“Then Luther arose” by John Calvin

Wonderful post from “Tolle Lege” today, Reformation day 2020. Earlier this month I posted from this significant treatise of John Calvin. This quote in this post closes out the month and this day in powerful fashion as Calvin acknowledges Luther’s role in the great Reformation of God’s church in the 16th century. May we be found faithful in carrying on this light of the gospel until our Lord returns.

Tolle Lege

“At the time when divine truth lay buried under this vast and dense cloud of darkness;

when religion was sullied by so many impious superstitions;

when by horrid blasphemies the worship of God was corrupted, and His glory laid prostrate;

when by a multitude of perverse opinions, the benefit of redemption was frustrated, and men, intoxicated with a fatal confidence in works, sought salvation anywhere rather than in Christ;

when the administration of the sacraments was partly maimed and torn asunder, partly adulterated by the admixture of numerous fictions, and partly profaned by traffickings for gain;

when the government of the church had degenerated into mere confusion and devastation;

when those who sat in the seat of pastors first did most vital injury to the church by the dissoluteness of their lives, and, secondly, exercised a cruel and most noxious tyranny over souls, by every kind of error, leading men…

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Published in: on October 31, 2020 at 10:05 PM  Leave a Comment  

Comfort for Persecuted Reformation Believers

The Standard Bearer has for many years published a special Reformation issue in October (or November), and this year is no exception. The November 1 SB due out this week has as its theme the French Reformation. While we are knowledgeable of several renowned French Reformers – most notably John Calvin – we are generally not as knowledgeable of the history of the Reformation in France.

Let it be noted that because France was staunchly Roman Catholic, the Protestant movement was marked by severe persecution. All one need do is mention the Huguenots and the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Which is why the opening article (the meditation) in this special issue is a portion of a letter France-born Reformer and pastor Pierre Viret wrote to the suffering Protestant saints in France. It is part of a larger collection of precious letters Viret wrote to his fellow believers in his native land, published as Letters of Comfort to the Persecuted Church, translated by R.A. Sheats (Monticello, FL: Psalm 78 Ministries, 2015).

In this post we introduce you to the opening letter in this collection, titled “A Letter of Comfort to Believers.” The publisher graciously allowed us to print it in the SB, and the publisher of the SB, the RFPA, posted the excerpt on their blog in calling attention to this special issue.

We hope that you are blessed by this small part of the letter (read more on the RFPA blog), as well as by the entire issue on the French Reformation.

There are precious few things we could endure that would come close to what the Lord Jesus suffered for us, who, recognizing the weakness of our flesh, does not place upon our shoulders a weight too great or pressing for us to bear. For as the apostle said, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Cor. 10:13), but will give a good end to the trial, which shall yield a goodly fruit. The heavenly Father who holds us in His safekeeping and protection knows and understands what we lack better than we ourselves, and when He visits us with adversities and gives the rein to tyrants to afflict us, He only allows or permits this for our great good in order that our faith—which is more precious than gold (1 Pet. 1:7)—might be tested and well proved in the fire and furnace of tribulation, in order that the dross and all false metal might be separated.

We know also that, just as the fire consumes the rust if it is not put to use, so likewise the Church and believers immediately become corrupted and prone to slumber in this world if they are not roused and exercised by sufficient troubles. For the flesh is always flesh, and possesses no cure within itself, and thinks no further than of itself and its carnal pleasures, forsaking heaven to remain on earth, and preferring the worldly pleasures which suddenly perish over heavenly and eternal goods. Therefore the Lord wills through many ways to test and prove us, to reveal to us our true selves and all the evils and miseries of this world, that we might not rest our heart and hopes upon it, nor make it our paradise, and that our flesh might not be intoxicated with it, but to the contrary that we would recognize that all is corruptible and fleeting, that nothing is permanent, but that all passes away as the wind and vanishes as a vapor, that man’s life (which is much worthier of being called war and continual death than life) passes as a shadow. We must seek another life; we must set our hearts on high, and with Abraham lift our eyes from the earth to fix them upon heaven, and there seek a permanent and eternal city in which there is no change, poverty, misery, tears, weeping, grief, worry, or sorrow, but eternal happiness and bliss, where the Lord dries and wipes away all tears from the eyes of His children and servants, where there is no night, and the sun never sets (Isa. 25:8; Rev. 7:16–17; 21:23).

