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Self-righteousness in believers – Jonathan Edwards

July 27, 2012 Comments off

Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon Bringing the Ark to Zion a Second Time, noted the great danger of falling into the sin of self-righteousness as a believer. He explained:

And let particular persons strictly examine themselves whether they hadn’t been lifted up with their particular experiences. I think, according to what observations I have made—as I have had [more] opportunity of very extensive observation than any other person in the town—that is has been a pretty prevailing error in the town, that persons are not sufficiently sensible of the danger of self-righteousness after conversion. They seem to be sensible that persons are in danger of it before they are converted, but they think that when a man is converted, he is brought off wholly from his own righteousness, just as if there was no danger of any workings of self-righteousness afterwards.

But this is from a great mistake of what is intended by a man’s being brought wholly off from his own righteousness when he is converted. ‘Tis not meant that a self-righteous principle is wholly done away, that there is no remains of such a disposition in the heart. There is as much of the remains of that as there is of any other corruption of the heart.

So a man is brought, when converted, wholly to renounce all his sins as well as to renounce all his own righteousness. But that don’t argue that he is wholly freed from all remains of sin. So no more is he wholly freed from remains of self-righteousness. There is a fountain of it left. There is an exceeding disposition in men, as long as they live, to make a righteousness of what is in themselves, and an exceeding disposition in men to make a righteousness of spiritual experiences, as well as other things;…a convert is apt to be exalted with high thoughts of his own eminency in grace.1

1. Jonathan Edwards Bringing the Ark to Zion a Second Time (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003) pp. 255-256 vol. 22

Source

What concern have we in the sins of the day wherein we live? – John Owen

March 27, 2011 Comments off

Discourse III

Question. What concern have we in the sins of the day wherein we live?

Answer. All sins may be referred to two heads:— First, Irreligion. Secondly, Immorality.

First. Irreligion; and that may be reduced to two heads, — atheism and false worship: you may add, also, particularly, the contempt of all instituted worship. It takes up much of the sins against the first table; however, at present I shall only speak of the first of them:— As to atheism, then, it may be no age can parallel that wherein we live, considering all the ways whereby the atheism of man’s heart may discover itself. For, take it absolutely, and in the seat of it, it is found only in the heart of man; unless some one or other prodigious instance breaks out sometime, as we have had in our days: but otherwise, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The heart is the seat of atheism. But we consider the ways whereby this atheism may and doth manifest itself:—

(1.) By horrid, cursed, blasphemous swearing; which is a contempt of the name of God. And when did it ever more abound in this nation?

2.) By reproaching of the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is the peculiar sin of the nation at this day; and that the like hath not been known or heard of in any nation under the sun.

(3.) By scoffing at all holy things; — at the Scriptures, — at every thing that carries a reverence and fear of God; so that a man who dares profess a fear of God in what he doth, makes himself a scorn.

(4.) Contempt of all God’s providential warnings is another proof of atheism. Never had a nation more warnings from God’s providence, nor ever were they more despised. These things, brethren, are not done in a corner; they are perpetrated in the face of the sun. The steam of them darkens the whole heaven, and they abound more and more every day.

Secondly. Shall we go to the other head, — namely, Immorality, — and see how it is there? It would be an endless thing, to go over the sins that reign among us: oppression, blood, uncleanness, sensuality, drunkenness, — all to the height, raging and reigning in the nation. I mention these things as a matter to be bewailed before the Lord by us this day; and we ought to be affected with the consideration of them.

Unto this great prevalency and predominancy of sin in the whole nation, there is added a strange and unspeakable security. The truth is, men were a little awakened one while in the nation. When the judgments of God — the pestilence, the fire, the sword, and the year after, another warning from heaven — were upon us, then there was a little awakening, like a man out of a dead sleep, that lifts up his head, and rubs his eyes for a time. But I can say this, that it is now towards forty years since God enabled me to observe something in the world; and, to my knowledge, I never observed this nation in that state of security wherein it is at this day. For, even in former times, there were warnings continually that God had a controversy with the nation; and those that had any fear of God spake one to another about it; and we saw and found their warnings were not in vain.

