Reformation Day 2014 – M.Luther Hymns

Luther95Theses-1In commemoration of Roman Catholic monk Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses (disputations) on the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 – the event which triggered the Protestant Reformation – we post Luther’s simple message of the gospel as expressed in his first published hymn. And then, following that, we post a video of his great Reformation hymn, Ein’ Feste Berg (“A Mighty Fortress”), based on Psalm 46.

In the devil’s dungeon chained I lay,
The pangs of death swept o’er me.
My sin devoured me night and day
In which my mother bore me.
My anguish ever grew more rife,
I took no pleasure in my life.
And sin had made me crazy.

Then was the Father troubled sore
To see me ever languish.
The Everlasting Pity swore
To save me from my anguish.
He turned to me his father heart
And chose himself a bitter part,
His Dearest did it cost him.

Thus spoke the Son, “Hold thou to me,
From now on thou wilt make it.
I gave my very life for thee
And for thee I will stake it.
For I am thine and thou art mine
And where I am our lives entwine
The Old Fiend cannot shake it.
(Luther, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice,” 1523–1524)

The “Battle Hymn of the Reformation”:

Reformation Day Book Sales

Reformation-GeneralWith Reformation Day being commemorated this week (Friday, October 31, 2014), we can highlight a few special book sales being held online at present. Click on the links below to find the deals.

  1. Banner of Truth – Calvin’s Tracts and Treatises, Knox items, etc.
  2. Reformation Heritage Books – I haven’t seen a special notice for Reformation Day as yet, but I link to their history page(s), on which you will find plenty of good titles. P.S. I no sooner sent this, checked my email, and there was a special Reformation flyer from RHB. Here’s the link.
  3. Zondervan Academic – These are some good ebook deals on some newer titles that may be of interest.
  4. Grace & Truth Books – A great place to go for books for the family, including children and young people. The link is to their Reformation history section.
  5. Monergism – Always plenty of free materials on Reformation persons and subjects – there are plenty of places to go on their website, but we have highlighted the Calvin section.
  6. RFPA - I have highlighted the church history section here. P.S. And now we can add this special Reformation note from the RFPA.
  7. NEW ONE! Ligonier is offering some FREE Reformation resources in place of its usual $5 Friday specials. Be sure to check these out too!

Tolle lege! Take up and read! :)

Word Wednesday – “Semper Reformanda”

Last year for our “Word Wednesday” feature during Reformation week we focused on one Reformation motto in Latin: post tenebras lux.

semper reformandaThis year let’s consider another familiar one: semper reformanda. The meaning simply is: “always reforming”. We may know it more fully by the statement, “Reformed and always reforming.”

This important motto refers to the fact that every truly Reformed church will always be a reforming church, that is, a body of believers who are constantly striving to ensure that she remains faithful to the Word of God on which her faith, life, and worship are based. After all, that’s what the Re-formation was about – the re-forming of the church according to the Scriptures, as the church’s only authority (sola Scriptura!). And, after all, that’s what it means to be – and stay! – Reformed: always to be conforming to the Bible’s teachings with regard to doctrine, walk of life, and worship practices.

If you wish to explore this motto and subject further, I can point you to a couple of places:

  • This 2009 Tabletalk article by Michael Horton under the title “Semper Reformanda”.
  • This 1981 Standard Bearer article (actually, there are three of them) by Herman Hanko, which is the text of a Reformation Day lecture he gave in Hudsonville PRC on Oct.30, 1980. Here is part of what Prof.Hanko said that night at the beginning of his lecture:

When we give to our churches the name Reformed, we mean that we want our spiritual lineage to be traced back to that mighty event: We want to claim Luther and Calvin and the other Reformers as our spiritual fathers. Once a year on Reformation Day we look back to that event which happened over 450 years ago and point to it with thankfulness to God and say to others and to ourselves, “That event belongs to our history as Reformed churches.”