This, my well-beloved brethren, is a lesson which must be learned in the school of persecution and in tyrants’ prisons and dungeons, from which the children of God learn and profit more than the students of the philosophers and sophists in their schools….

My brethren, let us thus regard the afflictions and persecutions that we endure in this valley of misery, for they are great blessings of God to instruct us how to mortify our flesh, to crucify and put off the old man in order that the new might be endued with greater vigor, and to humble our sensual and carnal flesh—so prideful and rebellious against the will of God—that we might be made obedient and subject to the Spirit (2 Cor. 5:1–5, 14–15).

Indeed, if persecution were not a singular blessing of God, we would be constrained to look upon God our Father as bitter, harsh, and severe toward His children because He allowed His servants the prophets, apostles, and martyrs—indeed, even His own Son Jesus Christ the King and Ruler of all—to be thus treated by wicked and unbelieving men.

If you are interested in a good introduction to the Reformer Pierre Viret (relatively unknown, I would guess), here is a fine book on him and his life and work from the same publisher.

Published in: on October 28, 2020 at 5:54 AM  Leave a Comment  

“Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God.” ~ Luther on Galatians 1:3

VERSE 3. Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our   Lord Jesus Christ.  

The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now pretty well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you will not mind if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere. The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures because such devices only increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.

The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you.” Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction, particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strong and courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself, because we have the victory of Christ’s death and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins.

The above quote is drawn from a classic of Reformation literature – Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. This is his simple but clear exposition of v.3 of the first chapter. And you will see in these brief paragraphs the basic gospel recovered by the Reformers – justification by grace alone in Christ alone by faith alone.

By all means read on in this classic, especially if you never have. You will be treated to a timeless treasure of gospel truth – still worth treasuring, defending, and spreading.

The digital edition of this edition is available here and on Kindle (free!). And, of course, in print.

Published in: on October 25, 2020 at 9:20 PM  Leave a Comment  
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The Wild Boar and Luther vs. Eck – 2 New Episodes of Luther in Real Time

Did you catch the two new episodes of “Luther in Real Time” this week?

You may recall that I mentioned these Reformation month resources earlier this month. They are special podcasts sponsored by Ligonier Ministries, and were introduced this way:

Today, listen to the opening episode of our new podcast, Luther: In Real Time, and experience the dramatic journey that God used to change the world. Each episode is released 500 years to the day after major twists and turns in Luther’s transformation from a terrified monk to the bold German Reformer. Subscribe today on your favorite podcast app so you can listen in real time.

The first one this week is “The Wild Boar”:

At first, Pope Leo X dismissed Martin Luther as a drunken German monk who would cease his criticisms soon enough. But as Luther shows no sign of “sobering up,” Leo decides he needs to be dealt with. On today’s episode of Luther: In Real Time, Leo turns to Luther’s patron, Duke Frederick, to help him take the rebel captive.

Listening to today’s episode on Apple Podcasts is an easy way for you to help this podcast reach even more people. You can also listen to Luther: In Real Time on Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, RefNet, or RSS.

And the second one is “Luther vs. Eck” and may be found here:

Two weeks have passed since Martin Luther was called to renounce his teachings. Remembering his debate with Germany’s leading theologian, Luther knows that backing down now would mean surrendering the truth of Scripture. Today, Luther writes his response, and he doesn’t mince words.

Listening to today’s episode on Apple Podcasts is an easy way for you to help this podcast reach even more people. You can also listen to Luther: In Real Time on Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, RefNet, or RSS.

These are great to listen to on your own or with your family. They are short, educational. and inspirational!

