Covenant Christian High Turns 50

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This year Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, MI turns 50 (1968-2018) and this weekend the covenant community behind the school (mainly Protestant Reformed parents and grandparents) will celebrate. Being a graduate of this blessed institution (Class of 1976!), I am personally grateful for the Christian secondary education I received from our godly teachers.

A special program is planned for this evening (Friday, April 27) at Fair Haven Church in Hudsonville, MI, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Tomorrow (Saturday, April 28) there will be an open house at the school from 1:00-5:00 p.m. We hope you are planning to attend these significant events!

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A special edition of the “Covenant Courier” has been published, which highlights the history and the development of the school during these 50 years of existence. On Covenant CHS’s website you will find a link to this entire issue (also provided above).

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And on Covenant’s website you will also find a link to an online album of pictures of life and labor at CHHS by the decades. That makes for great memories, besides being quite entertaining! Did we really look that bad in the ’70s?!

The above photos are taken from the Fifteenth anniversary booklet of CCHS (1968-1983), a copy of which is found in the PRC archives and in our seminary library’s vertical files. The first photo marks the laying of the “date stone” on April 20, 1968, which includes “a small copper box containing many items of historical interest on how the society and building originated” (p.6). The second photo shows Rev. John Heys giving a speech on Psalm 103:17,18 at this ceremony.

We join with Covenant’s community in thanking our faithful God for providing and preserving this important Christian school for 50 years. May He continue to bless it and use it in the formation of covenant young people.

What’s New for Review? (Books, That Is)

On this Tuesday, let’s take a few minutes to review a few books I have received recently for review – books I, in turn, make available to you – for you to review, if you are willing.

Life-theology-Paul-Waters-2017First, from Reformation Trust I received last week a copy of Guy P. Waters’ new title The Life and Theology of Paul (2017). Dr. Waters is professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and has also authored The Acts of the Apostles, How Jesus Runs the Church, and Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, among others.

The publisher gives this description:

Much of what we know about theology—about justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification—comes directly from the writings of the Apostle Paul. If we removed Paul’s writings from Scripture, our understanding of these truths would be greatly impoverished. Paul’s inspired writings and the story of his life continue to be a precious gift to the church. Dr. Guy Prentiss Waters leads us on a doctrinally enriching and spiritually edifying journey from Paul’s life, conversion, and call to key themes in his theology.

At the link above you will also find a video of a class taught by Dr. Waters on this subject. That will give you a taste of the contents of the book.

theology-made-practical-2017Second, I have also received a few new titles from Reformation Heritage Books. One is Theology Made Practical: New Studies on John Calvin and His Legacy, made up of fourteen essays by Joel R. Beeke, David W. Hall, and Michael A.G. Haykin (2017). The publsiher provides this information about the title and its contents:

In Theology Made Practical, Joel R. Beeke, David W. Hall, and Michael A. G. Haykin declare the significance of John Calvin’s life and ideas—particularly his contributions to systematic theology, pastoral theology, and political theology—as well as the influence he had on others through the centuries. With focused studies related to the Trinity, predestination, the Holy Spirit, justification, preaching, missions, principles of government, welfare, and marriage, this book demonstrates how Calvin’s thought has been, and still is, a dynamic wellspring of fruitfulness for numerous areas of the Christian life. More than 450 years since Calvin experienced the beatific vision, his thinking about God and His Word still possesses what our culture passionately longs for—true relevancy.

