Blessed Are the Meek – Rev. C. Haak

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This week’s message on the Reformed Witness Hour radio/Internet program (Sunday, June 17, 2018) was “Blessed Are the Meek” by Rev. C. Haak, pastor of Georgetown PRC.  Radio pastor Haak is currently doing a series on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12, and this past Sunday he spoke on the third one as recorded in Matt.5:5, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

The audio file of the message is linked above on the PRC website and it may also be found on the RWH’s website and on her Sermonaudio channel.

Tonight I post a portion of the transcription of the message, finding it fitting for our reflection today.

 Meekness is the result, it is the fruit, of being poor in spirit and of knowing what it is to mourn before God.  It makes one receptive in his heart before God.  In one word:  meekness is the absence of pride.  A meek heart is the antithesis, the opposite of pride.  It is the opposite of stubbornness and fierceness and vengefulness.  Meekness is the dethroning of sinful pride and making us now teachable of God, gentle toward one another, submissive to God, confident and strong in God and in His faithful love to me.

Not only does one not assert himself, but he also sees the sin of that.  A meek person does not glory in himself.  He is not always interested in himself.  He is not watching always after his own interest.  He is not always on the defensive.  He is not always saying, “What about me?”

Beloved, by nature, we spend our whole life watching out for ourselves.  We worry about ourselves and what others are going to say about us.  We talk to ourselves.  We say, “You’re having a hard time.  Too bad people don’t understand you.  How wonderful I am and if only people would give me a chance.”  That is pride.  The meek are self-emptied people.  They are not defending the citadel of me.  They are lowly before God.  They are ready to leave everything in the hands of God, to leave themselves, their rights, their cause, their whole life, in the hand of God.  Meek.

This meekness will be seen in the attitude that we carry.  The fruit of meekness is, first of all, seen in an attitude toward God, an attitude of submission and quietness.  How often do we not struggle with the sovereign ways and the sovereign will of God?  I am not talking, now, of accepting our sinful ways or being indifferent.  But I am referring to the fact that God sovereignly appoints my portion in this life.  He arranges my life, personally and in my family, and economically, in all the details of my life.  Very often we struggle with that.  We find it very hard to be submissive to the way and to the will of God.  That is our pride.

Meekness, now, is submission, submission to the great God of heaven.  And, thus, meekness is strength!  The meek person is strong because he knows that God is holding him up.  We read in Psalm 147, “The LORD lifteth up the meek:  he casteth the wicked down to the ground.”  In meekness we are able to bear God’s chastenings in quietness and hope.  We are able to do that with a meek and a quiet spirit.  There is an example of this in the Bible.  I bring to your memory the high priest called Aaron.  Aaron’s two sons had been killed by God for offering strange incense in the tabernacle.  They had worshiped God in a manner that He had not prescribed.  And God consumed them in fire.  God, then, told Moses to tell Aaron that Aaron could not mourn over his sons.  He had to submit, in his grief, to the hand of God.  And Aaron did.  Now Aaron was far from perfect.  The Bible makes that plain.  The Scriptures tell us of all of his faults.  Yet God gave to Aaron a meekness.  He suffered quietly before God.

…The second fruit of meekness is our attitude toward others.  Meekness makes us the most approachable persons on earth.  Not bristling in pride, not sharp, cruel, spiteful.  It is the meek in Christ with whom you feel a great kinship.  Meekness attracts others.  Meekness is mildness of manner, gentleness, harmlessness.  Remember what we read in Matthew 11:28.   The Lord said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”  Why?  “For I am meek and lowly in heart.  You are safe with Me,” said Jesus.  “Because I am meek, you may come to Me.  I’m not dangerous.  You may set your heart upon Me.”

Still more.  In meekness, we will bear patiently the insults and the injuries that we receive at the hands of others.  In meekness we will not become inflamed, vindictive.  In meekness we will not assume a demeaning attitude toward those who differ with us.  We will not show ourselves to have a harsh, censorious temperament.  We will not enjoy finding fault in others.  Meekness will be seen in gentleness, humility, and patience.  It is the absence of retaliation.  It is the absence of paying back.  It is the absence of saying, “They’re gonna get theirs.”  No, it is longsuffering and patient, especially when we suffer wrongfully.  Then we will be meek.  Listen to Galatians 6:1.   “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  The Word of God is saying that only a spirit of meekness qualifies you to deal with another who may be embittered and resentful, to deal with someone who has fallen away.  You can deal with such a person only in the spirit of meekness.  Meekness means that you are emptied of yourself.  You are dependent upon and submissive to God.  You are gentle and you are teachable.  Blessed are the meek, said Jesus, for they shall inherit the earth.