But there is surely more. When we call ourselves Reformed, we insist that we are re-formed. And we are not only re-formed because 450 years ago the church was re-formed by the hand of God, but we are re-formed and, therefore, Reformed because reformation is always, in every moment of the church’s life, the calling of the church of Jesus Christ. That is why a motto of the Reformed Churches for the last 450 years has been: “Reformed, yet always reforming.” By this motto our fathers meant to emphasize that it is the essential mark of being Reformed that the church is always reforming. The two go together and are inseparably connected. You cannot, says this motto, claim to be Reformed unless you are a church always reforming. The one mark, which clearly marks churches that belong to the Reformation is the mark of continuous reformation within her own ecclesiastical life.

That is the question, therefore, that faces us tonight. Are we as a church always reforming? This is a question which faces all of us.

And, I might add, still a question worth considering. This week of marking the great Reformation. And in all the days ahead. How “Reformed” are we, really?

Augustine: Preacher, Exegete, Biblical Apologist

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineSuch is the title of the article penned by Missionary-pastor M.McGeown in the recent special issue of the Standard Bearer (Oct.15, 2014), marking the life, work, and writings of the great church father Agustine (AD 354-430). Last week we called attention to a sermon by Augustine; today we highlight his relation to the Scriptures.

This is part of what Rev.McGeown has to say about Augustine as a biblical preacher and expositor (emphases are mine):

From the beginning of his Christian pilgrimage, when, as a young man, he heard the call, Tolle lege, tolle lege (“Take up and read”), and his eyes lighted on Romans 13:12-14, until the end of his life, when, on his deathbed, he asked that the penitential psalms be written out for him, so that he might read and mediate on them, Augustine loved the Scriptures. As bishop of Hippo, Augustine aimed to preach biblical sermons, and, as a writer, Augustine saturated his treatises and letters with quotations from the Bible.

Augustine was also a churchman, one who loved the church, one who pursued his theological studies in the church and for the sake of the church, and one who revered the tradition of the church, developing that tradition and defending it against heretics, both inside and outside the church.

…There can be no doubt that Augustine the preacher—with the other church fathers—revered Scripture. For Augustine, Scripture was the very Word of God. Quotations could be multiplied, but, in the interests of space, we offer only one. In a letter to Jerome, Augustine writes, “I have learned to do only those books that are called the Holy Scriptures the honor of believing firmly that none of their writers have ever erred. All others I so read as not to hold what they say to be truth unless they prove it to me by Holy Scripture or clear reason.”[1]

 Augustine was not content merely to admire the Bible. He labored to expound the Bible. Marveling at the detail of Augustine’s exegesis in his commentaries and sermons, one scholar writes, “Augustine finds a great deal in his chosen texts—partly because, being thoroughly convinced of their divine authority, he expects to find a great deal in them.”[2]

[1] Cited in A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word: Martin Luther, Doctor of Sacred Scripture (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1969), 125.

[2] Thomas Williams, “Biblical Interpretation” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (eds. Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann (Cambridge: [Cambridge Companions Online] Cambridge University Press, 2006), 60.

To learn more about this special Reformation issue of the “SB”, visit this page. To receive this issue or to subscribe to the “SB”, visit its homepage.

New & Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

Today we will highlight five titles that have recently been purchased for the Seminary library and which will be of interest to our broader readership, I believe.

From-mouth-of-God -SFergusonThe first is a basic study on the place of the Bible in the life of the believer. It is titled From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible (Banner of Truth, 2014), and is written by Dr.Sinclair B. Ferguson, professor of systematic theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX and teaching fellow at Ligonier Ministries. This looks to be a fine, practical book on how to view and study the Word of God, designed for the “person in the pew”. The three main sections cover the sub-title of the book: Part 1 is on trusting the Bible, taking into account the inspiration and authority of the Bible; Part 2 is on reading the Bible, covering the different types of literature found in the Bible and giving the basic principles of interpreting it; Part 3 is on applying the Bible, teaching the purpose of the Bible and how we take and use God’s Word in our daily walk. Appendices in the back of the book include a bibliography for further reading on the doctrine of Scripture and a daily Bible reading plan. Recommended!