But here is now a general security. Men complain of straits, want, poverty, and the like; but as to any thing wherein God hath to do with the world, either my observation doth greatly deceive me, or I never saw, I think, so general a security as at this day in this nation. And this security hath reached us all, — even the churches of God themselves.

These things are matter of fact. The whole question is, Whether we are greatly to be concerned in these things or not? “They are the sins of wicked men, and they are the sins of the persecutors of God’s people, and the like; and what have we to do with them?”

The psalmist of old said, that “rivers of waters ran down his eyes, because men did not keep the law of God.” And you know that God doth set a special mark upon those, not that are free from the abominations of the age, but upon those that mourn for the abominations that are in the midst of us. It will not be enough for us, that we are free from those abominations, unless we are found to mourn for them. Brethren, our own hearts know we are guilty in this matter, and that we had need seek the face of God this day to give us a deeper sense of these things than we have obtained.

The name of God is blasphemed, the Spirit of God reproached, a flood of iniquity spreads itself over the nation, the land of our nativity, over the inheritance of Christ, over a nation professing the reformed religion; — all things go backward, — every thing declines. Indeed, brethren, if you will not, I do acknowledge here before you, and to my own shame, I have great guilt upon me in this matter, that I have not been sensible of the abominations of the nation, so as to mourn for them and be humbled for them, as I ought to have been. And you will do well to search your hearts, and consider how it is with you; — whether indeed you have been affected with these things; or whether you have not thought all is well, while all hath been well with yourselves and families, and, it may be, with the church, that may have no trouble upon that account. The security that is upon the nation is dismal; and, I may say, I see no way or means whereby the nation should be freed from this security. The conduct of the ministry, which they are under generally, is not able to free them from this security; nor the dispensation of the word: [so] that it seems to be a security from God to lead on the nation to judgment; the means for the removal of it and the awakening of us being laid aside.

And if it comes this way, or that way, any way, though we see not the morning of it, you will find yourselves concerned in it. — “Who may abide the day of his coming?”

We may do well, brethren, to consider the state of the church of God in the world, among ourselves, and our own condition. I need not tell you how it is in the world; but this I can say, that to my apprehensions, the interest of Christ and the gospel was never so fast going down in the world since it came into it, as at this day. I will give you my reason of what I say: When the gospel was first planted and brought into the world, the devil was not able to bring the church into its apostasy, under six, or seven, or eight hundred years, and that by degrees. Since the time of the Reformation, the church was progressive for about seventy years; it stood at a stay about the same proportion of time; and ever since, it hath been going backward, straitened in all places: the power of it decays, and the peace of it is taken away, and destruction everywhere seems to lie at the door.

Many, indeed, are in great misery and distress: some I have heard of lately sold for slaves, for the testimony of their conscience. How is it with the church of Christ in this nation? Truly, some [are] in great poverty, in great affliction, in great distress; and I am afraid we and others have not hearts to relieve them, as we ought to do, in a due manner: however, let us help them with our prayers.

And that which is worst of all, there seems to me, I must acknowledge it, to be a very great decay in all churches of Christ in the nation, especially among those of us who have had most peace, most prosperity. That which we call zeal for God is almost quite lost among us. Some of us have almost forgot whether there be such a thing as the cause and interest of Christ in the world. We who have cried and prayed about it, and had it upon our hearts, have sat down in our narrow compass, and almost forgot there is such a thing as the interest of Christ in the world, so as to have an active zeal for the ordinances of God according to rule, as God requires of us. Our primitive love, — how is it decayed! Value of the ordinances of Christ, and the society of his people for edification, — how cold are we grown in these things! How little is the church society upon our hearts, which some of us remember when it was the very joy of our souls! Truly we have reason to lift up our cry to God, that he would return and visit the churches, and pour out a new, fresh, reviving spirit upon them, that we fall not under the power of these decays till we come to formality, and God withdraws himself from us, and leaves us; which he seems to be at the very point of doing.