Don’t forget the Facebook page of the RWH!

Two New Titles from Reformation Trust

Recently Ligonier sent me two new review books published by its Reformation Trust Publishing.  I make you aware of these for those who may want to read a good book and review it for the Standard Bearer of for this blog.

good-news-macarthur-2018The first is Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur (2018, hardcover, 148 pp.). The book is currently available for half price at $7.50 at the Reformation Trust website (retail is $15.00).

The publisher gives this description:

Everything the Bible has to say about the gospel is simply an exposition of its central message: Jesus Christ lived and died to save sinners. The gospel is about Him, and it answers Jesus’ key question: “Who do you say that I am?” It is good news.

In Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Dr. John MacArthur examines the Bible’s revelation of Christ and encourages Christians with the vast implications of all that Christ accomplished for them. This is a book to rekindle love and awe for the Savior.

The chapter headings are as follows:

  1. Jesus is the Messiah
  2. Jesus is Holy
  3. Jesus is the Only Way
  4. Jesus is the Redeemer
  5. Jesus is Righteous
  6. Jesus is the Head of the Church

moment-truth-lawson-2018The second book is a new title from the pen of Steven J. Lawson, The Moment of Truth (2018, hardcover, 238 pp.). This book is also on sale for 50% off at present – $9.50 ($19.00 retail).

The publisher provides this summary of Lawson’s book:

“What is truth?” Pilate turned to Jesus and asked a profound question. It is a question that continues to be debated in our day. But it is one that God has definitively answered in His written Word and ultimately revealed in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. It has been the duty and privilege of each successive generation of Christians to proclaim the truth of the gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

In this collection of sermons, Dr. Steven J. Lawson speaks into our cultural moment, helping Christians and skeptics alike to answer Pilate’s age-old question.

For an interesting interview with Dr. Lawson about the book and how it came to fruition, visit this Ligonier webpage.

The contents is placed under the following main headings:

  1. The Reality of Truth
  2. The Rejection of Truth
  3. The Reign of Truth

Perhaps we can pull a quote or two from these books in the future. But for now, feel free to contact me if you are interested in either of these titles.

Children in the Worship Service: Parental Chore and Blessed Calling

ordinary-MHorton-2014Once more I am going to pull a quotation from the ninth chapter  of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). That chapter, from which I have quoted twice already, is titled, you may remember, “God’s ecosystem.”

In that chapter Horton is stressing the organic idea of the church – the saints’ spiritual life together in Christ – which is ever being sustained and growing in God’s garden, through the “ordinary” means of grace, especially the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments.

Toward the end of this chapter, the author focuses on the important calling the church has to make sure her children are growing up in Christ too. Critical of what the modern church through her “youth ministries” has done, Horton calls for a return to the “ordinary” in this area too – instructing the youth through catechism and bringing them into the regular worship of the church.

Tonight I give you some of his thoughts on this, and I truly hope it is an encouragement to our younger couples with little children whom they may dread to take into the worship service or despair of taking to church. Listen carefully to these words:

Having four of my own, I understand the difficulty of having children in church. Our church has a cry room, where parents can still participate in the service to some extent, but it is a chore. Yet isn’t it a chore of parenthood? Eventually the parents decide when they will move out of the cry room. It is remarkable how early children learn habits of sitting and listening. Even if they doodle and daydream for a couple of years, these habits of participation in the communion of saints are like a trellis. These habits do not guarantee that everyone will eventually respond in faith, but they do make for better hearing of that gospel through which faith takes root and grows in our hearts.

Besides the concern for parents, many Christians wonder if it is good for children to have them in the regular service. After all, they cannot understand what is going on. But imagine saying that you’re not going to have toddlers at the table for meals with the family because they do not understand the rituals or manners. Or keeping infants isolated in a nursery with nothing but mobiles and squeaky toys because they cannot understand the dialogue of the rest of the family around them. We know, instinctively, that it’s important for our children to acquire language and the ordinary rituals of their family environment in order to become mature. Or imagine keeping our teens from their grandparents’ funerals because they don’t understand it. We take them precisely so they will, knowing that our patience (and theirs) will be rewarded in later years and that the event will itself be an opportunity for maturity. Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge. He learned the Psalter and the rhythms of the synagogue liturgy. When, as a young adult, he took up the Isaiah scroll to read about himself, he knew exactly where to roll it.