 

Contents:

Preface

Part 1: Calvin’s Biography

1. The Young Calvin: Preparation for a Life of Ministry—Michael A. G. Haykin

2. Practical Lessons from the Life of Idelette Calvin—Joel R. Beeke

 

Part 2: Calvin’s Systematic Theology

3. “Uttering the Praises of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit”: John Calvin on the Divine Triunity —Michael A. G. Haykin

4. Calvin on Similarities and Differences on Election and Reprobation—Joel R. Beeke

5. Calvin on the Holy Spirit—Joel R. Beeke

6. Explicit and Implicit Appendixes to Calvin’s View of Justification by Faith —David W. Hall

 

Part 3: Calvin’s Pastoral and Political Theology

7. Calvin’s Experiential Preaching—Joel R. Beeke

8. John Calvin and the Missionary Endeavor of the Church—Michael A. G. Haykin

9. Calvin on Principles of Government—David W. Hall

10. Calvin on Welfare: Diaconal Ministry in Geneva—David W. Hall

11. Christian Marriage in the Twenty-First Century: Calvin on the Purpose of Marriage—Michael A. G. Haykin

 

Part 4: Calvin’s Legacy

12.  Calvin’s Circle of Friends: Propelling an Enduring Movement—David W. Hall

13. Calvin as a Calvinist—Joel R. Beeke

14. Calvinism and Revival—Michael A. G. Haykin

 

Afterword

covenantal-life-ivill-2018Another title sent me from RHB recently is by Sarah Ivill (wife, mother, author, speaker and member of Christ Presbyterian Church [PCA] in Matthews, NC) and titled The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community (2018). The publisher gives us this note about the book and its subjects:

Today, many of us have lost our appreciation of the beauty of covenant theology and covenant community, and this has had dire consequences for us, resulting in misunderstandings of theology and individualism and isolationism in the church. Author Sarah Ivill believes that a key solution to this problem is a robust understanding of covenant theology, which will deepen our knowledge of Scripture and enable us to truly serve our sisters by pointing them to Christ. In The Covenantal Life, the author clearly and concisely sets forth the beauty of covenant theology and covenant community and encourages us to learn sound doctrine so that we can think biblically about the circumstances in our lives—and then help our sisters in Christ to do so as well.

Contents:

Foreword

A Note from Sarah

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part One: Appreciating the Beauty of Covenant Theology

1. I Can Think Straight

2. The Best Book Ever

3. All of Grace

4. The Heart of the Matter

5. But God

Part Two: Appreciating the Beauty of Covenant Community

6. A Different Kind of Community

7. From Life Taker to Life Giver

8. Speaking the Truth in Love

9. A Mandate and a Mission

10. The City That Is to Come

As I began to browse this new title briefly, I found the author’s definition of covenant interesting and instructive: “A thorough yet concise definition of covenant is God’s sovereign initiation to have a binding relationship with His people, grounded in His grace and promises, and secured by His own blood (p.5).

If any of these books interest you and you are willing to write a short review for the Standard Bearer, the book is yours. Contact me here or by email. Tolle lege – take up and read!

Thinking and Acting Covenantally, Not Contractually – M. Horton

ordinary-MHorton-2014In connection with a critique of the avarice (greed) and narcissism (self-centeredness) of our present culture, theologian Michael Horton has some powerful things to say about the importance of Christians having a covenantal and not contractual way of thinking and living.

After describing how the contractual view of life works, where everything revolves around contracts and a conditional system of giving goods and services to one another (which can work this way too: “If at some point your partner fails to keep his or her part of the bargain, you can get out of the contract.”), Horton writes next:

A covenantal way of thinking is different. In the biblical covenants, God is the sovereign Creator and Lord. We do not ‘own’ ourselves, but we are God’s image bearers, accountable to him not only for how we relate to him but also for how we relate to others. God speaks, and we hear. Therefore, we never start from a position of autonomy [that is, ruling ourselves], electing to cede some of our sovereignty to God in exchange for certain benefits and securities. He gives us life, provides for us, commands us, and makes promises that he always fulfills according to his faithfulness. As his image bearers, then, we relate to each other covenantally: as husband and wife, as parents and children, and as members of the household of faith. In marriage, I yield my whole self to the other person and vice versa, regardless of poverty, sickness, or shortcomings, ’till death us do part.”

In a covenantal paradigm, I am bound intrinsically to God and to others in ways that transcend any good or service I can calculate (pp129-30).