Then, brethren, let us remember our own church; that God would in an especial manner revive the spirit of life, power, and holiness among us; that he would be pleased to help the officers of the church to discharge their duty, and not suffer them to fall under any decay of grace or gifts, unfitting of them to the discharge of their office to the edification of the church; that he would give them also to beware and take heed of formality as to the exercise of gifts in their administration; and that he would take care of us, since we are apt to fall under these things. Let us pray that we may be acted by the Spirit of God, and enlivened by the grace of God, in all things we do.

Have any of us any particular occasions in reference to temptations, trials, and troubles? — we may bear it upon our hearts to the Lord this day. This is much better than by multiplying a company of formal bills. The Lord help us to know the plague of our own hearts, and to be enabled to plead with the Lord, upon this opportunity, for grace and mercy to help us in every time of need!

Source: Several practical cases of conscience resolved

Drugs – Brian Schwertley

August 15, 2010 Comments off

Since the 1960s, there has been a dramatic increase in illicit drug use in our society. The drug revolution of the 1960s had its spiritual and philosophical beginnings in the “beat” culture of the 1950s. Beatniks and hippies took drugs not simply to get “high,” but also as a cultural and religious statement. They rejected the “Go-to-college, get a 9 to 5 job” suburban culture in favor of a casual nomadic existence. The hedonistic mysticism of the drug culture supplanted decaying liberal Protestantism and the rotting ritualism of Roman Catholicism. LSD drug guru, Dr. Timothy Leary perfectly summed up the whole movement, when he said, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” When many people think of the hippie drug culture, they call to mind the “festival” at Woodstock. The image of sweaty, filthy, long-haired hippies gyrating, getting “stoned,” and getting naked, is an accurate picture of the 1960s drug culture. Today, most drug abusers have short hair and many even listen to “country” music. Drug abuse extends from the ghetto to the boardroom; from the “rock-n-roller” to the middle-aged housewife; and even to the elementary school. All drug users have one thing in common–they all are altering their consciousness and perceptual reality. Altering reality, for any reason other than medicinal purposes, is, according to the Bible, a form of sorcery.

This assertion may sound extreme to you, but consider God’s original intent for mankind. God, when He created Adam and Eve, created man in His own image (see Gen. 1:26-7). He created man as a self-conscious, self-reflective rational being. God gave man very sensitive sense perception. God gave man physical, emotional, rational, empirical and spiritual capabilities, so that man could have dominion over the earth (see Gen. 1:28). Adam and Eve were to reproduce, populate the earth and produce a godly culture. God created Adam just as He wanted him to be. Although Adam was a finite creature, he was still physically, ethically and spiritually good before God. “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). God created Adam and Eve to love and serve Him, with a certain consciousness and reality. Altering that reality is a rejection of the very nature in which God created man. It amounts to saying that God’s created consciousness is defective and needs finite human alterations.

Adam and Eve did not remain in their original sinless state. They ate of the forbidden fruit and died spiritually. Adam, as the covenantal head, the federal representative of the human race, brought sin and its curse (including bondage to sin and Satan, and the penalties of disease, suffering, calamity, death, etc.) to all men (see Rom. 5:18). God, being merciful and compassionate, promised a coming Redeemer who would defeat sin and Satan (see Gen. 3:15). God also providentially provided substances from plants that could be used as medicines. The sufferings and diseases, which resulted from man’s sin, to a certain extent, can be counteracted through the use of organic drugs.

After the fall of mankind into sin, it did not take long for unlawful drug use to begin. Drugs were used not for the healing of the body, as intended by the Creator, but for pagan religious rituals. Drugs became powerful tools in the hands of witch doctors and sorcerers. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated sorcery (cf. Gal. 5:20) is pharmakeia. The Greek word pharmakeia is related to our word pharmacy. The Greek word for drug is pharmakon. The sorcerer used various organic drugs found in plants, animals, molds, etc., to make potions and poisons. A sorcerer would often be hired to kill or incapacitate an enemy. In such a case, the sorcerer would mix the appropriate poisons. The sorcerer gained power over others by using drugs to alter their consciousness. Drugs were used for purposes of seduction. They were also used to bring people into slavery and bondage. Sorcerers, both ancient and modern, have not sought dominion through obedience to Christ and His law, but through mysticism, chaos and alchemy.

