Jesus Christ excels all human wisdom. It was a thing that had been beyond the wisdom of the world, to tell wherein man’s true happiness consisted ... We can give reasons for it now that it is revealed, and it seems so rational, that one would think the light of nature sufficient to discover it. But we having always lived in the enjoyment of gospel light, and being accustomed to it, are hardly sensible how dependent we are upon it, and how much we should be in the dark about things that now seem plain to us, if we never had had our reason assisted by revelation.
- Hence we learn the great privilege we have, who possess such advantages to come to the blessedness of seeing God. We have the true God revealed to us in the Word of God, who is the Being in the sight of whom this happiness is to be enjoyed. We have the glorious attributes and perfections of God declared to us. The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is discovered in the gospel which we enjoy, his beauties and glories are there as it were pointed forth by God’s own hand to our view, so that we have those means which God hath provided for our obtaining those beginnings of this sight of him which the saints have in this world, in that spiritual knowledge which they have of God, which is absolutely necessary in order to our having it perfectly in another world.
- This doctrine may lead us to a sense of the blessedness of the heavenly state, and justly cause us to long after it. In heaven the saints do see God, they enjoy that vision of him of which we have been speaking in its perfection. All clouds and darkness are there removed, they there behold the glory and love of God more immediately, and with greater certainty, and a more strong and lively apprehension than a man beholds his friend when he is with him, and sees his face by the noon-day sun, and with far greater advantages for conversation and enjoyment.
- Hence we learn that a life of holiness is the pleasantest life in this world, because in such a life we have the imperfect beginnings of a blessed and endless sight of God. And so they have somewhat of true happiness while here, they have the seeds of blessedness sown in their souls, and they begin to shoot forth. As for all others, those who do not live a holy life, they have nothing at all of true happiness, because they have nothing of the knowledge of God.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”
Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”
Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”
Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”
Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”
Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”
Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”
I. First, it is a truly blessed thing to the soul of man to see God.
1. What is meant by seeing God.
(1.) It is not any sight with the bodily eyes. The blessedness of the soul does not enter in at that door. This would make the blessedness of the soul dependent on the body, or the happiness of man’s superior part dependent on the inferior.
But the beauty of Christ’s body as seen by the bodily eyes, will be ravishing and delightful, chiefly as it will express his spiritual glory. The majesty that will appear in Christ’s body, will express and show forth the spiritual greatness and majesty of the divine nature. The pureness and beauty of that light and glory will express the perfection of the divine holiness. The sweetness and ravishing mildness of his countenance will express his divine and spiritual love and grace.(2.) It is an intellectual view by which God is seen.
God is a spiritual being, and he is beheld with the understanding. The soul has in itself those powers which are capable of apprehending objects, and especially spiritual objects, without looking through the windows of the outward senses.
2. I shall now give the reasons why the thus seeing God is that which will make the soul truly happy.
(1.) It yields a delight suitable to the nature of an intelligent creature.
Therefore those delights are most suitable to the nature of man, that are intellectual, which result from the exercises of this noblest, this distinguishing faculty. God, by giving man understanding, made him capable of such delights, and fitted him for them, and designed that such pleasures as those should be his happiness.
(2.) The pleasure which the soul has in seeing God is not only its delight, but it is at the same time its highest perfection and excellency.
To see God is the highest honor and dignity to which the human nature can attain. That intellectual beholding of him is itself the highest excellency of the understanding. The great part of the excellency of man is his knowledge and understanding. But the knowledge of God is the most excellent and noble kind of knowledge.
(3.) The happiness of seeing God is a blessing without any mixture.
This pleasure brings no bitterness with it.
This joy is without mixture, not only as it brings not bitterness with it, but also as it will not suffer any.
(4.) This joy of seeing God is the true blessedness of man because the fountain that supplies it is equal to man’s desire and capacity.
When God gave man his capacity of happiness, he doubtless made provision for the filling of it ... After they have had the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages, it will not grow a dull story. The relish of this delight will be as exquisite as ever, there is enough still for the utmost employment of every faculty.
(5.) This delight in the vision of God hath an unfailing foundation.
If we take pleasure in gratifying our senses, those objects whence we draw our gratifications will perish with the using, and our senses themselves also will be gone, the organs will be worn out, and our whole outward form will turn to dust. If we take pleasure in union with our earthly friends, that union must be broken. The bonds are not durable, but will soon wear asunder ... But he who has the immediate intellectual vision of God’s glory and love, and rejoices in that, has his happiness built upon an everlasting rock.