Published in: on October 24, 2020 at 8:37 AM  Leave a Comment  

New Reformation Titles Added to the PRC Seminary Library in 2020

Martin Luther as He Lived and Breathed

Continuing with our Reformation theme this month, we provide you in this post with a list of the significant new (and some very old and slightly used!) books relating to the persons, places, events (history), and theologies of the Reformation – from Luther to Viret to Musculus.

These are all titles added to the PRC Seminary library so far in this year of our Lord 2020. While it has been an unusual year in many ways, when I compile a list like this, I am thankful that with the support of our PRC members and the Synod through its Theological School Committee we can still grow our library’s holdings significantly.

Once again, we encourage you to browse the list and find something to read. Yes, many of these are detailed academic studies; yet there are plenty of good books here for the “average” reader too. Challenge yourself, aim high, and read to grow in your knowledge of Reformation characters, histories, and theologies.

Everyday Prayer with the Reformers
  • Martin Luther as He Lived and Breathed: Recollections of the Reformer. Robert Kolb. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018.
  • Luther at Leipzig: Martin Luther, the Leipzig Debate,and the Sixteenth-Century Reformations. Mickey L. Mattox, editor.; Richard J. Serina, Jr., editor; Jonathan Mumme, editor. Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2019 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions, vol. 218)
  • Defending Luther’s Reformation: Its Ongoing Significance in the Face of Contemporary Challenges. John A. Maxfield, editor; Timothy P. Dost; Jonathan Mumme. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2017.
  • Luther’s Works: Disputations II. Martin Luther, 1483-1546; Christopher Boyd Brown. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing, 2020, vol. 73
  • Solus Decalogus Est Aeternus: Martin Luther’s Complete Antinomian Theses and Disputations. Martin Luther, 1483-1546; Holger Sonntag. Minneapolis, MN: Lutheran Press, 2008.
  • Huldrych Zwingli’s Private Library. Urs B. Leu; Sandra Weidmann. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2019 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions, vol. 215)
  • The Beginnings of English Protestantism. Peter Marshall; Alec. Ryrie.Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation. Peter Marshall. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018.
  • The Blind Devotion of the People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation. Robert Whiting. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989 (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History)
  • Calvin and the Early Reformation. Brian C. Brewer, editor; David M. Whitford, editor. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2020 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions, vol. 219)
  • The Life and Character of Calvin, the Reformer: Reviewed and Defended. Thomas Smyth, 1808-1873. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1844/2001.
  • Engaging With Calvin: Aspects of the Reformer’s Legacy for Today. Mark D. Thompson; Peter. Adam; Michael P. Jensen; Mark D. Thompson. Nottingham: Apollos, 2009.
  • The Style of John Calvin in His French Polemical Treatises. Francis M. Higman. London: Oxford University Press, 1967 (Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs)
  • Calvin’s Doctrine of the Church. Benjamin C. Milner. Leiden: Brill, 1970 (Studies in the History of Christian Thought, v. 5)
  • In God’s Custody, the Church, a History of Divine Protection: A Study of John Calvin’s Ecclesiology Based on His Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Frederik A. V. Harms; Herman J. Selderhuis (series). Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010 (Reformed Historical Theology, vol. 12)
  • Calvin and the Foundations of Modern Politics. Ralph C. Hancock. Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1989.
  • The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments used in the English Congregation at Geneva, and approved by that famous and godly learned man, John Calvin (photocopy pb.) Geneva: John Crespin, 1556.
  • Early Reformation Covenant Theology: English Reception of Swiss Reformed Thought, 1520-1555. Robert J. D. Wainright; Diarmaid MacCulloch; John J. Hughes.
  • Common Places of Christian Religion: Gathered by Wolfgangus Musculus, For the Use of Such As Desire the Knowledge of Godly Truth. Wolfgang Musculus, 1497-1563; John Man, 1512-1569 (1st English ed.) London, 1563.
  • An Exposition or Commentary upon the Catechism of Christian Religion [Heidelberg]: which is taught in the schools and churches both of the Low Countries and of the …Palatinate. Jeremias Bastingius, 1551-1595. London: John Legatt, 1614.
  • The Theology of the Huguenot Refuge: From the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to the Edict of Versailles. Martin I. Klauber, editor. Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2020 (Reformed Historical-Theological Studies)
  • Pierre Viret the Theologian: Reformation Theology and Contemporary Application. Jean-Marc Berthoud. ; R. A.Sheats, Transl. Monticello, FL: Psalm 78 Ministries, 2019.
  • Exposition of the Ten Commandments: Volumes One &Two: The First and Second Tables of the Law. Pierre Viret, 1511-1571; R. A. Sheats, Transl. (1st English)Monticello, FL: Psalm 78 Ministries, 1554/2020.
  • Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?: Recovering the Doctrines That Shook the World. James Montgomery Boice, 1938-2000; Eric J. Alexander. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001 [A treatment of the Solas of the Reformation]
  • Everyday Prayer with the Reformers. Donald K. McKim. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2020. [a fine devotional book!]
  • Five: The Solas of the Reformation. S. D. Ellison; Michael A. G. Haykin. Lansvale, NSW, Australia: Tulip Publishing, 2020.
Published in: on October 22, 2020 at 9:27 PM  Leave a Comment  