At the grammar stage, children are simply absorbing the language of Zion: the terms and ‘the pattern of the sound words’ (2 Tim 1:13) that we share with the wider body of Christ through the ages. I think that we are sometimes too worried about ‘imposing’ our faith on our children. After all, it’s a personal relationship with Jesus, and we do not want to interfere with their free will. [I hope you sense the author’s rightful use of sarcasm here.] We don’t think this way about the other things that they are learning by rote at this stage. We do not upbraid teachers for ‘imposing’ the alphabet or multiplication table. Our moral sentiments are not offended when parents correct poor grammar.

So, do not hesitate to take your young children to church tomorrow. And if necessary, to take them out when they are noisy or misbehave. Just remember to take them back in. They are learning to live in the presence of God and worship Him just as you did when you were taken by your parents. They are soaking up the words of the church and of Jesus their Savior. They are growing roots and growing up as tender shoots in God’s garden. What better place could they possibly be? Never minimize what God is at working doing in them through His “ordinary” means of grace.

Besides, those cries of distress (or for mercy!) as you take them out are music to the hearts of their fellow, older saints. We support you, parents, in this “chore” that is also a marvelous duty.

The Surprising Practice of Binding Old Books With Scraps of Even Older Books – Atlas Obscura


For centuries, an older manuscript sheathed a 1480 edition of the Vulgate. Courtesy Newberry Library

This article appeared in the Atlas Obscura email yesterday (June 14), and what a fascinating story it is concerning a former era of book publishing and binding – especially the example it features at the outset! But wait until you find out about the hidden sermons of St. Augustine that made up another book bound from other books.

Here are the opening paragraphs on this lost book-binding art and the treasures that it contained (Although I will say that I have found later examples of this in some 18th and even 19th century books in the seminary’s library, when the spine had begun to break down.).

Last year, Megan Heffernan, an English professor at DePaul University, was at the Folger Shakespeare Library and studying a folio of John Donne’s sermons printed in 1640. When she opened it up, she was surprised to find that the inside of the front and back covers were plastered with sheets taken from a book of English psalms. “I just thought, ‘How amazing is it to think about sermons sort of spending eternity rubbing up against a totally different kind of liturgical writing?’” she says. The texts’ creators didn’t intend for them to live together, but when the psalms became “book waste”—essentially, printed garbage—they could end up anywhere.

Suzanne Karr Schmidt, a curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Newberry Library in Chicago, jokingly describes these as “turducken books”—a book (or manuscript) within a book within a book. Repurposed scraps like these show up in several dozen places in the library’s collection, either as bindings, mends, or pieces used to reinforce spines.

From the earliest days of bookmaking, binders made use of scraps. Sometimes, it was just mundane material: leases or contracts that had expired or been rendered moot by a scribe’s mistake. In other cases, the bindings illustrate some seismic cultural shift. In these instances, the materials indicate to modern scholars what was important to the people assembling books—or, conversely, what had little or no value to them.

After the Reformation, for example, when Catholicism gave way to Protestantism in Britain, monastic libraries were dissolved and centuries’ worth of manuscripts were suddenly homeless and largely unwanted. This made them “available to a burgeoning print trade,” Heffernan says, “and they could be torn up into strips, or wrapped whole around books.” The change of faith sapped the Catholic materials’ “value as documents to be read,” she says. But their value as raw material—such as vellum, made from animal skin—remained.


Conservators found this 10th-century fragment of a sermon attributed to Saint Augustine in a book from the 1500s. Courtesy of the Newberry Library

For more on this – and the St. Augustine fragment story – visit the link below.

As an aside, I recently purchased a Kindle copy of the Atlas Obscura book, and what a treasure-trove that is! If you haven’t subscribed to their daily (or weekly) emails yet and you are interested in this kind of information (geographical and historical wonders found throughout the world), do so.

Source: The Surprising Practice of Binding Old Books With Scraps of Even Older Books – Atlas Obscura

Gottschalk: Medieval Confessor of God’s Absolute Sovereignty

Such was the title of a fascinating presentation on the medieval German monk Gottschalk (c.808 – c868) I and others attended this evening in Georgetown PRC. The presenter was Rev. Angus Stewart, zealous minister of the Word in Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland, a sister church of the PRCA.