 

Worshipping with CalvinThe second is by Terry L.Johnson (pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA) and titled Worshipping With Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism (EP Books, 2014). The publisher provides this description on its website:

In the ‘worship wars’ which have marked recent times, many aspects have been considered but rarely is the issue of truly Reformed worship addressed.  In this pertinent work, Terry Johnson effectually fills a void – countless books have been written about Calvin, but to date there has been scant material on Calvin and biblical worship.  The vital historical context is presented, and the practical ramifications for Reformed biblical worship today are explored.’

There is a revival in Calvinist thinking across a broad spectrum of the church today. As he takes notice of that, the author suggests that, in order for Calvinism to thrive, attention must be given to the ministry and worship that will sustain it. The belief is advanced that Calvin would not separate theology from worship and that the new Calvinism of today needs to take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not merely the theological.

Terry L Johnson takes note of the revival in Calvinist thinking that is evident across a broad spectrum of the church. But, he notes, for Calvinism to continue to thrive, attention must begin to be paid to the ministry and worship that alone will sustain and perpetuate it. The new Calvinism must take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not just the theological, if today’s dynamism is to endure. Calvin would not have approved of the separation of theology from worship. . . . Reformed theology determined Reformed worship; and conversely, Reformed worship was the nurturing womb from which Reformed piety and practice sprang. Theology, worship, and piety are inseparably linked, neither thriving without the supporting presence of the other. This is by no means a polemic against one or two forms of worship. Terry Johnson makes a strong historical and biblical case, so that whatever the readers preferred style of worship, this book will inform and challenge.

 

Theology of WestStandards-FeskoThe third book is another brand new one: The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Contexts & Theological Insights by J.V.Fesko, academic dean and professor of systematic theology and historical theology at Westminster Seminary California (Crossway, 2014). Crossway provides this brief summary of this significant work:

For centuries, countless Christians have turned to the Westminster Standards for insights into the Christian faith. These renowned documents—first published in the middle of the 17th century—are widely regarded as some of the most beautifully written summaries of the Bible’s teaching ever produced.

Church historian John Fesko walks readers through the background and theology of the Westminster Confession, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism, helpfully situating them within their original context. Organized according to the major categories of systematic theology, this book utilizes quotations from other key works from the same time period to shed light on the history and significance of these influential documents.

Medieval Bible-Van LiereThe fourth book relates to the church history period being studied this semester in our Seminary (Medieval) and to a recent lecture given at Calvin College by one of its history professors – the author of this book, Frans van Liere. An Introduction to the Medieval Bible (Cambridge, 2014) is a fascinating look at the history of the Bible during this age of the church. Topics covered include the Medieval canon (which included the Apocrypha), the text of the Medieval Bible, Medieval hermeneutics, and the Bible in worship and preaching. Cambridge offers this description:

The Middle Ages spanned the period between two watersheds in the history of the biblical text: Jerome’s Latin translation c. 405 and Gutenberg’s first printed version in 1455. The Bible was arguably the most influential book during this time, affecting spiritual and intellectual life, popular devotion, theology, political structures, art, and architecture. In an account that is sensitive to the religiously diverse world of the Middle Ages, Frans van Liere offers here an accessible introduction to the study of the Bible in this period. Discussion of the material evidence – the Bible as book – complements an in-depth examination of concepts such as lay literacy and book culture. This Introduction includes a thorough treatment of the principles of medieval hermeneutics, and a discussion of the formation of the Latin bible text and its canon. It will be a useful starting point for all those engaged in medieval and biblical studies.

Augustine-Preaching-SanlonAnd finally, related to one of the most significant fathers of the ancient church and to the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer is the title Augustine’s Theology of Preaching by Peter T.Sanlon (Fortress Press, 2014). We find this brief statement on the book at Fortress’ website:

Scholarship has painted many pictures of Augustine—the philosophical theologian, the refuter of heresy, or contributor to doctrines like Original Sin—but the picture of Augustine as preacher, says Sanlon, has been seriously neglected. When academics marginalize the Sermones ad Populum, the real Augustine is not presented accurately. In this study, Sanlon does more, however, than rehabilitate a neglected view of Augustine.