A little later Horton expands on this, applying it to our life in the church as well as more broadly:

Imagine the difference that a covenantal way of thinking could make in our view of church membership, in our marriage and family life, and in our relationships with others at work and in the neighborhood. When everything turns on my free will, relationships – even with God – are contracts that we make and break. When everything turns on God’s free grace, relationships – even with each other – become gifts and responsibilities that we accept as God’s choice and will for our good and his glory (p.134).

And this, then, is how he concludes this section:

So it is not simply by understanding doctrine that we uproot narcissism and materialism. It is by actually taking our place in a local expression of that concrete economy of grace instituted by God in Christ and sustained by his Word and Spirit. At least in its design, this economy is governed by a covenantal rather than contractual logic. In the covenant of grace, God says to us, ‘I’m with you to the end, come what may.’ Only from this position of security can we say the same to our spouse, children, and fellow believers. And from this deepest contentment we can fulfill our covenants in the world ‘as unto the Lord,’ even when others break their contracts (p.135).

I find this a wonderfully refreshing and encouraging way for us to see our life as Reformed Christians – and much in harmony with the PRC view of the covenant: never a contract or agreement, but a precious relationship of friendship and fellowship with our Friend-Sovereign, the living Triune God of perfect fellowship, built on His sovereign, free grace to us in Jesus Christ. What a way to think and act – in every sphere of life!

These thoughts are taken from chapter 7 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I am currently making my way through. The chapter is simply titled “Contentment.”

Covenant Connections for “the Young and the Restless”

United to one body with one Head, it is our differences from each other that give each part of the body what it needs.  The younger need the older. Wealthier believers needs the gifts of poorer members. Rather than feed a comfortable narcissism, we need to be enriched by the insights, fellowship, and correction of brothers and sisters from ethnic, political, and economic backgrounds different from our own. The church is not a circle of friends, but the family of God. The covenant of grace connects generations, rooting them in that worshiping community with the ‘cloud of witnesses’ in heaven as well as here and now (Heb.12:1).

Yet today the market has become the new Pharoah who defies God’s order to let his people go so that they may worship him in the desert at his mountain. ‘Divide and conquer’ is the logic of this new lord. By separating the generations into niche markets, the powers and principalities of this present evil age pick at the covenantal fabric of God’s new society. Satan works tirelessly to create gaps between generations in the church – gaps that the fathers and mothers cannot reach across to pass the baton. Someone wisely said, ‘The church is always one generation away from apostasy.’

Continuity is the covenantal approach to generations; novelty is the decree of our age.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter three, “The Young and the Restless,” of Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014, p.53) where Horton addresses the contemporary church’s false and dangerous attempt to focus on the youth in her worship and ministry. As he shows, God’s covenant of grace – its  doctrine and practice – is the perfect answer to this error.

Teaching Our Children Love for the Church – Rev. A. denHartog

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer is now available, and the October 1, 2017 issue is indeed a special one.

For one thing, it marks the beginning of volume year 94. That’s correct, this issue marks the beginning of the 94th year of publication for this Reformed magazine. And the magazine, reflecting the conviction of its editors and writers, is as committed to promoting (truth) and protecting (from error) the Reformed faith as it was in 1924 when it began.

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For another thing, this issue heralds a new look in the history of the magazine. With the leading of the publisher, the RFPA, the SB has undergone another redesign, and we trust you will appreciate and benefit from the new appearance and layout – complete with pictures of the writers!

Editor-in-chief Prof. R. Dykstra introduces the new volume year with these opening words:

With all thanks and praise to God, we begin the 94th year of printing the Standard Bearer. The first issue of the SB consisted of sixteen pages, containing nine articles and three poems. Four men made up the entire staff. I am more thankful than I can express that in the upcoming year the SB has a total of 38 different writers who have agreed to contribute articles – from two articles to ten or twelve. By God’s grace working in these men and women, the SB will continue to be a Reformed magazine devoted to defending and expounding the Reformed faith over against error.