Rev. Stewart is here for his bi-annual visit to the U.S.A. and is attending the PRC Synod meeting this week. He graciously agreed to give this lecture for our benefit at the request of Trinity PRC’s Council. Pastor Stewart gave this speech over three years ago as a Reformation Day lecture in Ballymena. You may find it here on CPRC’s YouTube channel.

After a brief biographical sketch of Gottschalk (whose name means “God’s servant”), Rev. Stewart took us through the most important doctrinal controversy of the 9th century, which centered, unsurprisingly (because the devil attacks this truth through false teachers in every century of church history), on God’s absolute sovereignty as exhibited especially in double predestination (election and reprobation). Appealing to the church fathers (especially Augustine but others also) and to Scripture, Gottschalk set forth plainly and defended powerfully God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation and in damnation.

Though Gottschalk’s writings were hidden in scattered libraries for centuries – even the Reformers were not aware of his work and never referenced him, they have recently come to light again and are being republished – in Latin – but are also being translated into English for the first time. The PRC’s own Rev. Ron Hanko helped point us to this godly servant and his defense of the truth in a PR Seminary Journal article.

Gottschalk-predestinationOne of the major works recently produced on this controversy, which also includes Gottschalk’s writings on predestination, is Gottschalk & a Medieval Predestination Controversy. (Texts Translated from the Latin. Edited & Translated by Victor Genke & Francis X. Gumerlock), published by Marquette University Press in 2010, a work found in the PRC Seminary library.

Rev. Stewart drew extensively on this work, handing out a sheet with several clear statements on God’s sovereignty in predestination. Here is one such (part of Gottschalk’s comments on 1 Tim.2:4):

[He] says, as the old predestinarians also said, that ‘God does not will all men to be saved’ (1 Tm2:4), but only those who are saved; however, all those are saved whom he willed to save and for this reason whoever is not saved absolutely does not belong to that will that they be saved. Since if all those whom God wills to be saved are not saved, he has not done whatever he willed, and if he wills what he cannot do, he is not omnipotent, but weak. But he is omnipotent who has done whatever he willed, as the scripture says: “The Lord has done whatever he willed in heaven and on earth, in the sea and in all the deeps (Ps 134:6…” [pp.176-77].

If you want another resource on this significant church history figure, look up this previous post on a recent RFPA publication on Gottschalk.

Go and Disciple – June 2018 Tabletalk

The June issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional, centers around the theme of “Discipleship.”

This is another issue that features a larger number of articles, but considerably shorter. Eighteen writers draw our attention to various aspects of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, from the “mandate of discipleship” to the “rewards of discipleship.” I am again finding the articles instructive and inspirational.

Editor Burk Parsons sets the course of the issue with his introduction “Christians are Disciples.” In he makes this important point:

…Although many people don’t want to hear it, and while many pastors fail to preach it, there is no distinction between a Christian and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Christians are disciples. A disciple is someone who trusts Christ and who lives his life according to that trust, following Christ and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). His call is clear: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). If we are genuinely trusting Christ, we will follow Him, but if we’re not following Him, it means that we don’t trust Him. Similarly, if we know the gospel, we will strive to walk in a way that is worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27); if the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we will walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); if we are united to Christ, we will bear fruit in Christ (John 15:1–11); if we love Christ, we will obey Christ (John 14:15); if we are justified by faith, and faith alone, our faith will not remain alone but will result in a life of faith, repentance, and good works, which Christ prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8–10; James 2:14–26).

One of the other articles I reference tonight is by Rev. Anthony Carter, who penned a short piece titled “What is a Disciple?” We quote a portion of his article too:

In short, a disciple is a student. A disciple is one who disciplines himself in the teachings and practices of another. The word disciple, like discipline, comes from the Latin word discipulus, meaning “pupil” or “learner.” Consequently, to learn is to discipline oneself. For example, if one is to advance in the arts or the sciences or athletics, one has to discipline himself and to learn and follow the principles and fundamentals of the best teachers in that area of study. So it was and is with the disciples of Christ. A disciple follows Jesus.