How do the theological convictions that Augustine brought to his preaching challenge, sustain, or shape our work today? By presenting Augustine’s thought on preaching to contemporary readers Sanlon contributes a major new piece to the ongoing reconsideration of preaching in the modern day, a consideration that is relevant to all branches of the twenty-first century church.

Stop in to browse these new titles and many others in the PR Seminary library! And, don’t forget, our on-line library catalog may be found on our website.

Augustine – Homily on John 10:1-10

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineThe quotation below is found in the new Reformation issue of The Standard Bearer (October 15, 2014), a Reformed semi-monthly magazine published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. This special issue is devoted to the church father Augustine, and the opening meditation is an excerpt from a sermon (homily) of Augustine based on John 10:1-10.

Notice how the doctrines of sovereign grace permeate what he says in this section while acknowledging the mixed nature of the church in this present world.

12. You hear, brethren, the great importance of the question. I say then, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” He knoweth those who were foreknown, He knoweth those who were predestinated; because it is said of Him, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. If God be for us, who can be against us?” Add to this: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not with Him also freely given us all things?”

But what “us”? Those who are foreknown, predestinated, justified, glorified; regarding whom there follows, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Therefore “the Lord knoweth them that are His;” they are the sheep. Such sometimes do not know themselves, but the Shepherd knoweth them, according to this predestination, this foreknowledge of God, according to the election of the sheep before the foundation of the world: for so saith also the apostle, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” 

According, then, to this divine foreknowledge and predestination, how many sheep are outside, how many wolves within! and how many sheep are inside, how many wolves without! How many are now living in wantonness who will yet be chaste! how many are blaspheming Christ who will yet believe in Him! how many are giving themselves to drunkenness who will yet be sober! how many are preying on other people property who will yet freely give of their own! Nevertheless at present they are hearing the voice of another, they are following strangers.

In like manner, how many are praising within who will yet blaspheme; are chaste who will yet be fornicators; are sober who will wallow hereafter in drink; are standing who will by and by fall! These are not the sheep. (For we speak of those who were predestinated,—of those whom the Lord knoweth that they are His.) And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.

For information on how to receive this issue or to subscribe, visit the Standard Bearer website.  Or you may visit this news item about it on the PRC website.

The Reformation and the Men Behind It – Steven Lawson

The Reformation and the Men Behind It by Steven Lawson | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

Reformation-GeneralStarting today and leading up to Reformation Day (Oct.31, 2014) Ligonier Ministries will be blogging about the key figures of the Reformation. These posts will contain excerpts from Dr.Steve Lawson’s book Pillars of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men (Reformation Trust, 2011).

Today’s post introduces us to the Reformation and its leading figures. Below is the first part of this excerpt. Find the rest at the Ligonier link above.

The Protestant Reformation stands as the most far-reaching, world-changing display of God’s grace since the birth and early expansion of the church. It was not a single act, nor was it led by one man. This history-altering movement played out on different stages over many decades. Its cumulative impact, however, was enormous. Philip Schaff, a noted church historian, writes: “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: Modern Christianity—The German Reformation [1910; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 1). The Reformation was, at its heart, a recovery of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and this restoration had an unparalleled influence on churches, nations, and the flow of Western civilization.

Also, if you are looking for some good titles for reading and to add to your personal or family library, I can recommend the people at “Grace & Truth Books”. The link will take you to their Reformation section, where they have a number of good books at special prices, including books for young readers.