One of the edifying articles found in the October 1 issue is listed on the cover – Rev. A. denHartog’s “Teaching Our Children Love for the Church” – penned for the Christian family rubric, “When Thou Sittest in Thine House.” Fittingly, on this Sunday night, we post this paragraph:

Teaching our children love for the church begins with teaching them the greatness, holiness, and truth of the God of the church.  The church is the place where God dwells in the midst of His people; He shows His glory and greatness and majesty there. He is such a great God who must be worshiped with fear and trembling and with holy reverence and awe. He is to be worshiped with joy and thanksgiving, praising Him for His great salvation of His people and their children.

Coming to church is not a form of entertainment similar to going to a concert or a sports event. Neither is it to be considered a boring ritual only engaged in out of necessity or mere formal tradition. We do well as parents when we prepare ourselves sincerely and prayerfully for the holy exercise of the worship of God. Because our children have the same sinful nature as we parents do, there will be times when our children go to church grudgingly, desiring rather to use the Lord’s Day for worldly pleasure and entertainment. This sinful attitude must be patiently and firmly resisted and driven from the sinful hearts of our children; certainly it must not be tolerated or made light of [p.18].

New Review Book: Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World – T. Schreiner

I recently requested and received two more review books from Crossway Publishers. Today I feature one of them.

The title is Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World by Thomas R. Schreiner, who is “the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of the school of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.” This new book belongs to a new series produced by Crossway – “Short Studies in Biblical Theology” (cf. my earlier reference to Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton, Jr.).

About this book the publisher has this summary:

“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” Genesis 17:4

Throughout the Bible, God has related to his people through covenants. It is through these covenant relationships, which collectively serve as the foundation for God’s promise to bring redemption to his people, that we can understand the advancement of his kingdom. This book walks through six covenants from Genesis to Revelation, helping us grasp the overarching narrative of Scripture and see the salvation God has planned for us since the beginning of time—bolstering our faith in God and giving us hope for the future.

The author opens his “Introduction” with this statement about the significance of “covenant” in the Bible:

Covenant is one of the most important words in the Bible since it introduces one of the central theological themes in Scripture. Some scholars have even argued that covenant is the center of Scripture, the theme that integrates the message of the entire Bible. I am not convinced that covenant is the center of Scripture. Indeed, the idea that the Scriptures have one center is probably mistaken. Still, we can rightly say that covenant is one of the most important notions in the Bible.

A few pages later the author launches into his definition of covenant, one that has favorable elements:

…Covenant can be defined as follows: a covenant is a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.

…First, a covenant is a relationship, and that sets it apart from a contract. Contracts also contain promises and obligations, but they are impersonal and nonrelational. Covenants stand apart from contracts because the promises are made in a relational context. We are not surprised to learn, then, that marriage in the Scriptures is described as a covenant (Prov.2:17; Mal.2:14). In marriage a husband and a wife choose to enter a covenant relationship, and they make binding promises to each other, pledging lifelong loyalty and faithfulness [p.13].

There’s much more, of course, but we will pause here for today. The website gives the following as the contents:

Introduction

  1. The Covenant of Creation
  2. The Covenant with Noah
  3. The Covenant with Abraham
  4. The Covenant with Israel
  5. The Covenant with David
  6. The New Covenant

For Further Reading
General Index
Scripture Index

If you are interested in reviewing this little book, let me know.

Source: Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World

Comfort in God’s Sure Covenant

evening-thoughts-winslowOn this sobering Monday, reflecting on the brevity of life and our hope in Christ, the evening meditation for April 30 from Octavius Winslow’s book Evening Thoughts is certainly fitting.

Taking his thoughts from the promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 23:5, Winslow wrote:

God sometimes comforts the cast-down, by bringing them to rest in the fullness and stability of the covenant.