When Jesus called His first disciples, He spoke the simple words, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17; 2:14; John 1:43). A disciple is a follower, one who trusts and believes in a teacher and follows that teacher’s words and example. Therefore, to be a disciple is to be in a relationship. It is having an intimate, instructive, and imitative relationship with the teacher. Consequently, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is being in relationship with Jesus—it is seeking to be like Jesus. In other words, we follow Christ to be like Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) because as His disciples, we belong to Christ. The disciple of Jesus has certain traits that are commensurate with a relationship with Jesus. What are the qualities of a disciple of Christ? What are the traits of those who follow and are called disciples of Christ?

To find out the answers to those questions, follow the link below and finish reading. For the other articles, visit the Tabletalk link above.

Source: What Is a Disciple?

Book Alert! “The Belgic Confession: A Commentary” by David J. Engelsma

belgconf-comm-DJE-2018This week I received the latest offering from the Reformed Free Publishing Association – my personal copy along with that of the seminary library. The new book may have an unassuming title – The Belgic Confession: A Commentary – but it represents a new subject matter for the RFPA and helps fills a major void in  English for those who embrace this Reformed Confession (also known as the Netherlands Confession).

The author of the commentary is well known – emeritus PRC Seminary professor David J. Engelsma – and his commentary is the fruit of a ministry spent preaching, teaching, and writing about the Reformed doctrines summarized in this Calvinistic creed.

The publisher gives this description of the new book:

An orthodox commentary on the confession, that is, one that is in wholehearted accord with the teachings of the confession, and resolutely faithful to them, will be profitable to Reformed Christians and churches in the twenty-first century, not only for invaluable instruction in the Reformed faith, but also for the maintenance and defense of Reformed orthodoxy.

Founded on holy scripture, the Belgic Confession determines sound doctrine for Reformed churches and believers. This doctrine is rich, lovely, and powerful. The confession also authoritatively exposes contemporary heresies. As they read this commentary which proclaims the doctrine and authority of the confession, all believers who love the Reformed faith will be faithfully guided in the truth of the “old paths.”

Volume one covers Articles 1-21 of the Belgic Confession.

The first volume is a hardover of 368 pages, retailing for $31.95. But join the RFPA Book Club and the title is yours for only $20.77! The author promises in the introduction that the second volume is not far behind (that will cover Articles 22-37 of the Belgic Confession).

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In his introduction, Engelsma sets forth the importance of the Belgic Confession for the modern reader and church member:

As the official authoritative creed of Reformed churches worldwide, how great is the importance of the Belgic Confession! It authoritatively defines the truth of scripture. Explicitly and by implication, it also authoritatively defines heresies. It identifies true churches of Christ in the world. It constitutes the authoritative witness of these churches to other churches and to the world outside the church. On the title (front) page of the original publication of the Confession was a quotation of 1 Peter 3:15: ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.’ It is a document to instruct the members of reformed churches in the biblical truth that they profess, especially the children of Reformed believers. It is the guide of reformed preachers concerning the doctrines they must teach and defend. It is the defense of the Reformed faith against errors by which the faith is threatened, whether by heretics within the churches (always a danger, to all churches) or by the winds of false doctrine blowing upon the true church from without [pp.12-13].

All Reformed Christians interested in bolstering their faith with solid teaching and practical counsel will want to add this volume to their personal and family libraries. And don’t forget those church libraries also. 🙂

Contact the publisher at the information found at the links above to obtain your copy and to join the book club.

More Seminary Library Books Relating to the Synod of Dordt – The Staten Bible and the Dutch Annotations on the Whole Bible

Throughout this year and into next year we are highlighting the 400th anniversary of the “great” Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), which begins this year and will continue into next year.

In our initial post we called attention to some general things and in our last post we started to call attention to some special (and rare) books connected to that Synod and its work.

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Title page of the 1637 Staten Bible

In this post we call attention to the two more special books related to the work of Dordt. Both relate to the special Bible translation commissioned by the Synod, a new Dutch translation that came to be called the “Staten Bible” (or Bijbel, in Dutch) or the Statenvertaling (States translation). It was first published in 1637 and the PRC seminary has several first edition copies, one of which is enclosed in a special case in the library (cf. the image below; the other is placed in the rare book case). To see one such rare edition, visit this page where one was for sale.