The modern drug user, whether he is aware of it or not, will be condemned by God as a sorcerer. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissension, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand…that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God ”(Gal. 5:19-21). These are very strong words. God says that drug abusers are wicked. Drug abusers will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). The person who gets high is rejecting God’s created reality. He is rejecting the meaning that God has given to all factuality. Creating one’s own autonomous reality through drugs is a form of idolatry. God’s creation, even after the fall, clearly presses upon the sinner the truth of God’s existence, power and attributes (cf. Rom. 1:18-21). The sinner takes refuge in a drug-induced illusion, a false reality.

It is no accident that beatniks were attracted to Zen Buddhism and hippies were drawn to Yoga. These youth movements were not just rebelling against the established social order, but against God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. People involved in eastern mysticism and drug mysticism are attempting to flee from the true God by “going within.” One seeks bliss or cosmic consciousness through meditation and asceticism; the other through a “joint,” a pill or a needle. As Dr. Timothy Leary once said, “It is of interest that the heroin addict and the illuminated Buddha end up in the same place, the void.” Drug users and Eastern mystics, in their flight from God and reality, seek integration into the void. In order to suppress, or hold down, the reality of God, the drug “head” must suppress meaning itself. Meaning and absolute truth are rejected in favor of a drug “experience.” The reality of a transcendent, a11 powerful, personal God, who will judge all men according to their works, is something that all unsaved sinners truly hate.

That drugs are a spiritual dead end is clearly evident in two ways. First, all drug highs have one thing in common–the trip is temporary. You eventually come down. Second, drugs are harmful to both the body and mind. While the drug user seeks pleasure, joy and freedom through the drug experience, his artificial pleasure is temporary and his freedom becomes slavery. The “pot head” not only destroys his lungs and memory, but his life is lived for and centered around the next bong hit. What foolishness! What vanity! Man was created to serve and glorify God and create a godly culture. Sitting around getting stoned neither honors God nor contributes to culture.

You must stop your rebellion against God and your flight from reality. Rather than living for God who created you, who gave you life, you ignore God and serve your flesh with your wicked lifestyle. Getting high (Gal. 5:20), getting drunk (Eph. 5:18), premarital sex (1 Cor. 6:18), debauched partying (Gal. 5:21), filthy speech (Eph. 5:4), unjust anger (Matt. 5:22), lust (Matt. 5:28), hatred (Matt. 5:44), lying (Deut. 5:20), stealing (Deut. 5:19), disobedience and disrespect for parents (Deut. 5:16), and the like, are a11 transgressions against God’s absolute, perfect, unchanging moral law. Every sin that you commit is recorded by God. On the Day of Judgment, all those who reject Jesus Christ “will be cast into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12b). “The dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books, then death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12b, 14,15).

There is only one way for you to escape the coming wrath of God, “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man stands [healed] here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12). Only those who have had their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ and are clothed with His righteousness will be able to stand before God on that final day. The God who is, is absolutely perfect. God is infinitely holy and righteous. The moral law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, is based on God’s nature and character. God is so righteous that no one with a wicked heart and sinful record can stand in his presence. Because of sin, everyone deserves the eternal death penalty in the lake of fire. “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good no not one ” (Ps. 14:2-3). Many people think they are following God, but they pick and choose which teaching in the Bible they like. What they don’t like, they reject. People who reject God’s Word reject God and are wicked idolaters. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

