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.

 

RFPA Annual Meeting TONIGHT – The Importance of Reading Church History

Reformed Free Publishing Association — THIS WEEK! – RFPA Annual Meeting: The Importance of Reading Church His.

Just a reminder that the RFPA’s annual meeting is TONIGHT in Grandville PRC. Those in the Grand Rapids area – and beyond – are encouraged to attend, whether you are an association member or not. You may always join tonight!

RFPA 2014 Meeting

Certainly part of the interest in the meeting is the inspirational speech. Following up on last year’s great speech on the importance of reading, Rev.C.Spronk (Peace PRC, Lansing, IL) will give a talk on “The Importance of Reading Church History”.

Below is part of the notice of the meeting found on the RFPA website. Visit the link above for more information. But know too, that the meeting will be live-streamed from Grandville PRC via their website.

In the Nicene Creed the church confesses that there is only “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” This means that the Christian faith and life of the true church of Jesus Christ as she is manifested today in various denominations and congregations is rooted in the church of the past. Times may have changed but the church today shares with the church of the past the same Lord, the same faith, the same battle, the same hope, and the same purpose—to bring glory to name of our great God. The church must be conscious of her past history in order to be sure that she is continuing on the right path. In other words the study of church history is important.

The study of church history is all the more important because of the constant attack of enemies who seek to knock her off of the “old paths.” Satan desires that the members of the church be ignorant of their history. Lack of interest in church history plays into the evil one’s hands. Church history can then be distorted and used to spread false doctrine and support wicked behavior, as is often attempted today. The study of church history is an important part of the battle of faith she must wage to remain faithful to God.

Hope to see you there!

An Able and Faithful Ministry (5) – 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 which relate to why the church ought to have its own minister school. We continue to quote from this section today, posting a portion that speaks to the importance of united church Seminary education for the unity and peace of the church – another (perhaps obvious but) great point!

Further, when the church herself provides the means of instruction for her own ministry (at a public seminary), she will, of course, be furnished with ministers who have enjoyed, in some measure, a uniform course of education; who have derived their knowledge from the same masters, and the same approved fountains, and who may, therefore, be expected to agree in their views of evangelical truth and order. There will thus be the most effectual provision made, speaking after the manner of men, for promoting the unity and peace of the church.

Whereas, if every candidate for the holy ministry is instructed by a different master, each of whom may be supposed to have his peculiarities of expression and opinion (especially about minor points of doctrine and discipline), the harmony of our ecclesiastical judicatories will gradually be impaired; and strife, and perhaps eventually schism, may be expected to arise in our growing and happy church.

J.Calvin on Psalm 149: “…Praise is their continued exercise.”

JCalvinPic1To benefit further from the Word of God in Psalm 149, we also post here the comments of the great Reformer John Calvin on vss.1 and 2. It may be noted that Calvin places this Psalm in the post-exile period of Israel’s history, that is, after the return from captivity. Keep that in mind as you also profit from his thoughts.

 1. Sing to Jehovah a new song.

The object, I think, of the Psalmist, is to encourage them to expect the full and complete deliverance, some prelude of which had been suddenly and unexpectedly given in the permission to return. As the Church was not fully restored at once, but was with difficulty and only after a long period brought to a state of vigor, comfort such as this was much needed. The Spirit of God would also furnish a remedy for evils which were afterwards to break out; for the Church had scarcely begun to respire when it was again harassed with various evils, and oppressed by the cruel tyranny of Antiochus, which was followed up by a dreadful dispersion.

The Psalmist had good reason therefore for animating the godly to look forward for the full accomplishment of the mercy of God, that they might be persuaded of divine protection until such time as the Messiah should arise who would gather all Israel. He calls this a new song, as we have noticed elsewhere, to distinguish it from those with which the saints commonly and daily praised God, for praise is their continued exercise.

It follows that he speaks of some rare and unusual benefit, demanding signal and particular thanksgiving. And I am disposed to think that whoever may have been the author of the Psalm, he alludes to that passage in Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:10,) “Sing unto the Lord a new song,” when he speaks of the future restoration of the Church, and the eternal kingdom of Christ.