William Tyndale and the English Bible Smuggled into England

In the year of 1526, Henry [VIII, king of England] was greatly startled and perturbed one day to hear that there were copies of the complete New Testament in English being circulated in London. How could that be? Where did they come from? Who had printed them? Who translated them? Henry wanted to know; he wanted to bury the guy who did it. There was absolutely no information on the title page where the author and printer were usually named. It would take some investigating to find out who was behind it.

It was obvious these New Testaments had not been printed in England. The printing houses were well know, and it would have been impossible to print such a large order on a long book without detection. It must be that they were being smuggled in from somewhere in Europe. …Isn’t it ironic that New Testaments in English had to be be smuggled into Christian England simply because they were in English? Dangerous contraband, indeed.

So, who was behind this Bible, its translation and its printing? The answer lies in the brilliant, determined servant of the Lord William Tyndale. Here’s more of the story of the presence and power of God’s Word to bring reformation to England:

A man named William Tyndale was also one who had a special gift for languages. Tyndale grew up in England, attended Oxford University, and was ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church, which, of course, was still the only church in England. During that time he had gained a reputation among his professors and peers for being especially sharp at languages. He was fluent in eight languages including Greek, which had been introduced into the curriculum at Oxford during the Renaissance. But more important than any of this, William Tyndale had become ignited with the same fire as Wycliffe: the burning desire to get the Bible to the English people in their own language. During his years at Oxford, Tyndale had become wholeheartedly converted to the ideas of the Reformation and to the liberating truths of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. Now, he wanted to share these truths with his fellow countrymen. He wanted to see the English people freed from the burdens of legalism (thinking you had to earn salvation) and released from the lies of a corrupt church. Tyndale knew that the truth would spread on its own if he could just get them a Bible they could read, so he began working on an English translation of the New Testament. When a fellow cleric in the church criticized him for his endeavor, Tyndale responded, ‘If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou doest.” A common ploughboy reading and understanding the Word of God? No doubt the cleric merely laughed.

And what about the printing of them? Here’s that part of the story:

There was no printer in England at this time who could take the considerable risk to print illegal English Bibles. Actually, it wasn’t just risky, it was pure suicide. So, Tyndale sailed for Europe and began lining up someone to put his translation into print. Between Catholic authorities after him for heresy, and the henchmen of Henry VIII who would arrest anyone trying to produce an English Bible, he had to take great efforts to keep his whereabouts a secret. But he managed to finish a printing of the New Testament in 1526 (at the age of 32), and it was immediately smuggled into England. It was the very first pocket-sized Bible, and those favoring Protestant ideas circulated it with great enthusiasm.

Taken from King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie White (The Shorter Word Press, 2009), pp.101-02.