An Able and Faithful Ministry (6) – S.Miller

Able&Faithful Ministry-SMiller_Page_1Over the course of the last month since the PRC Seminary opened its doors for another year of instruction, we have been examining the thoughts of Presbyterian pastor and Seminary professor (Princeton) Samuel Miller as contained in his address,“The Duty of the Church to Take Measures for Providing an Able and Faithful Ministry”. This sermon was delivered on August 12, 1812 on the occasion of the installation of Archibald Alexander as the first professor of the new Princeton Seminary.

In the last few weeks we noted that in his last point on what the church can and ought to do to ensure “an able and faithful ministry” – namely, start its own Seminary school specifically for training pastors – Miller included some additional ideas that relate to why the church ought to have its own minister training school.

We finish quoting from this section today, posting a portion that speaks to the importance of united Seminary education for the promotion of godly friendships and fellowship on the part of the students – a blessing that serves them well both when they are in school and throughout their ministry.

Here then are Miller’s closing thoughts in this section:

It is important to add, that when the church provides for educating a number of candidates for the ministry at the same seminary, these candidates themselves may be expected to be of essential service to each other. Numbers being engaged together in the same studies will naturally excite the principle of emulation. As “iron sharpeneth iron” (Prov. 27:17), so the amicable competition, and daily intercourse of pious students, can scarcely fail of leading to closer and more persevering application; to deeper research; to richer acquirements; and to a more indelible impression of that which is learned, upon their minds, than can be expected to take place in solitary study.

Nor is it by any means unworthy of notice, that when the ministers of a church are generally trained up at the same seminary, they are naturally led to form early friendships, which bind them together to the end of life, and which are productive of that mutual confidence and assistance, which can scarcely fail of shedding a benign influence on their personal enjoyment, and their official comfort and usefulness. These early friendships may also be expected to add another impulse to a sense of duty, in annually drawing ministers from a distance to meet each other in the higher judicatories of the church; and, which is scarcely less important, to facilitate and promote that mutual consultation respecting plans of research, and new and interesting publications, which is, at once, among the safeguards, as well as pleasures, of theological authorship.

I can personally testify to this profit in our own PRC Seminary, as I observe the students interacting with one another. And, I might add, I also see the benefit of such godly friendships among our pastors. May this too continue – for the good of these men, for the profit of the church of Christ, and for the glory of Jesus her Head.

The Church’s Heating Plant – C.H.Spurgeon

CHSpurgeonPicI stumbled on this quote on prayer today while cataloging a new book for the Seminary library. It is indeed a great illustration of the church’s “heating plant.”

Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented.

The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.

Peter D.Wegner, Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2009 (110). You may also find this illustration on this website.

J.Calvin on Psalm 150: “We may worship God, until… we sing with elect angels an eternal hallelujah.”

JCalvin1Today, for our further reflection on Psalm 150, we also turn to the thoughts of the Reformer John Calvin on vss.1 and 6. These are wonderful concluding words on the OT Psalter. May they too serve to feed our souls, inspiring us to magnify our God with great and majestic praises in all our worship.

1. Praise God in his sanctuary.

…The Psalmist, in order to awaken men who grow languid in God’s praises, bids them lift their eyes towards the heavenly sanctuary. That the majesty of God may be duly reverenced, the Psalmist represents him as presiding on his throne in the heavens; and he enlarges upon the same truth in the second verse, celebrating his power and his greatness, which he had brought under our notice in the heavens, which are a mirror in which they may be seen.

If we would have our minds kindled, then, to engage in this religious service, let us meditate upon his power and greatness, which will speedily dispel all such insensibility. Though our minds can never take in this immensity, the mere taste of it will deeply affect us. And God will not reject such praises as we offer according to our capacity.

6. Whatever breathes, etc.

…As yet the Psalmist has addressed himself in his exhortations to the people who were conversant with the ceremonies under the law, now he turns to men in general, tacitly intimating that a time was coming when the same songs, which were then only heard in Judea, would resound in every quarter of the globe.

And in this prediction we have been joined in the same symphony with the Jews, that we may worship God with constant sacrifices of praise, until being gathered into the kingdom of heaven, we sing with elect angels an eternal hallelujah.

 

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