 

2. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker.

He insists upon the same point, that the Lord’s people should rest firmly persuaded that their family had not been chosen out in vain from the rest of the world, but that God would be mindful of his covenant, and not allow the mercies which he had extended to them to fail or become extinct. Although they had been temporarily deprived of the inheritance of the land of Canaan, which was the pledge of their adoption, the Psalmist calls God their Maker, and king of the sons of Zion, to remind them that when adopted to a pre-eminency above other nations, this was a species of new creation.

So in Psalm 45:6, the Israelites are called “the work of God’s hands,” not merely because they were like other men created by him, but because he had formed them anew, and distinguished them with a new honor, that, of being separated front the whole human race.

An Able and Faithful Ministry (4) – S.Miller

Able&Faithful Ministry-SMiller_Page_1In the past few weeks 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.

Last time 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 which relate to why the church ought to have its own minister school. We quoted from that first paragraph last week, and this week we quote from the next.

I find this part striking also because Miller points to the importance of a library accessible to all the Seminary students, as a significant element in their development and preparation for the ministry. Here’s what he has to say:

Again, when the church herself takes the instruction of her candidates into her own hands, she can furnish a more extensive, accurate, and complete course of instruction than can be supposed to be, ordinarily, within the reach of detached individuals. In erecting and endowing a seminary, she can select the best instructors out of her whole body. She can give her pupils the benefit of the whole time, and the undivided exertions, of these instructors. Instead of having all the branches of knowledge, to which the theological student applies himself, taught by a single master, she can divide the task of instruction among several competent teachers, in such a manner as to admit of each doing full justice both to his pupils and himself.

She can form one ample library, by which a given number of students may be much better accommodated, when collected together, and having access to it in common, than if the same amount of books were divided into a corresponding number of smaller libraries. And she can digest, and gradually improve a system of instruction, which shall be the result of combined wisdom, learning, and experience. Whereas those candidates for the sacred office who commit themselves to the care of individual ministers, selected according to the convenience of the caprice of each pupil, must, in many cases, at least, be under the guidance of instructors who have neither the talents, the learning, nor the leisure to do them justice – and who have not even a tolerable collection of books to supply the lack of their own furniture as teachers.

J.Calvin on Psalm 148: “Nor are we to seek the cause… elsewhere than in the mere love of God.”

JCalvinPicAlso for our meditation on Psalm 148 today, we include these thoughts of John Calvin on the last verse, v.14. Here  he reflects on God’s particular blessing on His church in the midst of all His goodness on display in creation, a blessing that calls for our special praise. May his words also inspire us to bless the God Who has so richly blessed us by His grace in Christ Jesus.

14. And hath exalted the horn, etc. As we saw in the former Psalm, that the perfections of God are to be seen more conspicuously in the Church than in the constitution of the world at large, the Psalmist has added this sentence, as to the Church being protected by the divine hand, and armed with a power against all enemies which secures its safety in every danger.

By the horn, as is well known, is meant strength or dignity. Accordingly the Psalmist means that God’s blessing is apparent in his Church and among his chosen people, inasmuch as it only flourishes and is powerful through his strength. There is a tacit comparison implied between the Church of God and other hostile powers, for it needs divine guardianship as being exposed on all sides to attack. Hence the Psalmist infers that praise is to all the merciful ones of God, for they have ground given them in the singular goodness of his condescension both for self-congratulation and praise.

In calling the children of Israel a people near unto God, he reminds them of the gracious covenant which God made with Abraham. For how came the nearness, except in the way of God’s preferring an unknown despised stranger to all nations? Nor are we to seek the cause of the distinction elsewhere than in the mere love of God. Though all the world equally belongs to God, he graciously discovered himself to the children of Israel, and brought them near to him, strangers as they were from God, even as are the whole race of Adam.

Hence the words of Moses —

“When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, and distributed the peoples, he stretched forth his line to Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 32:8.)

He is to be considered, therefore, as pointing out the cause why God hath extended such signal blessings to a single people, and a people poor and despised — his adoption of them to himself.

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