God justly could have cast the whole human race into hell. But God, being loving, compassionate, and merciful, chooses to save a people for himself out of the fallen and wicked human race. Jesus Christ came into the world as the second Adam. God the Son became incarnate in order to obey God’s law perfectly, and to offer himself as a blood sacrifice for his elect. Because God is righteous and holy, he can not simply overlook or disregard transgressions against His law. All sin deserves eternal separation from God. All sin brings the curse of the law, spiritual death, and the torment of hell. The only way that sinners can receive forgiveness of sins is if a substitute stands in the sinners’ place and takes the wrath that sinners deserve. Jesus, the divine-human Messiah, is the only person who ever lived who could provide substitutionary atonement for sinners. Why? Because Jesus is the only person who ever lived whom never committed sin. For a substitutionary sacrifice to be acceptable to God, the sacrificed one must be without sin–without spot or blemish. “For such a high priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). Jesus Christ is the perfect and only mediator between a righteous God and sinful men. Jesus Christ by his sacrificial death turned aside the wrath of God from sinners. The curse of spiritual death and eternal torment that sinners deserved was placed upon Jesus Christ on the cross. The believers’ sins are imputed or placed upon Christ in his agony and Christ’s perfect sinless life is imputed or credited to believers. “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26b). “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). On the Day of Judgment, those who believe in Christ will stand before God totally cleansed of all transgressions by Christ’s precious blood. And they will be fully clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness.

After Jesus Christ died, he was placed in a tomb. But on the third day after his death, he rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples. The resurrection of Christ proves that he has defeated sin, death and Satan. “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has exalted him and given him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:8,9). Your only hope of obtaining forgiveness of sins and eternal life is to believe in Jesus Christ. `“The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:35,36).

Its time for you to stop wasting your life living for self and Satan, and become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). You can reject the gospel, pretend that God does not exist and continue to try to create your own autonomous reality through drugs. But, “be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7,8).

Some day you are going to die. When you stand before God on the Day of Judgment, will you be clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness or will you stand before God and make excuses? “Well God, I had every opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ and to repent of my sins, but rather than serve you, I got stoned, went to debauched parties and fornicated like a wild beast.” You know that if you reject Christ your judgment will be just. “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:19-23).

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of your sins. If you are a new believer, then you must fellowship with other Christians and study God’s word. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2).

The pastoral character of the Canons of Dordt – R Hanko

June 20, 2010 Comments off

Creeds are not popular in today’s church world. Many churches do not and will not have them, and this reflects the attitude of most church members. If believers are not completely opposed to creeds, then they are deeply suspicious of them, blaming many of the churches’ ills on creeds. Even most of those churches that have a formal creedal basis have neglected and set aside their own creeds, so that those creeds are hardly known and rarely referred to.

One argument against creeds is that the creeds we have are not useful. They were written, so it is said, at a time when cold, abstract discussion of obscure doctrinal points was the order of the day, but now the Church has progressed from such dogmatic argumentation to real, meaningful activity. The creeds, it is suggested, are full of scholasticism, and are far removed from simple, practical teaching of Scripture, and are therefore, all but useless in the Church of Jesus Christ.

The strange thing is that this attitude is often fostered by those who want nothing to do with the very practical teaching of Scripture and the creeds on such matters as women in church office, homosexuality, the keeping of the Lord’s Day, church discipline, and many other such matters. Nonetheless, this attitude does find fertile soil in the ignorance of the creeds which is so widespread, even among those of Reformed or Presbyterian background.

Among many quarters of those who subscribe to the “Three Forms of Unity,” the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort, [1] this attitude is found especially in regard to the Canons [2] So generally are the Canons considered to be “outdated” that there are few any more who know anything about them.

There are few who know that the Canons, in five chapters or “heads,” defend and prove from Scripture, the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism.” They do not know, therefore, that rather than speaking of errors which vanished from the church hundreds of years ago, the Canons deal pointedly and Biblically with the very errors that are troubling the church today. But perhaps the most surprising thing of all to those who to a greater or lesser degree are ignorant of them, is the fact that the Canons, perhaps more than any other creed, are deliberately, deeply, and warmly pastoral in their presentation of these great truths of the Christian faith. [3]

When we speak of the pastoral character of the Canons, we mean that they not only set forth sound doctrine, but that in the Canons these doctrines (including the doctrines of election and reprobation) are applied in a very practical and personal way to the difficulties and problems of the Christian life. That is, after all, what pastoral work is all about – the personal private application of the Word of God to the needs of God’s people. The Canons are very really, a “Pastor’s Handbook,” and can be used with much profit by the leaders and members of the church in dealing with pastoral matters.