…What a cloud was now resting upon his [David’s] tabernacle! How bitter were the waters he was now drinking! But see how God comforted him. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.”

Believer, this covenant is equally yours. You have the same individual interest in it that David had. The ‘sure mercies’ of the true David are yours, as they were those of ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel.’ In the midst of domestic trial – family changes – thwarted designs – blighted hopes, God has made with you in the hands of Jesus, its Surety and Mediator, ‘an everlasting covenant.’

In it your whole history is recorded by Him who knows the end from the beginning. All the events of your life, all the steps of your journey, all your sorrows and your comforts, all your needs and your supplies, are ordained in that covenant which is ‘ordered in all things.’ While mutability is a constituent element of everything temporal – ‘passing away’ written upon life’s loveliest landscape, and upon the heart’s dearest treasure – this, and this alone, remains sure and unchangeable.

Let, then, the covenant be your comfort and your stay, your sheet-anchor in the storm, the bow in your cloud, upon which God invites you to fix your believing eyes; yes, all your salvation and all your desire, though He makes not domestic comfort to grow.

Note: to find this book in print, go here or here; to find it online, go here.

Dr. Klaas Schilder and the PRC

The PRC Seminary’s 2017 Interim course ends today. Prof. R. Dykstra, by rotation, taught his course on the Schism of 1953, that tragic but necessary rupture that occurred in the PRC over the doctrine of the covenant of grace and the nature of salvation (conditional or unconditional; general or particular).

Much of that history involved Dr. Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) of the Netherlands, himself ousted from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in the 1944, following which he helped found the Liberated Churches that same year (Canadian Reformed and American Reformed in N. America).

Schilder was an opponent of common grace, which in part caused him to be befriended by Rev. Herman Hoeksema and prompted visits to the U.S. and conversations with PRC leaders in 1939 and 1947. However, on the doctrine of the covenant he and Hoeksema parted. Because of Schilder’s influence on many PRC ministers, his conditional theology was instrumental in the schism in 1953.

Prof. Dykstra gives out many handouts for his class on this history, both original and secondary sources. He (and his classes!) also enjoy visuals, including pictures. So I gathered what we had in the PRC archives, scanned them, and sent them to him for use in his PowerPoint presentations.

Today I share them with you as well, including a brand new one that came in this week from the T. Newhof family – thank you!

We will start with that one, since it is one of the largest and clearest pictures of Dr. K. Schilder that we have, and because it relates to the first visit he made to the U.S. and the PRC in 1939. It shows him sandwiched between Rev. George Lubbers (minister in Pella PRC at the time) and Rev. William Verhil (minister in First PRC, Edgerton, MN at the time) next to the old Doon PRC in Doon, IA.

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This is also a new one, compliments of Mark Hoeksema, showing his grandfather and grandmother (Rev. Herman Hoeksema) at a private picnic with Dr. K. Schilder.

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Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. Gerrit Vos on the way to Ripon, CA

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Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. A. Petter (minister in Bellflower, CA PRC at the time) at an outing at the Los Angeles, CA zoo.

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Dr. K. Schilder (just to the right of Rev. H. Hoeksema and Rev. G. Ophoff in the front) and PRC ministers and elders at the Theological Conference held at First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI on November 6, 1947.

In March of 1952 Dr. K. Schilder died suddenly, prompting this brief but warm memoriam in the Standard Bearer from the pen of the editor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema:

Early this morning, March 24, I received a telegram from my friend, Arnold Schildre at The Hague, informing me that his brother Klaas, the well-known Dr. K. Schilder had on the previous day, Sunday, March 23, passed into his eternal rest.

I was deeply shocked.

For although I certainly did not agree with him in regard to the question of the covenant and the promise, I nevertheless esteemed him for his work’s sake, esteemed him, too, as a highly gifted scholar, and, above all, as a brother in Christ.

And now Dr. Schilder is no more.

It would seem to us that his work was not finished.

