The Prayers of J.Calvin (20)

JCalvinPic1On this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on June 7), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his nineteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:4-9, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 5:7, “How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery….” Here is what he says on this passage:

Now this passage teaches us, that they who go astray, when allured by God’s paternal kindness and bounty, are on that account the more unworthy of pardon. When men grow wanton against God, while he is kindly indulging them, they no doubt treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath, as Paul tells us in Rom.ii:5.

Let us then take heed, lest we indulge ourselves, while God is, as it were, indulging us; and lest prosperity should lead us us to wantonness: but let us learn to submit ourselves willingly to him, even because he thus kindly and sweetly invites us to himself; and when he shews himself so loving, let us learn to love him (p.270).

And here is the prayer with which this lecture ends:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day inclined to those vices, to which we learn thine ancient people were too much given, – O grant, that we, being governed by thy Spirit, may not harden ourselves against those thy holy warnings, by which thou daily reprovest us and our sins, but that we may be teachable and obedient: and as we have hitherto too much resisted thee and carried on war with thy justice, may we learn to fight with ourselves and with our sins, and rely on thy word, until we gain the victory, and at length attain that triumph, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen (p.274).

Luther on Catechism and Singing in Relation to Missions

Church-comes-from-all-nations-LutherSpeaking (and writing) of Martin Luther today, this afternoon I cataloged a book published by Concordia Academic Press with the title The Church Comes From All Nations: Luther Texts on Missions (2003, edited by Volker Stolle).

Online I found this brief summary of this work:

This book originally published as Kirche aus allen Volkern: Luther-Texte zur Mission, is a collection of key excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther on Christian missions. Drawing from the reformer’s lectures, sermons, treatises, hymns, and devotional writings, the author presents the excerpts according to themes and provides commentary on the reformer’s understanding of mission in the world.

On the back of the book the publisher has this description:

In Luther’s understanding of the Gospel, every believer is anointed and sent ‘to confess, to teach, and to spread God’s Word’ (1523). Thus participation in God’s mission becomes the task of every Christian. This collection of texts on mission have been selected from Luther’s writings by Volker Stolle, a mission director in Germany, to demonstrate the breadth of Luther’s thinking on the subject. For the reformer,  mission is not something that ‘plays itself out on the outer edges of Christianity, but instead as a lifestyle for every Christian congregation within its particular surrounding.” In this way, Luther contributes toward the reformation of our church today, a Christianity that has often become introverted.

As I quickly thumbed the book to get an idea of the type of quotes the editor had selected, I found these two striking passages side by side on opposing pages. I include the headings the editor has added, so that you will know something of the content.

I believe you will find these quotes as significant as I did, for we also place a strong emphasis on catechism training and on singing/music.

Catechetical instruction as preparation for missionary witness

And finally, I strongly urge that the children be taught the catechism. Should they be taken captive in the invasion [The quote is taken from Luther’s “Admonition to Prayer against the Turks.”], they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them. Joseph as a seventeen-year-old youth was sold into slavery into Egypt, but he had God’s word and knew what he believed. And he converted all Egypt. The same is true of Daniel and his companions. (p.46).

The singing of Christian songs as Gospel witness

God has made our heart and spirit happy through his dear Son, whom he gave for our salvation from sin, death and the devil. Whoever honestly believes this, cannot leave it alone, but he must sing cheerfully and with joy and speak about it in order that others might listen and draw near. If, however, one does not want to sing and speak about it, it is a sign that he does not believe and is not in the new, cheerful testament but belongs under the old, rotten, unhappy testament. Therefore, the printers do very well when they diligently print good songs and make them pleasant for the people, with all kinds of ornamentation so that they are stimulated to this joy of the faith and gladly sing [Preface to Babst’s Hymnal, 1545] (p.47).

Have you thought of catechism and singing in this light before? Worth our while to ponder what Luther says, even if we may not agree on everything he says here.

Luther, Libraries and Learning – J.W. Montgomery

Wittenberg-GermanyWhile sorting through some of Prof.D. Engelsma’s library yesterday, I came on the book In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery.

In the third section of the book is an essay that captivated me immediately – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”, which is a defense of Luther’s (and the Protestant Reformation’s) love for, support of, and call for schools and libraries. After answering several attacks against Luther and the Reformation on these matters, Montgomery launches into a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

I begin to quote from this part of the essay today, hoping to be able to give you at least one more quotation, since this is such a fascinating subject (to me at least!).

…But Luther and his movement did not merely oppose the destruction of already-existing libraries; they engaged actively in the building of new libraries, as can be seen both on the university level and on the level of the lower schools.

The studies of E.G. Schwiebert have shown that a furor of library activity went on at Wittenberg during Luther’s professorship there. His close friend and fellow reformer, George Spalatin, served a librarian of the ducal university library, and made regular trips to Venice to buy Hebrew and Greek manuscripts needed by the Wittenberg faculty. ‘The many casual references in the correspondence of the period indicate that Spalatin, Melanchthon, Chancellor Brueck, and possibly several professors were constantly on the alert for new collections, such as those of Duke George, Aurogallus, and Hassenstein, and that a close supervision was kept over the fairs at Leipzig and Nuernberg in the search for choice volumes.’ The breadth of content in the library belies any criticism of the Wittenberg reformers as narrow Biblicists: ‘The fact that the classics, and the Church Fathers, and the humanists were so well represented seems to point conclusively to the fact that the Reformers valued and employed Renaissance tools in the restoration of early Christianity.’

Honoring the Lord’s Holy Name – Iain Campbell

You Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain by Iain Campbell | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-June 2015This month’s issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine) is devoted to the theme of keeping the law of God (ten commandments – more on this in another post this week).

Last week I read two more of the feature articles on the first four commandments, those which define our relationship of love to our loving, redeeming Father in Christ Jesus. One of these explained the third commandment, where God calls us not to take His glorious name in vain but rather to honor and magnify it.

Here is part of Dr.Iain Campbell’s explanation of it as found in this issue (for the full article, use the link above):

The ethic of Jesus is the ethic of the Ten Commandments. He taught His people to live by that rule, and He did so Himself. He is the very embodiment of obedience to God; nowhere are the Ten Commandments personified and manifested in their fullness as they are in the life of Jesus.

As the law of God requires of us not to take His name in vain, so Jesus teaches us to pray, “Hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). Prayer expresses our desire to keep the third commandment. It also expresses our need for the grace of God to that end. Prayer is a recognition that what God requires of us, He also provides for us.

…John Calvin is correct, therefore, when he comments on the third commandment that “it becomes us to regulate our minds and our tongues, so as never to think or speak of God and his mysteries without reverence and great soberness, and never, in estimating his works, to have any feeling toward him but one of deep veneration” (Institutes 2.8.22). That sense of veneration in connection with God’s name is what characterizes a life of holiness and a worship that is genuine. Both in our service and in our worship, we are to think on the things of God with adoration and reverence, knowing that the fact that God has revealed Himself to us by name is itself a great act of grace.

By naming Himself, God not only discloses who He is, but He does so in such a way that we might know Him personally. To live by the terms of the third commandment is to recognize and confess that God deserves the highest honor; that He has singled us out by putting His name on us; that we would be entirely lost were it not that for the sake of His name He keeps and protects us; and that He calls us to live after the example of Jesus, glorifying God on earth. We are the bearers of the name of God; may all our conduct show it.

Good things for us to ponder on this Lord’s Day, as we come into our Father’s presence and use His Name in our worship. And good things for us to remember as we enter the work-week with that great and gracious Name on us and in us.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (19)

JCalvinPicOn this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on May 10), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his eighteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:31-5:3, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 5:3, “…Thou hast consumed them, and they refused to receive correction.” Here is what he says on this passage:

By saying that they had been consumed he proves them guilty of extreme perverseness; for when God lightly chides us, it is no great wonder if, through our tardiness and sloth, we are not immediately roused; but when God doubles his strokes, yea, when he not only smites us with his rods, but draws his sword to consume us entirely; yea, when he thus deals with us, and executes his vengeance by terrible judgments, if then we are still torpid in our sins, and feel not how dreadful it is to endure his judgments, must we not be indeed wholly blinded by the devil?

This is then the stupor which the Prophet now deplores in the Jews; for not only were they without a right feeling of grief when God smote them, but when they were even consumed, they did not receive or admit correction (260).

The lecture concludes with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as the devil  ceases not to soothe us by his allurements, so that we may become torpid and stupified, – O grant, that thy word may so shine in our minds and hearts that we may not grow torpid in darkness; and do thou also so rouse us by thy Spirit, that we may attend to those warnings of thy prophets, by which thou wouldest bring us to the right way, that we may not perish; and may we so assiduously exercise repentance through the whole course of our life, that we may ever be displeased with ourselves on account of our sins; and may we judge ourselves daily, that we may turn away from us thy wrath, until having at length finished our warfare, which we have to carry on continually with our sins, we shall come to that blessed rest which has been procured for us in heaven, by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen.

“…Should we not be moved to yield him another manner of reverence than we do?” -J.Calvin

So then, to the end we wax not weary of the doctrine that is preached to us: let us mark that it is needful for us that God should put us still in mind of the things that he has taught us already: for our wits are short towards him. And therefore let us bethink ourselves well, and when so ever it is told us that there is but one God in whom we be, and that he is not only our maker, but also our father, and has adopted us to be his children, and moreover tied us to him by a much straighter band, in that he has redeemed us with the blood of his own son: when so ever we be put in mind of these things: although we have heard of them before, yet let us not say, “Tush, these things have been preached to us long ago”: but let every [one] of us enter into himself, and see whether the things that we have heard heretofore, be well printed in our hearts. Let us then enter into account after that sort.

And why? For if we remembered well, that we be set in this world to the end to glorify our God: would we not be more mindful to discharge our duty towards him? If we considered the fatherly kindness that he uses in calling us his children, and which he has showed towards us once already in adopting of us in the person of his own Son: and if we mark how dearly we cost our Lord Jesus Christ when he did set us free from endless death: should we not be desirous to give ourselves wholly to our God? Should we not be moved to yield him another manner of reverence than we do?

Now, therefore, when so ever we be unruly, so as the world carries us away, and we be entangled in earthly lusts and affections: let us assure ourselves it is because we have not given good ear to our God, when he speaks to us, nor taken heed to it when he warned us of our duties. And therefore it is good for us to be put in mind of it, and to have God come back again to us and to say to us, ‘You wretched folk, what mean you? When I have once taught you: the doctrine that is contained in my Word ought to soak thoroughly into you, and yet notwithstanding you be still like little babes.”

This is it (say I) which we have to do, to the end we may find favor in God’s Word, and be nourished therewith as with our ordinary food. We must assure ourselves, that the appointing of this order that we should be preached to all the time of our life, and that we should have our ears beaten continually with the things, which we ought to understand in one or two months, is not in vain.

Calvin-sermons-deuteronomyFrom John Calvin’s first sermon on the book of Deuteronomy (chap.1:1-3), preached March 20, 1555 (slightly edited for this post). These sermons are now available free in digital form from Monergism.

How Do I Apply Doctrine Personally? – Daniel Doriani

How Do I Apply Doctrine Personally? by Daniel Doriani | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT May 2015Sunday I finished reading the last articles in the May Tabletalk, including this one by Dr.Daniel Doriani, professor of theology at Covenant Seminary (PCA) in St.Louis.

As the entire issue focuses on the importance of doctrine to the believer, Doriani addresses the importance of applying biblical, Reformed doctrine to ourselves personally. At the end of his article he refers to Calvin and how he applies doctrine in his Institutes. This is a model for us, he says.

I agree, and think you will find plenty to ponder as Calvin shows us how to apply the truth of God’s providence to our daily lives.

This is how Doriani ends his article:

While it’s easy to name one or two implications of almost any doctrine, many doctrines invite numerous applications. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin shows this as he explores the implication of God’s providence for many pages. Let’s consider five of these implications. First, those who know God’s power “safely rest in the protection” of the one who controls all the harmful things we fear (Institutes 1.16.3). Second, God’s providence requires humility, for we should not call God to account for His actions, but “reverence his secret judgments” and “consider his will the truly just cause of all things” (1.17.1–2). Third, the godly will neither murmur against God’s will nor fatalistically give up planning. We order our affairs, knowing God employs our means to effect His providence. We submit our plans to His will (1.17.1–5). Fourth, rather than straining against God’s providence, we find solace in it, since “the Lord watches over the ways of the saints with … great diligence.” Therefore, we must enjoy “patience in adversity and … freeom from worry about the future” (1.17.6–7). Finally, the doctrine of providence helps us in our adversities. Remembering that God willed them, we have an “effective remedy for anger and impatience.” He even permits “the acts of our enemies” (1.16.8). Yes, dangers threaten at every turn, but instead of letting them terrify us, we trust that God lets nothing touch us unless He has ordained it.

Calvin exemplifies the wise practice of theologians who join doctrine, piety, and practice. They meditate on doctrine, asking, “Who needs this truth? How does it warn, rebuke, call to repentance? How does it offer hope, direction, redemption, and healing?” If we take our time with these questions, we will find doctrine to be most practical.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (18)

JCalvinPic1On this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his seventeenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:23-30, which includes Calvin’s commentary on v.27, “For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.” Here is what he says on this passage:

I indeed allow that God’s threatenings cannot avail for our salvation, unless connected with the promise of pardon, so that being raised up by the hope of salvation we may flee to him: for as long as we deem God inexorable, we shun every access to him; and thus despair drives us into a rage like that of fiends. Hence it is that the reprobate rage so much against God, and make a great clamour: and they would willingly thrust him from his throne.

It is therefore necessary that a hope of salvation should be set before us, so that we may be touched with repentance: and as this promise is perpetual, whatever may happen, even if earth and heaven were mixed together, and ruin on every side were filling us with dread, we must still remember that there will be ever some remnant according to the passages we have referred to in the first and tenth chapters of Isaiah (pp.241-42).

And then follows this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that though we are torpid in our vices, we may yet be attentive to these examples of thy wrath, by which thou designest to warn us, so that we may learn by the misery of others to fear thee: and may we be also attentive to those threatenings, by which thou drawest us to thee, as thou failest to allure us by thy kindness: and may we, in the meantime, feel assured that thou wilt ever be propitious and merciful to all miserable sinners, who will from the heart seek thee and sincerely and unfeignedly repent; so that we may contend with our vices, and with real effort strive to deliver ourselves from those snares of Satan which he ever spreads for us, in order that we may more freely devote ourselves altogether to thee, and take such delight in thy righteousness, that our object and aim through the whole course of our life may be to please thee, and to render our services approved in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Amen (p.248).

Forgiveness and Life in the Church of Christ – H.Hoeksema

Our pastor will be preaching on the truth of the believer’s confession of the forgiveness of sins as found in the Apostles’ Creed (Art.10) and explained by the Heidelberg Catechism in Q&A 56. In his commentary on the HC, Herman Hoeksema has this to say about the connection between our confession of forgiveness and our confession of the holy catholic church, the communion of saints (Art.9 in the AC):

In the fellowship of the Church, and, therefore, in the communion of saints, the believer lays hold upon this blessing, and makes this confession. This is the connection between the article concerning the Church and that concerning the forgiveness of sins.

Outside of the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, there are no spiritual benefits, the forgiveness of sins cannot be appropriated. If, for some reason, the believer severs himself as far as his conscious life is concerned, from that communion, the first effect of this error is always that he lacks the joy of forgiveness. Perhaps, for a time, he lives in hatred over against some of the brethren; or he envinces an unforgiving spirit; or he seeks the friendship of the world; or he lives in whatever other sin may sever his fellowship with the saints, and disturb the exercise of the communion of saints: in that state of separation from the body of believers, he forfeits the forgiveness of sins (p.88).

And then, after demonstrating this from several passages of Scripture, Hoeksema explains this relation further at the end of this treatment:

Nor is it difficult to understand why this relation between our living in the communion of saints and in the joy of forgiveness exists, and is so inseparable that the one cannot be enjoyed without the other.

It is never in our own power to lay hold on the forgiveness of sins. That we are sorry for sin, repent, seek forgiveness, and obtain it, is the work of Christ Himself. By His Spirit and grace He works the true sorrow after God in our hearts. By that Spirit, He brings us to repentance, leads us to the cross, and assures us of redemption, even the forgiveness of sins in His blood. But that Spirit, on Whose constant indwelling and operation our appropriation of the forgiveness of sins continuously depends, is the Spirit of Christ, and, therefore, the Spirit of the body, that is, the Church. For there is one Lord, and one Spirit, and that one Spirit dwells in the one body. He does not dwell in you or in me, individually, apart from the body, but in the body as a whole, and, in the individual believers, only in fellowship with the body. Hence, outside of that body the Spirit does not operate to bestow the blessings of salvation upon men. If, therefore, through some sin, the believer separates himself from the body, and does not live in the communion of saints, he immediately forfeits the forgiveness of sins.

And as he loses the forgiveness of sins, he necessarily forfeits all the blessings and joy of salvation; for the remission of sins… is basic for all other benefits in Christ.

The article concerning the forgiveness of sins, therefore, occupies a most proper place in the Apostolicum.

By its very position, we are exhorted to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! (pp.89-90).

Triple-Knowledge-HHoeksemaTaken from volume V, Abundant Mercy of Hoeksema’s The Triple Knowledge (Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1949) and now reprinted by the RFPA in the same ten volume format (2015).

M.Luther on the Genesis Account of Creation – W.VanDoodewaard

One of the new books purchased for and now processed for use by patrons of the PRC Seminary library is the title The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics, and Human Origins (Reformation Heritage, 2015). This significant study by Dr. William VanDoodewaard, professor of church history at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, is a survey of historical theology and ecclesiastical interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation, particularly the creation of man (Adam).

This is the description the publisher provides:

Was Adam really a historical person, and can we trust the biblical story of human origins? Or is the story of Eden simply a metaphor, leaving scientists the job to correctly reconstruct the truth of how humanity began? Although the church currently faces these pressing questions—exacerbated as they are by scientific and philosophical developments of our age—we must not think that they are completely new. In The Quest for the Historical Adam, William VanDoodewaard recovers and assesses the teaching of those who have gone before us, providing a historical survey of Genesis commentary on human origins from the patristic era to the present. Reacquainting the reader with a long line of theologians, exegetes, and thinkers, VanDoodewaard traces the roots, development, and, at times, disappearance of hermeneutical approaches and exegetical insights relevant to discussions on human origins. This survey not only informs us of how we came to this point in the conversation but also equips us to recognize the significance of the various alternatives on human origins.

And here is the Table of Contents, which gives you some idea of what the author covers and how he handles the vast material:

Introduction

  1. Finding Adam and His Origin in Scripture
  2. The Patristic and Medieval Quest for Adam
  3. Adam in the Reformation and Post-Reformation Eras
  4. Adam in the Enlightenment Era
  5. Adam in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
  6. The Quest for Adam: From the 1950s to the Present
  7. What Difference Does It Make?

Epilogue: Literal Genesis and Science?

For my purposes today, I give you a couple of quote from that third chapter, which treats the view of the church during the period of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods. VanDoodewaard points to an important shift that was taking place in the way the church interpreted Scripture, moving from an allegorical approach (which characterized the Medieval period) to a literal approach. And VanDoodewaard takes us to none other than the father of the Reformation, Martin Luther, as the first to make this important shift (while also acknowledging W.Tyndale’s contribution).

So our quotes today are ones VanDoodewaard has from Luther, showing plainly where this church father stood on the issue of the historicity of Genesis and the accuracy of its record. In this first one Luther is describing God’s works as set forth in Genesis 1 and 2:

These, then, are all historical facts. This is something to which I carefully call attention, lest the wary reader be led astray by the authority of the fathers, who give up the idea that this is history and look for allegories. For this reason I like Lyra and rank him among the best, because throughout he carefully adheres to, and concerns himself with, the historical account. Nevertheless, he allows himself to be swayed by the authority of the fathers and occasionally, because of their example, turns away from the real meaning to silly allegories (p.52 – taken from Luther’s Lectures on Genesis).

The second quote relates specifically to God’s creation of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 1. Here again is Luther:

Here our opinion is supported: that the six days were truly six natural days, because here Moses says that Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day. One may not use sophistries with reference to this text. But concerning the order of creation he will state in the following chapter that Eve was created sometime after Adam, not like Adam, from a clod of earth, but from his rib, which God took out of the side of Adam while he slept. These are all works of time, that is works that require time. They were not performed in one moment; neither were these acts: that God brings to Adam every animal and there was none found like him, etc. These are acts requiring time, and they were performed on the sixth day. Here Moses touches on them briefly by anticipation. Later on he will explain them at greater length (p.53).

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