One pastoral matter addressed in the Canons is lack of assurance of salvation, very troubling to those who are seeking such assurance, and a problem which ministers of the gospel and elders often face in pastoral counselling. The Canons have much to say about this matter, all of it of great help and comfort to struggling believers. The doctrines of grace themselves are of great comfort to believers in their struggles, but the Canons address the matter of assurance much more personally and practically than just by way of setting out the truth that salvation is of grace alone.

They tell us, on the basis of Christ’s admonition in Luke 10:20, that God’s people not only may but do obtain the assurance of election, forgiveness and eternal life (I,12; V, 9), and they reject the error of those who teach “that there is in this life no fruit and no consciousness of eternal election to glory, nor any certainty” (I, B, 7) [4] This is important as a counter to the discouraging teaching of Rome and of some Protestants that a real assurance of salvation is, ordinarily, not possible for believers. It is some comfort already to those who are plagued with doubts to know that assurance is not only possible, but that it is one of the gifts of grace purchased by Christ for His people.

The Canons do not forget, however, that assurance is not given to all in the same measure (I, 12) and that there are always some “who do not yet experience a lively faith in Christ, an assured confidence of soul, (and) peace of conscience,” “who cannot yet reach that measure of holiness and faith to which they aspire” (I, 16), and who struggle with various carnal doubts (V, 11). To such the Canons speak with comfort. Such persons must not be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor rank themselves among the reprobate, but they must persevere in the use of the means of grace and humbly wait for a season of richer grace. They are reminded of the promise of a “merciful God” that He will not quench the smoking flax or break the bruised reed (I, 16).

So, too, the Canons remind us that this assurance of salvation does not come in the way of some kind of extra-biblical, subjective “revelation,” but always through the Word of God and the work of the Spirit as He applies that Word to us (V, 10, 14). At the same time the Canons do not let us forget that this assurance is very closely connected with a sanctified walk, and warn against all carnal security, licentiousness, rash presumption, wanton trifling with the grace of election, and stubborn refusal to walk in the way of the elect, as things that will inevitably damage and destroy our assurance.

In temptation, the Canons say, we are not always sensible of the full assurance of faith, but we must not forget that God, Who is the Father of all consolation, does not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able, but always makes a way of escape that we may be able to bear it. To this promise of Scripture the Canons add the reminder that by His Holy Spirit God always renews that “comfortable assurance” (V, 11) in His people.

As far as temptation and sin are concerned, the Canons speak powerfully to our own experience. Not only is it possible for God’s people to sin, and not only do they sin daily (V,2), but it is even possible for believers, when watching and prayer are neglected, “to be drawn into great and heinous sins.”(V, 4). Nevertheless, we are assured that God preserves His people so that they persevere to the end and do not lose their salvation. We are even assured that it is impossible for God’s people to commit the “sin unto death” (V, 6).

In setting out that doctrine of perseverance, the Canons speak very warmly and pastorally of the fact that our sins and the possibility of falling into grievous sins furnishes us “with constant matter for humiliation before God and flying for refuge to Christ crucified; for mortifying the flesh more and more by the spirit of prayer and by holy exercises of piety” (V, 2). That God preserves and renews His people in their “lamentable falls” (V, 4), the Canons say, does not produce carelessness and pride, but “renders them much more careful and solicitous to continue in the ways of the Lord … lest by abusing His fatherly kindness, God should turn away His gracious countenance from them, to behold which is to the godly dearer than life … and they in consequence should fall into more grevious torments of conscience” (V, 13).

In connection with the doctrine of election, the Canons address another soulwrenching question, that of the salvation of the children of believers who die in infancy. Also here the Canons bring rich comfort, quoting I Corinthians 7:14 and assuring us on the basis of God’s covenant of grace, His family covenant, that “godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation” of such infants (I, 17). What could be more comforting than that to godly parents who must bring a little one to the grave, and what more pastoral on the part of the minister or elders than to bring them that confession of the church?

Another “pastoral” matter addressed in the Canons is our attitude toward others, both toward those who make a profession of faith and live “regular lives,” and toward those who have not yet been called.