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One of the seminary library’s copies of a 1st edition Statenvertaling Bible

 

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The second book (or set of books actually) related to Dordt’s work also is connected to this Dutch Bible, the Statenvertaling. The first edition included annotations on the text of the Scripture (in Dutch), that is, special notes or comments about the meaning and application of the passage. Later these annotations were published separately as well, as the title page above indicates. The editor and translator was Theodore Haak and this work was published first in London in 1657 – in English (which you may also find online here).

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While the PRC seminary library does not have a first edition of this book of annotations, we do have the 5 volumes that were reprinted by Inheritance Publications and edited by Roelof Janssen (cf. title page above and the five volumes on the shelf below).

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Roelof J. recently stopped by the seminary and spoke to us about his publications (old and new). In the course of the conversation we mentioned that he ought to finish this reprint and get the rest of the volumes completed. He is hoping to do so, if he can generate enough cash flow. Something to think about, if you are so inclined (by purchasing books from Inheritance Publications you are also helping this cause!).

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For now, notice the quality and beauty of the initial volumes (image of volume 1 above). But, of course, the content of these books makes for fascinating reading.

When to Say “Blest” and When to Say “Bless-ed” (Plus, a Little Quiz)

blessedFor our Wednesday post this week we are privileged to have a lesson on grammar while also incorporating a “word Wednesday” feature. That’s because today’s  GrammarBook.com lesson (sent by email to my box this morning) is on “Pronouncing the Word ‘Blessed’.”

“Blessed” is a familiar enough word to us – we hear people say all the time, ‘Have a blessed day” and we know the Bible uses this word frequently, as in Jesus’ Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” – but when do you pronouce it ‘blest” and when do you pronounce it “bless-ed”?

Let this grammar lesson help set us straight or keep us straight:

We received a number of inquiries from readers asking about the proper pronunciation of the word blessed when used in a way that we were not aware of when our original e-newsletter on this subject was issued on August 11, 2012. In order to provide what we hope is now complete coverage of the topic, today we are adding a fourth rule to our article:

Rule 1. When blessed is used as a verb, it is pronounced with one syllable (blest).
Example: Before we ate, our uncle Tony blessed [blest] the meal.

Rule 2. When the word blessed is used as part of an adverb (blessedly) or a noun (blessedness), it is pronounced with two syllables (bles-id).
Examples:
She hugged him blessedly [bles-id-lee, adverb] upon learning he had quit his bad habit.
The Eucharist is revered for its blessedness [bles-id-nes, noun] within the Christian faith.

Rule 3. When blessed is used as an adjective, it is typically pronounced with two syllables (bles-id). However, in certain cases, it may be pronounced with only one syllable (blest) as an isolated instance of inflection developed through familiarity with American English.
Examples:
Annie’s baptism was a blessed [bles-id] moment, particularly for her devoted grandparents.
Blessed [bles-id] are the poor. But The poor are blessed [blest, adjective].

Rule 4. When the blessed is used as a noun meaning “blessed one,” “people who are blessed,” or “those whose souls are in heaven” (Collins Dictionary), either pronunciation blest or bles-id may be used.
Example: They are the blessed [blest or bles-id] who live their lives selflessly.

And if you are up for the quiz, here you are (Don’t be overly critical of the way “blessed” is used in these examples; they’re just examples):

Pop Quiz

1. The priest blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) the candles at the ceremony.

2. The couple was blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) with a healthy baby girl.

3. I don’t have a blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) dime to my name.

4. The blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) walk with the angels.

Published in: on June 6, 2018 at 10:20 PM  Leave a Comment  

What Justification Does the Christian Have for Reading Secular Literature? A PR Perspective

litclassicsYou may recall that a few weeks ago we examined another section of Dr. Leland Ryken’s valuable book on the Christian’s reading of literature, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015). That particular section dealt with the Christian justification for reading secular literature (classics), and you will remember that Ryken grounded this first of all in the doctrine of “common grace.”

We took issue with this position, even though Ryken appealed to Scripture (without any specific texts) and to Calvin (with a couple of quotes that only proved that God also gives unbelievers “excellent gifts,” which may be of use to the believer – something with which we agree; we just don’t call it “grace”, not even if you call it “common” and not “saving.”). But it is not enough to say we do not ground the Christian’s right to read secular literature in common grace; we must state the justification positively, with Reformed and biblical grounds.

