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”:

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.

Lord’s Day Eve – Valley of Vision

Lord’s Day Eve – Banner of Truth USA.

We have had another wonderful Lord’s Day in our home church of Faith PRC. Blessed worship, rich preaching of the gospel, and sweet fellowship with our fellow saints.

And precious family time too – some planned, some unplanned. God is good and kind in the midst of life’s hardships and trials. It was a good day of rest – a rest we needed and a rest our Lord supplied.

Because I was not able to bring a devotional this morning, I will close the day with one – taken once more from A.Bennett’s Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Banner of Truth, 1975).

GOD OF THE PASSING HOUR,

Another week has gone and I have been
preserved
in my going out,
in my coming in.

Thine has been the vigilance that has turned
threatened evils aside;
Thine the supplies that have nourished me;
Thine the comforts that have indulged me;
Thine the relations and friends that have
delighted me;
Thine the means of grace which have edified me;
Thine the Book, which, amidst all my enjoyments,
has told me that this is not my rest,
that in all successes one thing alone is needful,
to love my Saviour.

Nothing can equal the number of thy mercies
but my imperfections and sins.
These, O God, I will neither conceal nor palliate,
but confess with a broken heart.

In what condition would secret reviews
of my life leave me
were it not for the assurance that with thee
there is plenteous redemption,
that thou art a forgiving God,
that thou mayest be feared!

While I hope for pardon through the blood
of the cross,
I pray to be clothed with humility,
to be quickened in thy way,
to be more devoted to thee,
to keep the end of my life in view,
to be cured of the folly of delay and indecision,
to know how frail I am,
to number my days and apply my heart
unto wisdom.

To hear the two rich sermons we heard today, visit our church’s sermon page (see links below). Both messages ministered to our needs – comfort for afflictions (Prof.R.Cammenga on 2 Cor.4:17-18) and submission to the Kingship of the Lord (Rev.R.Van Overloop).

Samuel: Renewing the Kingdom
Rev. Ronald Van Overloop – 1 Samuel 11:14-12:25
Affliction Working Glory
Prof. Ronald Cammenga – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

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.

More on Sunday Observance from John J. Timmerman

The fundamental outline of Sunday, its mood, church services, and dominant activities were not enormously changed by the thirties and forties. What is certain is that none of us has escaped the indelible impressions of that Sunday. To me the Sunday of my boyhood in Iowa and my youth in New Jersey meant two things supremely. Sunday was to be markedly different from Thursday in church attendance and in other activities which should be spiritually centered, positively contributory to the distinctiveness of the day. The second, in that honorific and stilted phrase, was the preaching of the word. The latter is still, however brilliant or bumbling it may be, the heart of Sunday services. I am thankful for the spiritual insight and inspiration I have received over the years from many sermons. To have attended half of them would have impoverished me; to have fragmented the spirit of the day with antithetical secular diversions would have made it almost indistinguishable from Thursday (p.63).

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanTaken from the essay “Whatever Happened to Sunday?” in Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.

For my previous post from this article, go here (Oct.15, 2014).

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.

Whatever Happened to Sunday? – John J.Timmerman

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanWhile browsing through Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman (Ed. by Rodney J.Mulder & John H. Timmerman; Baker, 1982) yesterday, I came across several well-worth-reading essays by this former Calvin College English professor, including one titled “Whatever Happened to Sunday?” (pp.58-63).

Here are some thoughts of his on what Sunday used to mean for Dutch Reformed folk (especially in the Christian Reformed Church):

At that time and even into the sixties (1960s-cjt), there was a remarkable consensus as to the meaning and practice of Sunday. Although the Bible did not specify the number of services to be held on Sunday, congregations attended with notable faithfulness and did not appear to grow weary of that kind of well-doing. Even though the services in the earlier decades of the century were a surcease from loneliness on the empty prairie, a stay against loss of identity in a strange land, and the warm concourse of friends, these reasons did not bring them to church. What did bring them to church was a felt spiritual need and a sense of duty. They believed God wanted them to come as often as they could and that it was good for them to be there. That kind of concensus has been eroding for years, whether out of spiritual amplitude, secular diversions, boredom, or alienation. So also has the drawing power of popular preachers. It has been decades since I have seen churches packed to hear a particular preacher. I can name half a dozen preachers during the thirties and forties who packed the evening service wherever they went. The sense of duty in going to church and the pleasure anticipated through the sermon have both waned, so that today churches with excellent ministers rope off many pews for evening services during the summer, while some of the saints go marching off (61-62).

It is not becoming so with us, is it? How is your and my sabbath observance? Waxing – or waning?

Our Covenantal Holy War – Rev.B.Huizinga

RomanStandardbearerRev.Brian Huizinga has some great thoughts for us Christian soldiers (young and old!) in his latest installment for the rubric “Strength of Youth”, under which he is writing a series on teaching young people to wage godly warfare in the kingdom of God in this world.

We find these thoughts under a sub-heading describing our “holy war” as covenantal:

To emphasize the positive of the foregoing assertion, our warfare is covenantal. ‘Our holy war’ is the war we wage as members of God’s covenant joined together in the Spirit (I Cor.12). In catechism class one is not taught to identify himself as the individual militant, but part of the church militant. We war as those eternally chosen and made members of one body that from the beginning to the end of the world is gathered, defended, and preserved by Christ’s Word and Spirit. To fight in this war against every appearance of the kingdom of darkness led by Satan is to join with the church of all ages from Adam and Abel to you and me.

A necessary and significant implication of this covenantal aspect of our warfare is the necessity of membership in the church institute, the visible manifestation of that universal, invisible body. A soldier might claim he has enlisted in and fights on behalf of his national army. He may even wear a uniform. But if he has never joined the visible manifestation of that army at camp and on the battlefield, his speech betrays him. In our holy war. young people make church membership a priority in their life, joining the covenantal assembly.

October 1, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.91, No.1), 20.

PRC Archives – Two Special Photos

It is time to get back to some PRC archive items, and especially to some old pictures. There is a folder in the picture file cabinet in the PRC archives room with the challenging heading “Unidentified photos”. For today, I took two pictures out of that folder and you are going to help me identify them. Yes, that’s right, you are now PRC archive sleuths.

The smaller picture is not too difficult (perhaps to most anyway), but where were they (and why?!) and when was this photo taken? And we can all detect Rev.Gerrit Vos with his church council in the other photo. But which church council (I think I know!), and who are the men around him? And how about a date? That would help tremendously.

So, go at it and place your comments here if you either want to guess or help identify. I will say, “thank you” in advance.

GMO & Council_Page_1

Mystery CA pic

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