They warn against the sins of pride and judging (III & IV, 15). This is all grounded in the truth that “God is under no obligation to confer grace upon any.” “How can He,” the Canons ask, “be indebted to man, who had no previous gifts to bestow, as foundation for such recompense? Nay, who has nothing of his own but sin and falsehood?” We may never conduct ourselves, therefore, “as if we had made ourselves to differ.”

These are just a few examples. There are others as well. The Canons have much to say about the importance of preaching and hearing the gospel as the God-appointed means of grace and salvation, the neglect of which is always and again a matter of “pastoral” concern (I, 3; III & IV, 6 and V, 14), and they warn that it is “tempting God” to separate His grace from the means that He in His wisdom has chosen to use in order to bring that grace to His people.

So too, the Canons warn those who believe the doctrines of grace to “regulate, by the Scripture … not only their sentiments, but also “regulate, by the Scripture … not only their sentiments, but also their language, and to abstain from all those phrases which exceed the limits necessary to be observed in ascertaining the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures, and furnish insolent sophists with a just pretext for violently assailing, or even vilifying, the doctrine of the Reformed churches” (Conclusion). How important, but also how pastoral!

Other examples of the pastoral character of the Canons can easily be found, but the point is that they are not a cold, scholastic statement, characterised by hair-splitting and abstraction, but a very personal and warm exposition of some of the fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and of great use in the application of those truths to believers. They are not out-dated, but relevant to the problems and trials we face every day as we struggle to live a faithful and godly Christian life here in the world.

There is comfort even in knowing that it is the same truth, expounded and set forth in the confessions, which builds up the Church of Jesus Christ today as well as 400 years ago. There is reassurance, too, for those who bring that Word. They are not facing new problems, but problems that have always been found in the Church, the solution to which the Church has always found in God’s holy Word. Without our creeds, or in ignorance of them we have every reason, when we face these problems, to feel that we stand alone, and reason also, therefore, to be afraid. But through the sound knowledge of them and use of them, including the Canons, we stand in living connection with the Church of all ages, “more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

Footnotes

[1] These creeds belong, generally speaking, to those churches that identify themselves in name as “Reformed.” They are the creeds of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland, and a free copy of them can be obtained from that congregation (7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, BT42 3NR; telephone: 01266-891851; E-mail: 71674.3261 @compuserve.com).

[2] “Canon” means “an official declaration” or “rule” of the church.

[3] It is sad that the Canons are so little known and appreciated, because of all the Reformation creeds, they come closest to being a creed that belongs to all the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Though they are an official creed of the Dutch Reformed Churches, they were written and signed at a Synod (held in the city of Dort) attended by delegates from Holland, Great Britain, France, Switzerland and Germany.

[4] In the references to the Canons, “B” refers to the second part of each chapter or “Head of Doctrine.” This second part of each chapter is a “Rejection of Errors,” in which various denials of the Five Points of Calvinism are pointed out and refuted from Scripture.

Source

When satan has sucked out all the marrow

November 10, 2009 Comments off

(Thomas Brooks- 1660)

God usually begins with such early in life–whom He has
had thoughts of love and mercy towards, from everlasting.

If, in the spring and morning of your days, you do not bring
forth fruit to God–it is a hundred to one that you never shall
bring forth fruit to God when the days of old age shall overtake
you. It is rare, very rare–that God sows and reaps in old age.
Usually God sows the seed of grace in youth–which yields
the harvest of joy in old age.

Though true repentance is never too late–yet late
repentance is seldom true.
Millions are now in hell, who
have flattered themselves with the thought of repenting
in old age!
Yes, what can be more just and equal, that such
should seek and not find–who might have found when young,
but would not seek; and that God should shut His ears against
their late prayers–who have stopped their ears against His
early calls?

The ancient warriors would not accept an old man into their
army, as being unfit for service; and do you think that God
will accept of your dry bones–when Satan has sucked
out all the marrow
? What king will take into his service
–those who have served his enemies all their days? And
will God? will God?