Certainly, he himself cannot have been aware of the fact that his end was so near. At least, if we consider the very elaborate set-up of his work on the Heidelberg Catechism (he was writing) on the tenth Lord’s Day), he must have felt that he still had many years of labor before him.

But the Lord took him out of his busy sphere of labor and pronounced it finished, nevertheless.

May the Lord comfort the bereaved family, with whom we express our heartfelt sympathy.

And may He teach us so to number our days that we apply our hearts unto wisdom.

H.H.

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The Origin (and Security) of the Church – John Muether

TT-Sept-2016As we have noted here before, this month’s Tabletalk carries the theme of “The Church,” with eight-plus (brief) articles dedicated to explaining the Reformed doctrine of the church.

As we contemplate the Lord’s Day tomorrow and prepare to exercise our place in Christ’s body, part of which is worship, we may benefit from the thoughts of Dr. John R. Muether (professor of church history and dean of libraries at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL and an OPC ruling elder).

He wrote an article on “The Origin of the Church” and, strikingly (for our doctrinally weak age), roots the church in the eternal counsel of God, specifically, the covenant of redemption and sovereign election in and by the Triune God.

He has some excellent points by way of application of this truth, two of which I include here – his closing paragraphs. Deep thoughts, but rich thoughts. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is supremely practical and comforting, as you will see again. And that, in turn, should lead us to deep praise to our Savior God.

The eternal counsel of peace highlights the Son as the “surety” of the covenant, and so we find in Christ alone the hope and security of the church. “All that the Father gives to me will come to me,” Christ assures us, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). The “peace” of this covenant is purchased for us according to Christ’s priestly office, maintained and defended by His kingly office, and revealed by His prophetic office. Because the God who decrees the church is the same God who sustains the church, the future of the church is in God’s hands. This encourages us to see the church with the eyes of faith. It is bigger and stronger than its frail and precarious human expression suggests. Though despised and disparaged by this world, the church is the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8) that will prevail against all of her enemies.

Finally, the eternal origin of the church provides our assurance of faith. Commenting on God’s words in Jeremiah 31:3 (“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”), Geerhardus Vos famously wrote, “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.” That everlasting love finds expression in the covenant of redemption. As the Heidelberg Catechism beautifully puts it, the church is “a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member” (Q&A 54).

Source: The Origin of the Church by John Muether

Prayers of the Reformers (15)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this first Lord’s Day in May we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

These prayers (slightly edited) are taken from the section “Prayers for Baptism” and, as you will note, accord with the Reformed, covenantal (biblical) view of children.

For sanctification

Almighty and everlasting God, who of Thy infinite mercy and goodness hast promised unto us that Thou wilt not only be our God, but also the God and Father of our children: We beseech Thee, since Thou hast vouchsafed to call us to be partakers of this Thy great mercy in the fellowship of faith: that it may please Thee to sanctify with Thy Spirit and receive into the number of Thy children this infant, whom we shall baptize according to Thy Word.

May he, coming of age, confess Thee as the only true God, and Him whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ, and serve Him and be profitable unto His church, in the whole course of his life. After this life be ended, may he be brought unto the full fruition of Thy joys in the heavens, where Thy Son our Christ reigneth, world without end. In whose name we pray as He hath taught us…. Amen.

For the Spirit of light and grace

O Almighty God, which in commanding us to pray hast assured us that we, believing steadfastly in Thy promise, shall have all that we desire, especially concerning the soul, wherein we seek Thy glory and the wealth of our neighbors; our humble petition to Thee, O most dear Father, is, that forasmuch as this child is not without original sin, Thou wilt consider Thine own mercy, and according to Thy promise send this child thy good Spirit, that in Thy sight it be not counted among the children of wrath, but of light and grace, and become a member of the undefiled church espoused to Christ, Thy dear Son, in faith and love unfeigned, by the means of the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (attributed to M.Coverdale)