And we Protestant Reformed people do, even though many think we do not. To be sure, we do unashamedly affirm the antithesis, that spiritual “line in the sand” (separation) God by His sovereign, saving grace makes between the Christian and the ungodly world, between our renewed thinking and their perverse thinking, between our good works and their evil works (of literature too), between our Christ-directed purpose for living and their self(-ish)-focused purpose for living. That means that there is filth that the world produces that the Christian has no use for and may not use, including in the realm of literature (cf. 2 Cor.6:14-18; the first part of Eph.5; I Jn.2:15-17, e.g.).

But we also believe that God puts us in this world to live out our faith fully, to use this world and its things, including the works of fallen, unconverted sinners, to the glory of God and for our development in grace as His people. That includes their works of literature – with limitations and discernment, of course – but also with a free and good conscience governed and informed by the Word of God. That’s the key to the Christian’s use of this world – we view it and employ it through the “lens” of God’s Word (Calvin referred to this as living and learning through the “spectacles of Scripture.”).

What I want especially to point out to you tonight is that the Federation of PR Christian School Societies has produced various guides for the teachers to use in the areas of instruction that they teach. And one of these is a “Literature Studies Guide,” available on the page linked above. Part of that guide specifically addresses the Christian’s reading of secular literature, and from that part I would like to quote. These are the thoughts of Mr. Fred Hanko, a now-retired but long-tenured Christian school teacher. Let them be a guide to you as you make use of the classics of unbelievers:

In exploring the problem of what the Christian can do with the literary works of the unbeliever, there are a few basic ideas with which I would like to begin.
First it must be understood that there is an objective reality which includes God Himself, all things in the universe which He has created, and all the works that God has done in history.
Second, the Christian is called upon to know and understand this reality as far as his limitations and capacities allow. Third, the Christian is required to respond to this reality. The response must be of acceptance of the good and rejection of the evil, as well as belief and worship. Further, the response must include behavior toward God, toward men, and toward the earth.
Now the business of literature is communication. The objective reality is the material with which the author works. He explores this reality, he responds to it, he interprets it, and he uses the written word to communicate the results to the reader.
Note that the special feature of literature that makes it differ from other writings is that literature bears the imprint of the writer. The author himself appears in all works of literature. It may appear in his selection of materials, his interpretation of reality, in his response to reality, in any or all of these. The job of the author is to explore reality and to communicate the results to us. The author says to us, this is what I see. Do not you see it too? This is what I feel. Don’t you feel as I do? This is what we ought to do. Go forth now and do it.
When the author is a Christian, we have no problem in dealing with his works. We see reality as he sees it and we respond as he does. From his work we gain knowledge, insight we have never had before, feelings that are new to us or deeper than we have ever had before. We become better Christians than we have ever been.
Our problem, however, lies with the work of the unbeliever. Can he know reality? Can he interpret it correctly? Can he respond to it as he should? And if he can do none of these things, why should we study his work?
The answer to the first of these questions seems to be the most difficult. It seems clear that just as the scientist can observe a flower and report accurately its structure, and function, so the poet can observe the flower and say accurately, This is what I see, and this is how I feel about it. Does either the scientist or the poet speak the truth? Or both? Or possibly neither?
Since we are dealing here with the work of man, it seems proper before we try to answer that we say a few things about the nature of man. We are agreed, I think, that with the fall of Adam man lost the image of God. The loss of the image of God means that man lost the true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. From that time forward his knowledge was only that of evil, his works were all unrighteousness. Man is opposed to God and in league with Satan. “All the thoughts of man’s heart were only evil continually.” Without the grace of God which restores the image of God man remains only the creature created to be an image-bearer of God but now bearing the image of Satan.
There is in man and in the works of man no neutrality of thought or actions. He is for God or he is against Him. As one created to be an image-bearer, however, he has the faculties of intellect and reason which make it possible for him to know what is true, but this truth he will not acknowledge. (Cf. Romans 1)
The unbelieving author, then, can observe reality correctly and can report it accurately even while his purpose may be to serve his idol gods. He may even be more shrewd in his analysis than the God-fearing man is. The unbelieving poet may see something in the flower that we would never see of ourselves. By reading the work of the poet, we also may see, and by our special knowledge we may gain a better understanding of God. Although the writer may have done his work in sin, we may use His work to the greater glory of God. Even the Apostle Paul used the learning of the Greeks quoting from one of their own poets in his speech at Athens.

There are more to these thoughts, and you may find them at the link above. By all means read the entire guide. You will profit immensely. And then go read, with your spiritual “eyeglasses” on.