Are we grateful yet today for the gifts and grit of this Englishman whom God used to grant us the Bible in our own tongue? And are we grateful for all those who have worked to translate the Bible into the tongue of the world’s peoples? Is this gift of the Reformation still precious to us?

Perhaps more important questions are, What are you and am I doing with our Bibles? Would we risk our lives for them?

Published in: on October 17, 2020 at 10:45 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Katherine Parr: Another Notable Reformation Woman

Henry VIII and Katherine Parr: Was it True Love? - HistoryExtra

Last August (2019) noted children’s author and Reformed historian Simonetta Carr published an article on “Place for Truth” about an English woman few of us have probably heard about: Katherine Parr. The full title of the online article is “Katherine Parr and Her Role in the English Reformation,” and in this second Reformation post this week, we think it worth your time to learn a little also about this notable woman whom God used at the time of the great Protestant movement.

Carr begins with this brief introduction:

Katherine Parr (1512-1548) is often remembered as the only wife of King Henry VIII who survived the marriage (the previous five were either beheaded or divorced). But she was much more than that. She was an important writer and a major player in the English Reformation.

After recounting Parr’s early life and marriage to Henry VIII, Carr describes her “dangerous faith”:

She apparently converted to Protestantism soon after her wedding, through the instructions of Thomas Cranmer. She became then largely responsible for the Protestant education of her step-children, Elizabeth and Edward, who continued to trust and respect her throughout their life.

            Today, she is mostly famous for her narrow escape of arrest and execution for her possession of heretical books in 1546. While her prosecutors could not find evidence (which was probably removed), she knew they would persist in their efforts unless she ensured the king’s protection. She did so by explaining to the king that her interest in theological matters was motivated by her desire to discuss those subjects with him – reaffirming her submission to him in all things.

            In spite of this grave danger, the same year, she began writing a personal chronicle of her departure from the Roman Catholic religion and her understanding of justification by faith alone. The book, The Lamentation of a Sinner, was published only nine months after Henry’s death in 1547. It was not the first of her works – she had already published a collection of poems and meditations on the Psalms – but it was the most outspoken about her beliefs.

And then, finally, after writing about Parr’s “tragic end,” Carr gives this woman’s enduring legacy:

Katherine was highly esteemed in her day as a wise queen, writer, educator, and religious reformer. Her influence on major figures like Henry VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, and Jane Grey – the young lady that ruled for nine days after Edward – had lasting consequences, and her patronage of famous early Protestants such as Hugh Latimer, Miles Coverdale, Roger Ascham, and John Parkhurst did much to promote the English Reformation.

            She also fostered education in England and played a role in the foundation of Trinity College, Cambridge. As a writer, she is remembered as the first English woman to publish a book under her name. Her writings – pregnant with wisdom, humility, and devotion – have been among the first Reformed works in the English language and have inspired men and women alike.

Katherine Parr

The book Carr references on Katherine Parr is this one: Katherine Parr, Complete Works and Correspondence, ed. Janel Mueller, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2011. I see our seminary library does not have it. Looks like I need to find a copy. 🙂

There is another title available on Parr – Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation Queen – by Brandon G. Withrow (P&R, 2009). This appears to be a popular biography on her and includes her writings as well. This is the publisher’s description:

This book examines the life of an important, but often forgotten, Protestant Reformer. Katherine Parr, one of only a handful of women to publish in a hundred-year period in England, dared to push Henry VIII toward the Reformation, nearly losing her head as a result. This volume is a guided tour of her life, her contributions to the Reformation, and her writings. Including the full text of her two books as well as select letters, Katherine Parr presents both an intimate portrait of a woman struggling to make a difference, and a reintroduction of a classic text to the contemporary church.

Published in: on October 15, 2020 at 10:11 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Women of the Reformation: Katharina Schutz Zell

When we consider God’s work in the Great Reformation of the sixteenth century, it is easy to focus on the men who were the main Reformers – Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, and more. That is certainly proper, but we ought not forget the women of the Reformation.