The Circassians, a kind of mongrel Christians, are said to
divide their life between sin and devotion–dedicating their
youth to rapine, and their old age to repentance. If this is
your case, I would not be in your case for ten thousand worlds! “But since you rejected Me when I called, and no one gave
heed when I stretched out My hand, since you ignored all
My advice and would not accept My rebuke–I in turn will
laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes
you–when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster
sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble
overwhelm you. Then they will call to Me but I will not answer;
they will look for Me but will not find Me. Since they hated
knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they
would not accept My advice and spurned My rebuke–they
will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit
of their schemes.” Proverbs 1:24-31

Source

Categories: Sin Tags:

Laziness – Spurgeon

October 11, 2009 Comments off

“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes–than seven men who answer discreetly.” Proverbs 26:16

Many have no better work–than killing time. Beware of ‘the evil of doing nothing’. Idleness is the key of beggary–and the mother of all evil. It is through ‘the door of sluggishness’, that evil enters the heart!

Lazy people like the caterpillars on the cabbage, eating up the good things; or like the butterflies, showing themselves off but making no honey!

Every man ought to have patience and pity for poverty; but for laziness–a long whip would be better!

Everything in the world is of some use; but it would puzzle a philosopher, to tell the good of idleness! There is something to be said for moles, and rats and weasels–they are a pretty sight when nailed up on our old barn; but as for the sluggard–the only use for him is in the grave–to help to make the churchyard fat.

Laziness is bad–and altogether bad! Sift a sluggard grain by grain–and you will find him to be all chaff!

“As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes,” so is the sluggard to every man who is spending his sweat to earn an honest living, while these lazy fellows let the grass grow up to their ankles, and stand cluttering the ground!

In idle men’s imaginations, the devil hides away unseen, like the old serpent that he is. A man who wastes his time and his strength in sloth–offers himself to be a target for the devil, who is a wonderfully good rifleman, and will fill the idler with his shots! In other words, idle men tempt the devil to tempt them! He who plays when he should work–has an evil spirit for his playmate! A sluggard is fine ‘raw material’ for the devil–he can make anything he likes out of him! If the devil catches a man idling–he will set him to work, find him tools, and before long pay him wages!

Sure enough, our children have our evil nature in them, for you can see sloth growing in them like weeds in a garden! My advice to my boys has been, “Get out of the sluggard’s way, or you may catch his disease–and never get rid of it!” I am always afraid of their learning the ways of the idle–and am very watchful to nip anything of the sort in the bud; for you know, that it is best to kill the lion, while it is still a cub! Bring them up to be ‘bees’, and they will not become ‘drones’!

As to having lazy employees–I would prefer to drive a ‘team of snails’, or go out rabbit hunting with a dead hound! Why, you would sooner get blood out of a gatepost, or juice out of a rock–than work out of some of them! I wonder sometimes, that some of our employers keep so many cats which catch no mice! I would as soon throw my money in the fire–as pay some people for pretending to work.

Lazy people never put a single potato into the nation’s pot–but they take a good many out! They eat all the bread and cheese–but never earn a bite of it! Yet Scripture gives us this rule, “If a man will not work–he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Source: Charles Spurgeon – Plain Advice for Plain People

Sight of sin

June 15, 2009 Comments off

“Often, since I lived in this town, I have had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness: very frequently to such a degree, as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping, sometimes for a considerable time together: so that I have often been forced to shut myself up. I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness, and the badness of my heart, than ever I had before my conversion. … When others, that have come to talk with me about the soul-concerns, have expressed the sense they have had of their own wickedness, by saying, that it seemed to them, that they were as bad as the devil himself; I thought their expressions seemed exceedingly faint and feeble, to represent my wickedness. … When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss, infinitely deeper than hell. … I have greatly longed of late for a broken heart, and to lie low before God; and, when I ask for humility, I cannot bear the thoughts of being no more humble than other Christians. It seems to me, that though their degrees of humility may be suitable for them, yet it would be a vile self-exaltation in me, not to be the lowest in humility of all mankind. … And it is affecting to think, how ignorant I was, when a young Christian, of the bottomless, infinite depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy, and deceit, left in my heart.”

Categories: Quotes, Sin Tags: