A Spiritually Thriving Christian – J.Owen

The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen  -     By: Ryan M. McGraw<br />
This weekend I started to do some reading in a new title I had received for review from Reformation Heritage Books. The book, edited and introduced by Ryan M McGraw, is a small (in size and length – 150 pgs.) paperback titled The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, part of their series “Profiles in Reformed Spirituality”.

The work, which purposes to introduce the reader to the theology of Puritan John Owen (1616-1683), consists mainly of brief selections (41 in all) from Owen’s writings, tying together the main themes of his theology: the Trinity (communion with God) and public worship (piety).

As I read through some of these brief chapters, I was struck by this one, “A Spiritually Thriving Christian”, taken from Owen’s The Nature and Causes of Apostasy. Keep that broader title in mind as Owen describes how important the church’s means of grace are for the spiritual health and growth of the believer. I believe you will find his thoughts a fitting cap to our Lord’s day in God’s house of fellowship and worship.

Again, there is not anything in the whole course of our obedience wherein the continual exercise of faith and spiritual wisdom, with diligence and watchfulness, is more indispensably required than it is to the due use and improvement of gospel privileges and ordinances, for there is no other part of our duty whereon our giving glory to God and the eternal concern of our own souls more eminently depend.

And he is a spiritually thriving Christian who knows how duly to improve gospel institutions of worship and does so accordingly, for they are the only ordinary outward means whereby the Lord Christ communicates of His grace to us and whereby we immediately return love, praise, thanks, and obedience to Him, in which spiritual intercourse the actings of our spiritual life principally do consist, and whereon, by consequence, its growth depends. It is therefore certain that our growth or decay in holiness, our steadfastness in or apostasy from profession, are greatly influenced by the use or abuse of these privileges (81).

PRC Archives: Sovereign Grace Union, H.Atherton, and H.Hoeksema

Recently Prof.R.Dykstra asked me if we had in the Seminary library or PRC denominational archives a special book that Rev. Herman Hoeksema received from Rev. Henry Atherton of Grove Chapel in Camberwell, England.

Prof.Dykstra was covering the modern church history period of Great Britain and had mentioned to his students that Rev.Hoeksema had made friends with Rev.Atherton because of the latter’s strong sovereign grace views. Hoeksema had, in fact, made a trip to London in 1929, preaching in Grove Chapel on July 29, 1929 (see quote and article link below). A little over a year later (Sept.26, 1930) Atherton presented Hoeksema with a signed copy of a bound collection of pamphlets published by the Sovereign Grace Union, of which Atherton was general secretary for many years.

I recalled that we had the book, through a strange set of circumstances (which I will not go into now), and that it was in the archives, not in the library. After locating the book (which has the spine label “S.G.U. Pamphlets, 1929″), I rediscovered the personal note of Rev. Atherton to Rev.Hoeksema. I have scanned it and include it here.

SGU-HH Copy-1929

I then starting doing a Standard Bearer search to see what references “HH” may have made to this trip and book. And I found this: “I prefer to quote from the book that was given to me by Henry Atherton after I preached in Grove Chapel, London, on July 21, 1929″ (Taken from this SB article by HH, April 15, 1964).

I thought you might be interested in learning more about the SGU and its publications, so I scanned out of this bound volume of “HH” a number of the pamphlet covers and advertisements for this organization, and post them here in succession.

SGU-Basis_Page_1

SGU-Ad re Good books

SGU-Book pg_Page_1

SGU-Special Ads_Page_1

SGU-Specials covers_Page_1

SGU-Special covers-2_Page_1

 

 

You may also be interested to know that the SGU continues to publish materials, including a magazine, which we receive in the Seminary library. Here is an image of the latest cover we have:

SGU-Peace&Truth Mag cover_Page_1

In addition, just recently in connection with their 100th anniversary (November 2014) the SGU published and sent to us a collection of Atherton’s addresses under the title The Gospel of Sovereign Grace. This work will be placed in our library, and our readers are more than welcome to read this if they desire. I have scanned a copy of its cover here for your benefit.

SGU-Atherton book cover_Page_1

Finally, I can mention that I also found these additional references to SGU in the “SB”.

From the April 15, 1966 SB (“Book Reviews”):

Several Sovereign Grace Union Tracts by various authors and of various prices. These tracts and a price list of other publications are available from Grace Literature, P.O. Box 879, Gaffney, S.C. 29340.

Many of our older readers will recall that formerly we had some contacts with the Sovereign Grace Union of England, particularly through the friendship between the late Rev. Henry Atherton and my father. Recently several tracts from this organization were sent to me by a U.S. agent whose address I have given above. Among these were “Table Talk About Election,” a very brief tract about election; “An Accomplished Redemption,” a little pamphlet on particular atonement; and “What Is This Calvinism,” a brief exposition of the Five Points of Calvinism.

Although much of what is contained in these tracts is a kind of Calvinism, yet I was frankly rather disappointed in what I read. I get the impression that the Sovereign Grace Union is not putting out the kind of literature that it formerly did; at least, this material does not compare with many former productions which I have in my library. The Calvinism of these tracts is “watered down” Calvinism. “Table Talk About Election” is definitely a failure when it comes to the crucial subject of reprobation. The pamphlet on “An Accomplished Redemption” speaks of common grace fruits of Christ’s death as well as of His atonement for the elect. As to “What Is This Calvinism?” I would have to say that Calvinism is much more than the Five Points of Calvinism. Hence, tracts of this nature are of very limited, and sometimes questionable, value.

I also received the SGU quarterly, “Peace and Truth,” the subscription price of which is $1.05 per year. This little magazine contains some brief articles and sermons and items of interest concerning the SGU.

Perhaps I might add that the SGU does not publish many large books any more. This seems to be done more by the Banner of Truth Trust. However, for those interested in SGU publications, here is some information.

—H.C. Hoeksema

And Rev.R.Harbach quoted Atherton in an SB article on crusade methods in the Sept.1, 1969 issue:

In closing, we can do no better than to quote Henry Atherton, who in 1929 said, “All systems of Theology are reduced to two outstanding principles, called Calvinistism and Arminianism. Arminianism is man’s religion, which can be accomplished by man. Man is the main power: with man it begins, and with man it shall perish. Calvinism is the Divine revelation. It requires the Lord for everything, acknowledging the sovereignty of God; and all its purposes and power must come from God. God elects, God redeems, God ingathers, God keeps, provides, sustains and operates according to His own purpose and wisdom, and all redound to God’s grace and glory.”

(True) St. Patrick’s Day Commemoration!

Indeed, it is St.Patrick’s Day. And we shall not allow the world to grab another day off the church’s calendar (as arbitrary as it is) and rob it of its true significance.

Therefore, in the spirit of remembering God’s work through one of His servant-saints in the fifth century, we shall proceed to note this day with true commemoration of Patrick, missionary to Ireland – the chief thing for which he should be remembered (born c.389; died c.461-493).

We begin with this brief video on St.Patrick from Rose Publishing (“Christian History Made Easy”), which debunks many of the myths associated with him while relating the story of his life and work.

Patrick-Portraits-HHanko_Page_1Second, we point you to an article Prof.Herman Hanko wrote for the Standard Bearer back in 1990, titled “Patrick, Missionary to Ireland.” This article later became a chapter in his book Portraits of Faithful Saints, (cf. image to the left, which is the opening page) published by the RFPA in 1999 (pp.46-50). Here is a part of that article/chapter which introduces us to this zealous man:

The early history of the church of Christ is an exciting and moving history of her missionary enterprise. Scripture itself records for us how the gospel was brought to Judea, Samaria, and the entire Mediterranean world, so that the church was spread throughout the Roman Empire. The early annuls of the church provide us with information of how courageous missionaries moved beyond the Mediterranean world into darkest Europe to bring God’s Word to the many barbarian tribes who had moved into Europe and settled there.

Through the labors of the church the whole of Europe was Christianized, so that it was changed from darkest heathendom and paganism and became the cradle of Christianity. Although the work covered many centuries, it had its lowly beginnings in the lives of men who sacrificed all for the cause of the gospel.

This is the story of one such missionary: Patrick, missionary to Ireland.

To read the rest of this story, follow the link above with the title.

And, finally, we include here this beautiful arrangement of the prayer attributed to Patrick, as composed by John Rutter and sung by the Cambridge Singers.

 

Where Does Scripture’s Authority Come From? – Keith Mathison

What We’ve Received by Keith Mathison | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015The above-linked article in this month’s Tabletalk is the third one centered on the theme of the March issue – “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

Dr.Keith A. Mathison is the author of this article, and in it he treats the authority of Scripture in connection with how we know in the first place what books belong to the Bible (its “canon”). As he shows us the Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, he refutes Rome’s claim that the church is the body that determines the canon of the Bible and therefore she is the one who gives Scripture its authority. Mathison shows plainly that the Bible carries its own authority because it is the Word of God.

What I appreciated about this article is its solid historical and confessional foundation rooted in the great Reformation. Repeatedly Mathison takes us to the historic Reformed creeds of the Reformation (Westminster Confession, Scots Confession, Belgic Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.).

This is a lengthy article, but well-worth your reading. I give you a portion of it here, where Mathison gets at the heart of the controversy between the Reformed and Rome. Find the full article at this link (or the one above).

The question at the heart of the debate between Rome and the Protestants regarding the canon and the authority of Scripture may be stated as follows (using Michael Kruger’s terminology): Is the canon of Scripture community determined or is it self-authenticating? According to Rome, the authority of Scripture depends upon the authority of the church. The most fundamental problem with this view, however carefully it may be nuanced and qualified, is that it unavoidably and inevitably places the authority of God beneath the authority of the church. It completely reverses the true state of affairs. If we are to believe in the authority of Scripture, according to Rome, we must assume the authority of the church. But why should we accept the authority of the church? Is it self-authenticating? No, Rome says, and she appeals to Scripture to establish the authority of the church just as she appeals to the church to establish the authority of Scripture. The circular nature of this appeal has been pointed out since the Reformation.

To say that the canon and authority of Scripture is self-authenticating is to say what the Reformed confessions say. It is, to use the words of William Whitaker, to say that “the Scripture is autopistos.” It has “all its authority and credit from itself.” Why? Because it is the Word of the living God, and God does not have to appeal to the church in order to establish His own inherent sovereign authority. God is God. The church is not God.

So, how is it that the church has come to recognize the right books and only the right books? Jesus Himself gives us the answer when He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). As Roger Nicole has pointed out, the best way to describe the way in which we know the canon is “the witness of the Holy Spirit given corporately to God’s people.” Recognition of the canonical books is due to the action of the Holy Spirit’s enabling God’s people to hear His voice.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (14)

JCalvinPic1We continue on this Sunday night our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in Jan./Feb./March 2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his thirteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 3:19-25, which includes this commentary on God’s word of mercy to His wayward people in v.19:

We now, then, perceive the meaning of the Prophet: for he humbles the Israelites by this ascribing astonishment to God, as though it was a thing very difficult to be done [that is, to deliver them from their sin]; but at the same time he gives them hope, because salvation was prepared for them, provided they called on God with a sincere heart, and acknowledged him as their Father, and that perseveringly, without ever turning aside from him. In  short, God intimates that the Israelites were like dead men, and that their salvation was hopeless, without a resurrection (p.190).

This lecture Calvin ends with this plea:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not, though favoured with many blessings, to provoke thee by our misdeed, as though we avowedly carried on war against thee, – O grant, that we being at length warned by those examples, by which thou invitest us to repentance, may restrain our depraved nature, and in due time repent, and so devote ourselves to thy service, that thy name through us may be glorified, and that we may strive to bring into the way of salvation those who seem to be now lost, so that thy mercy may extend far and wide, and that thus thy salvation, obtained through Christ thine only-begotten Son, may be known and embraced by all nations. –Amen (p.197).

The Paradox of the Cross – H.Hoeksema

And the expression of this wrath, i.e., the pain and agony, the suffering and misery, the sorrow and anguish of soul, the desolation and darkness, the fear and terror, the death and hell, that becomes the experience of him against whom God directs His wrath, Christ experienced!

That is the explanation, but at the same time the paradox of the cross!

At the moment of His deepest and most perfect obedience, He endures the agonies of the damned!

At the moment when God is most highly pleased with Him, He experiences all the terror of being forsaken of God!

But this is exactly why hell is still a question, an outcry to God for an answer! And that is the reason, too, why, even from the darkness of hell, and in the condition of utter desolation, the obedient Servant can still cry out: ‘My God, My God!’

He, that knew no sin, is made sin!

And that is also the reason, why his question, pressed from His utterly forsaken and agonized soul, has an answer. In the hell of mere sinners there is no question. It is the answer, the final answer, the answer of everlasting wrath. But the suffering Servant of Jehovah, because He is obedient and yet forsaken, has a question: Why me? And it receives an answer presently, an answer to which the Servant responds even at the cross: It is finished!

Triple Knowledge-10vols-2015Taken from Rev.Herman Hoeksema’s explanation of Lord’s Day XV (15), Q&As 37-39, of the Heidelberg Catechism, as found in The Death of the Son of God (Vol.3 of “The Triple Knowledge”; originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946 and now being reprinted by the RFPA), p.214

The Bible’s Inerrancy: How We Got Here – Stephen Nichols

How We Got Here by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015As we mentioned last Tuesday (see my March 3 post), the March Tabletalk centers on the theme of “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.” Yesterday I read two more featured articles on this theme, including the one linked above by Dr.Stephen Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL.

Nichols provides a brief history of the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy, starting with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in 1978 and its “counterpunch”, the Rogers/McKim proposal of 1979. But from there, he works his way back through church history, from Augustine to Calvin to Luther to Warfield. Though a brief survey, Nichols’ treatment shows that the church has always maintained the inerrancy (and the infallibility) of the Bible.

I leave you with a brief section of his article today, encouraging you to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

And if you want a brief but handy glossary of terms on the doctrine of Scripture, Kevin Gardner provides that in this opening article, “Defining Our Terms”.

Augustine understood that we owe submission to God’s Word because we owe submission to God. John Calvin makes this exact point in his commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16. There, he writes, “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone.” In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin adds, “The full authority which [the Scriptures] obtain with the faithful proceeds from no other consideration than that they are persuaded that they proceed from heaven, as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.”

Martin Luther called the Bible our foundation. He warned, “We must not deviate from the words…Else, what would become of the Bible?” Luther once said that when it comes to the Bible, everything it teaches is believed or nothing it teaches is believed.

Luther’s statement here bears consideration. What option do we have next to the doctrine of the entire inerrancy and utter truthfulness of the Bible? Limited inerrancy? Why not simply call that limited errancy? Augustine, Calvin, and Luther, as well as a host of others, all sound the alarm regarding the danger of a view of biblical truthfulness that is less than full inerrancy. This has been the orthodox Christian position throughout the ages.

Book Alert! “Luther on the Christian Life” – C.Trueman

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanCrossway Publishers has just released its seventh volume in its “Theologians on the Christian Life” series (edited by Stephen Nichols and Justin Taylor), and this one focuses on the great Reformer Martin Luther’s view of the Christian life. The title of this book is Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom, and is penned by Carl R. Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

At the title link above you will find the best price (WTS – $11) and a video of Trueman explaining his purpose in writing this volume for the series.

I have ordered a copy for the library already (it’s in and processed!) and I requested a review copy from Crossway this week. Today I quote from Trueman’s instructive “Introduction”, which he sub-titles “What Has Geneva to Do with Wittenberg?” (slightly edited) Here he explains why Luther on the Christian life is important to the church, including those who are Reformed:

Given all the caveats necessary when the modern readers approaches Luther, what is unique about this man that makes him particularly useful as a dialgue partner on the Christian life? Obviously, as noted above, he defined many of the terms of Protestant debates about Christianity in general. Yet there is much more to him than this. As a theologian who was also a pastor, he was continually wrestling with how his theological insights connected to the lives and experiences of the people under his care. This gave much of his writing a distinctly pastoral dimension.

Further, he was (for a theologian) unusually forthcoming about his own life and experiences. There was a personal passion to Luther that finds no obvious counterpart in the writings of other significant Reformers. Calvin’s letters contain insights into his private life, but his lectures, commentaries, and treatises offer little or no light on the inner life of the man himself. John Owen outlived all eleven of his children, yet he never once mentioned the personal devastation that this must have brought to his world.

Luther was different: he lived his inner life as a public drama. Unlike many today on chat shows and Twitter and personal blogs, he did not do so in a way that boosted his own prestige; he did it with irony, humor, and occasional pathos. But he did it nonetheless, and this makes him a fascinating study in self-reflection on the Christian life (25-26).

The Prayers of J.Calvin (13)

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

This lecture covers Jeremiah 3:12-18, which includes this commentary on God’s gracious word to His backsliding children in v.14 (“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you….):

It is a wonderful forbearance and kindness that God, finding his favour neglected, and as it were rejected through the sloth of men, should yet persevere, and invite them again and again. What man would thus patiently bear the loathing of his favour and kindness? But we see that God does not immediately reject the tardy and the slothful, but adds new stimulants that he might at length move them, though this may seem more than necessary. How great is our torpidity? Were not God daily to urge us, how little attention would any of us give to his admonitions? It is therefore, no wonder that he, pardoning our tardiness, should again and again invite us to repentance; which we find is done continually in the Church (178).

Thereupon follows this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou at this day mercifully sparest us, when yet in various ways we provoke thy displeasure, — O grant, that we may not harden ourselves against thy chastisements, but that thy forbearance may lead us to repentance, and that also thy scourges may do us good, and that we may so truly turn to thee, that our whole life may testify that we are in our hearts changed; and may we also stimulate one another, that we may unite together in rendering obedience to thy word, and each of us strive to glorify thy name, through Christ Jesus our Lord. –Amen (184).

The Prayers of J.Calvin (11)

JCalvin1We continue on this Sunday night our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in Jan./Feb.2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah. Tonight we post a brief section from his tenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 2:36 – 3:3,which includes this powerful comment on chap.3:1 (really the whole section), where God rebukes Israel for her spiritual harlotry and yet shows Himself ready to forgive her and receive her in the way of her repentance. This is how Calvin concludes this part (slightly edited):

God then does not mean in this place [Calvin refers here to Isaiah 50:1, ‘Shew me the bill of your mother’s divorcement.’], that he had divorced the people; for that would have been wrong and unlawful, and could not have been consistent with the character of God.

But as I have already said, there is here a twofold comparison. ‘Though a husband should fastidiously send away his wife, and she through his fault should be led to contract another marriage, and become the partner of another, as though in contempt of him, he could hardly ever bear that indignity, and become reconciled to her: but ye have not been repudiated by me, but are like a perfidious woman, who shamefully prostitutes herself to all whom she may meet with; and yet I am ready to receive you, and to forget all your base conduct.’

We now then understand the import of the words.

And this is the prayer that ends this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been once pleased not only to adopt us as thy children, but also to unite us to thyself by the bond of marriage, and to give us a pledge of this sacred union in thine only-begotten Son, – O grant, that we may continue in the faith of thy Gospel, and so honestly keep the pledge given to thee, that thou mayest also show thyself to us as a Husband and as a Father, and that we may to the end find in thee that merciful kindness which is needful to retain us in the holy fear of thy name, until we shall at length enjoy fellowship with thee in thy celestial kingdom, through Christ our Lord. – Amen.

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