Katharina Schutz Zell – Part II | My Lord Katie

In a recent post at Tabletalk’s website, Rebeccca VanDoodewaard helps us remember how God used many women during these formative years of Protestantism – in ordinary as well as extraordinary ways. She writes about one particular woman – Katharina Schutz Zell and her remarkable ministry in home and church.

Below is a small section from VanDoodewaard’s article, which speaks of Zell’s beautiful Christian hospitality. The rest of her story is amazing too, so follow the link to read more about this Reformation woman.

She was also busy caring for Protestant refugees: “I have already in the beginning of my marriage received many excellent and learned people in their flight, and comforted them as God has said: ‘Support and strengthen the weak knees.’” When Protestants had to flee from Baden, the Zells took in an old doctor. Later, he was in a Roman Catholic prison and said that memories of Katharina’s kindness comforted him. In 1524, 150 men were driven out of Kentzingen and fled to Strasbourg. Zell welcomed eighty of them into his house. Katharina cared for them and wrote to their wives, encouraging them to stand firm in their faith.7

During the German Peasants’ War, three thousand more refugees poured into Strasbourg.8 Katharina was continually busy. Zell delighted in her service, which was a joint endeavor. At their wedding, Matthew had commissioned her to be a “mother to the poor and refugees”—she was doing what they believed God wanted her to do.9

Theologians came, too. Bucer fled Weissenburg, finding refuge in Mrs. Zell’s house. When John Calvin fled France, Katharina welcomed him. In 1529, a debate between Martin Luther and Zwingli brought many Reformers to Strasbourg, and Katharina hosted again: “I have been for fourteen days maid and cook while the dear men Oecolampadius and Zwingli were here.”

Katharina, Katharina: The Story of Katharina Schütz Zell: Farenhorst,  Christine: 9781894400848: Amazon.com: Books

If you wish to read a book on Katharina Zell, check out this title by Christine Farenhorst.

Published in: on October 13, 2020 at 10:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reformation Resources: Luther in Real Time and Luther Life and Legacy Documentary

Ligonier Ministries has a wonderful new resource this year for Reformation month. It is a podcast titled “Luther in Real Time” and it is a dramatic replaying of the most important events in Luther’s life leading up to and during the Protestant movement in Germany. Here is Ligonier’s own description of this great history instruction tool:

It’s October 10, 1520. A monk named Martin Luther hears someone hammering at his door. It’s the pope’s envoy, and the message is dire. If Luther does not retract all of his teachings, he will be cut off from the church.

Today, listen to the opening episode of our new podcast, Luther: In Real Time, and experience the dramatic journey that God used to change the world. Each episode is released 500 years to the day after major twists and turns in Luther’s transformation from a terrified monk to the bold German Reformer. Subscribe today on your favorite podcast app so you can listen in real time.

Simply listening to today’s episode on Apple Podcasts is an easy way to help this podcast reach even more people. You can also listen to Luther: In Real Time on Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, RefNet, or RSS. Coming soon to Pandora.

Ligonier is also generously offering some other free Reformation resources this month. Here are two more items:

Ligonier Ministries is offering two free Reformation resources that can help you get to know Luther’s life, teaching, and enduring influence: R.C. Sproul’s video teaching series Luther and the Reformation plus the ebook The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols. You can download these resources for free.

And finally, are you aware that you can livestream free a great documentary on Luther’s life and legacy during October? Check out this offer below, also compliments of Ligonier.

More than five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. Little did he know how the Lord would use him to ignite a movement that would change the world.

Throughout the month of October, you can stream Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer for free on Ligonier’s YouTube channel. Watch to remember the events God used in Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Don’t forget to tell your friends about this film.

To dig even deeper into Luther’s story and significance, you can also download Ligonier’s free accompanying study guide.

These would be profitable resources to listen to and watch as a couple or family, as well as personally. A great way to grow in your knowledge of the Reformation and in your convictions as a Protestant Christian!

Published in: on October 10, 2020 at 9:24 PM  Comments (1)  

Why Reform the Church in the 16th Century? Why Today in the 21st Century?

As we focus on the Great Reformation of the 16th century this month, we want to consider in this post one of Calvin’s greatest treatises: “The Necessity of Reforming the Church.”

Ligonier Ministries (Dr. Robert Godfrey) has a good introduction to and summary of this work, which begins in this way:

More than 450 years ago, a request came to John Calvin to write on the character of and need for reform in the Church. The circumstances were quite different from those that inspired other writings of Calvin, and enable us to see other dimensions of his defense of the Reformation. The Emperor Charles V was calling the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire to meet in the city of Speyer in 1544. Martin Bucer, the great reformer of Strassburg, appealed to Calvin to draft a statement of the doctrines of and necessity for the Reformation. The result was remarkable. Theodore Beza, Calvin’s friend and successor in Geneva, called “The Necessity for Reforming the Church” the most powerful work of his time.

Calvin organizes the work into three large sections. The first section is devoted to the evils in the church that required reformation. The second details the particular remedies to those evils adopted by the reformers. The third shows why reform could not be delayed, but rather how the situation demanded “instant amendment.”

In each of these three sections Calvin focuses on four topics, which he calls the soul and body of the church. The soul of the church is worship and salvation. The body is sacraments and church government. The great cause of reform for Calvin centers in these topics. The evils, remedies and necessity for prompt action all relate to worship, salvation, sacraments and church government.

The great cause of reform for Calvin centers in these topics. The importance of these topics for Calvin is highlighted when we remember that he was not responding to attacks in these four areas, but chose them himself as the most important aspects of the Reformation.

Find the rest here.

With this in mind, let’s quote a portion from Calvin’s treatise itself, focusing on the first part, about the need to reform the church’s worship. Hear Calvin:

We maintain, then, that at the commencement, when God raised up Luther and others, who held forth a torch to light us into the way of salvation, and who, by their ministry, founded and reared our churches, those heads of doctrine in which the truth of our religion, those in which the pure and legitimate sonship of God, and those in which the salvation of men are comprehended, were in a great measure obsolete. We maintain that the use of the sacraments was in many ways vitiated and polluted. And we maintain that the government of the Church was converted into a species of foul and insufferable tyranny. But, perhaps these averments have not force enough to move certain individuals until they are better explained. This, therefore, I will do, not as the subject demands, but as far as my ability will permit. Here, however, I have no intention to review and discuss all our controversies; that would require a long discourse, and this is not the place for it. I wish only to show how just and necessary the causes were which forced us to the changes for which we are blamed. To accomplish this, I must take up together the three following points.

First, I must briefly enumerate the evils which compelled us to seek for remedies.

Secondly, I must show that the particular remedies which our Reformers employed were apt and salutary.

Thirdly, I must make it plain that we were not at liberty any longer to delay putting forth our hand, in as much as the matter demanded instant amendment.

The first point, as I merely advert to it for the purpose of clearing my way to the other two, I will endeavor to dispose of in a few words, but in wiping off the heavy charge of sacrilegious audacity and sedition, founded on the allegation, that we have improperly, and with intemperate haste usurped an office which did not belong to us, I will dwell at greater length. If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain. After these come the Sacraments and the Government of the Church, which, as they were instituted for the preservation of these branches of doctrine, ought not to be employed for any other purpose; and indeed, the only means of ascertaining whether they are administered purely and in due form, or otherwise, is to bring them to this test. If any one is desirous of a clearer and more familiar illustration, I would say, that rule in the Church, the pastoral office, and all other matters of order, resemble the body, whereas the doctrine which regulates the due worship of God, and points out the ground on which the consciences of men must rest their hope of salvation, is the soul which animates the body, renders it lively and active, and, in short, makes it not to be a dead and useless carcass.

As to what I have yet said, there is no controversy among the pious, or among men of right and sane mind.

Let us now see what is meant by the due worship of God. Its chief foundation is to acknowledge Him to be, as He is, the only source of all virtue, justice, holiness, wisdom, truth, power, goodness, mercy, life, and salvation; in accordance with this, to ascribe and render to Him the glory of all that is good, to seek all things in Him alone, and in every want have recourse to Him alone. Hence arises prayer, hence praise and thanksgiving — these being attestations to the glory which we attribute to Him. This is that genuine sanctification of His name which He requires of us above all things. To this is united adoration, by which we manifest for Him the reverence due to his greatness and excellency, and to this ceremonies are subservient, as helps or instruments, in order that, in the performance of divine worship, the body may be exercised at the same time with the soul. Next after these comes self-abasement, when, renouncing the world and the flesh, we are transformed in the renewing of our mind, and living no longer to ourselves, submit to be ruled and actuated by Him. By this self-abasement we are trained to obedience and devotedness to his will, so that his fear reigns in our hearts, and regulates all the actions of our lives. That in these things consists the true and sincere worship which alone God approves, and in which alone He delights, is both taught by the Holy Spirit throughout the Scriptures and is also, antecedent to discussion, the obvious dictate of piety. Nor from the beginning was there any other method of worshipping God, the only difference being, that this spiritual truth, which with us is naked and simple, was under the former dispensation wrapt up in figures. And this is the meaning of our Savior’s words,

“The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:23.)

For by these words he meant not to declare that God was not worshipped by the fathers in this spiritual manner, but only to point out a distinction in the external form, viz., That while they had the Spirit shadowed forth by many figures, we have it in simplicity. But it has always been an acknowledged point, that God, who is a Spirit, must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

Moreover, the rule which distinguishes between pure and vitiated worship is of universal application, in order that we may not adopt any device which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunction of Him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have Him to approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. For there is a twofold reason why the Lord, in condemning and prohibiting all fictitious worship, requires us to give obedience only to his own voice. First, it tends greatly to establish His authority that we do not follow our own pleasures but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and, secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions. Justly, therefore, does the Lord, in order to assert his full right of dominion, strictly enjoin what he wishes us to do, and at once reject all human devices which are at variance with his command. Justly, too, does he, in express terms, define our limits that we may not, by fabricating perverse modes of worship, provoke His anger against us.

I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God. But since God not only regards as fruitless, but also plainly abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to His worship, if at variance with His command, what do we gain by a contrary course? The words of God are clear and distinct,

“Obedience is better than sacrifice.” “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” (1 Samuel 15:22; Matthew 15:9.)

Every addition to His word, especially in this matter, is a lie. Mere “will worship”… is vanity. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate.

Will your Imperial Majesty now be pleased to recognize, and will you, Most Illustrious Princes, lend me your attention, while I show how utterly at variance with this view are all the observances, in which, throughout the Christian world in the present day, divine worship is made to consist? In word, indeed, they concede to God the glory of all that is good, but, in reality, they rob him of the half, or more than the half, by partitioning his perfections among the saints. Let our adversaries use what evasions they may, and defame us for exaggerating what they pretend to be trivial errors, I will simply state the fact as every man perceives it. Divine offices are distributed among the saints as if they had been appointed colleagues to the Supreme God, and, in a multitude of instances, they are made to do his work, while He is kept out of view. The thing I complain of is just what everybody confesses by a vulgar proverb. For what is meant by saying, “the Lord cannot be known for apostles,” unless it be that, by the height to which apostles are raised, the dignity of Christ is sunk, or at least obscured? The consequence of this perversity is, that mankind, forsaking the fountain of living waters, have learned, as Jeremiah tells us, to hew them out

“cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” (Jeremiah 2:13.)

For where is it that they seek for salvation and every other good? Is it in God alone? The whole tenor of their lives openly proclaims the contrary. They say, indeed, that they seek salvation and every other good in Him; but it is mere pretense, seeing they seek them elsewhere.

You may find the full treatise here.
Published in: on October 7, 2020 at 9:13 PM  Leave a Comment