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).

Comfort for Suffering Saints – J.Zanchius

Absolute PredestinationI have referred to and quoted from “Grace Gems” devotionals many times, and yesterday’s (Saturday, May 2, 2015) was another outstanding one It is taken from Jerome Zanchius’ (or Zanchi) work on God’s sovereign predestination. This is taken from the section where Zanchius applies the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty to the suffering of God’s people (edited for easier reading and use).

No matter what form your suffering now takes, may these words bring us to our knees before our almighty Father – in submission, in worship, and in prayer. As God over ALL, He alone is worthy to be adored and praised!

Comfort for Suffering Saints!

(Jerome Zanchius, 1516-1590)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son!” Romans 8:28-29

The sovereignty of God is a comfort for suffering saints, acting to remove anxiety. How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer!

1. There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God (Hebrews 11:6).

2. His love for His elect people is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it (Jeremiah 31:3).

3. Whatever comes to pass in time, is the result of His sovereign will from everlasting (1 Corinthians 8:6).

4. Consequently my afflictions are a part of His sovereign will, and are all ordered in number, weight, and measure (Psalm 22:24).

5. The very hairs of my head (every one) are counted by Him; nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His wise determination (Luke 12:7).

6. Hence my afflictions and distresses are not the result of chance, accident, or a fortuitous combination of circumstances (Psalm 56:8).

7. They are the providential accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose (Romans 8:28), and are designed to answer some wise and gracious ends (James 5:10-11).

8. Nor shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees fit (2 Corinthians 7:6-7).

9. He who brought the affliction to me–has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it (Psalm 34:15-17).

10. All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good.

11. Therefore, “Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).

However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access–yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of affliction, would, in great measure lose their sharpness.

Christians need nothing but absolute resignation to God’s wise and gracious Providence, to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance. And absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute Providence, founded on His absolute predestination (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4).

Luther on the Christian Life: Prayer and the Word – C.Trueman

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanTaken from the new Crossway book written by Carl R.Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom, part of the series “Theologians on the Christian Life”, published by Crossway (Wheaton, IL), 2015.

In this section from which we quote, Trueman is treating Luther’s treatise on prayer (the one prompted by a letter from his barber, Peter Beskendorf), and here he ties together prayer and Scripture:

Throughout the treatise, Scripture is the bedrock on which Luther sees the life of prayer as being built. He speaks of the Decalogue as ‘a school text, song book, penitential book, and prayer book,’ and recommends that the Christian alternate meditation on the commandments with reflection upon a psalm or another chapter of Scripture day by day. For Luther, it is not the desire for reading Scripture that fuels prayer; it is reading Scripture that fuels the desire for prayer. That the Christian may not feel like praying is one of the Devil’s tricks played on weak and sinful flesh; the answer is the discipline of reading and meditation, both corporate and individual.

At this point Trueman draws on a familiar analogy:

One might draw an analogy with marital love: the husband is commanded by God’s Word to love his wife. That command is independent of how the husband feels at any given moment. He is to act in a loving way toward her, and as he does so, his love for her will itself deepen and grow. So it is to be with prayer: reading Scripture shapes people in such a way that their prayer life will deepen and grow as a result.

From there, Trueman makes a summary of Luther’s view of the Christian life based on these simple principles of practicing prayer and Scripture reading:

What is perhaps most noteworthy in all this, of course, is the routine nature of the practice of the Christian life. Nothing Luther proposes is in itself particularly exciting or novel. We live in an age mesmerized both by technique and by the extraordinary. Modern evangelicalism, particularly in America, has been shaped by the kind of revivalism pioneered by Charles Finney in the nineteenth century. Find the right techniques and one will achieve the desired spiritual results; and typically those techniques involve something unusual or impressive. For Luther, this would all have been alien and obnoxious; the Word is powerful in and of itself; and the ways in which the Word works are ordinary and routine. Liturgies with a catechetical structure, a focus on the Word read and the Word preached, and a constant ,meditation upon that Word – those were the major elements of personal spiritual growth and discipleship (122).

Have we also made the Christian life complicated by trying too many new means and methods? Then let Luther’s view of the Christian walk bring us back to God’s simple way.

W.Tyndale: “Grounded in Sovereign Grace” – S.Lawson

Daring Mission-Tyndale-2015Drawn from chapter two (“Grounded in Sovereign Grace”) of Steven J. Lawson’s new book, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, in the series “A Long Line of Godly Men” (Reformation Trust, 2015):

Hailed as ‘the greatest of the early English Protestants’, William Tyndale was a Reformer in every sense of the word. This certainly included his theology. Undergirding his belief in Reformation truth was his unwavering commitment to the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners. It was this deep confidence in the doctrines of grace that gave him staying power in his tireless efforts to translate the Bible into English. Tyndale was convinced that the power of God alone could change the hearts of kings and plowboys alike. The glorious truth that Christ would build His church compelled Tyndale to bring the Scriptures to the English people in their own language, regardless of the dangers he faced (29-30).

And a paragraph later Lawson adds:

Divine sovereignty was the underlying framework that held Tyndale’s life and theology together. He determinedly believed in the absolute sovereignty of God in His reign over all things. Reformed doctrine fueled Tyndale’s implacable drive in life and ministry. At the heart of his theology was the belief that God’s sovereignty extended from the control and order of the created universe to the salvation of undeserving sinners (30-31).

We may be thankful that this Reformer was so “grounded in sovereign grace.” You and I may not be involved in such a “daring mission” as Tyndale’s work of translating the Bible, but is our faith and life also fueled by this foundational truth of the Word of God? How is the truth of God’s sovereignty governing what we belief and do today?

The Prayers of J.Calvin (17)

JCalvin1On 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 sixteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:16-22, which includes Calvin’s commentary on v.22, where God admonishes His backsliding people with these words , ‘For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.”

On this Calvin has this to say by way of application:

There are then two things to be noticed; first, the kind of madness that is here mentioned, – the people did not know God. And we hence learn that then only are we wise when we fear God, and that we are always mad and senseless when we regard him not. This is one thing.

Secondly, we must know that no excuse of ignorance or mistake was allowed to that people, for God has made himself known to them. And this may be applied to us: God will justly upbraid us at the last day, that we have been foolish and mad, if we are without the knowledge of him; for we have the means… of knowing him; and there is no excuse that we can plead for our ignorance, since God has not spoken to us in an obscure manner.

God in these words accused the Jews of ingratitude, and of deliberate wickedness, because they knew him not. But since God has at this day made himself more fully known to us, it is… a heavier condemnation to us, and our punishment will thus be doubled, if we know not God, who is so kind to us, and deals with us so graciously (233-34).

The rest of his lecture is followed by this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast not only once kindled among us the light of celestial truth, but also invitest us daily to partake of the salvation which has been set before us, – O grant, that we may not close our eyes, nor render deaf our ears, nor harden ourselves in our sins, but that as thou ceasest not continually to call us to thyself, so we may earnestly strive to hasten to thee, and to persevere in the course of our holy calling, so that we may draw nearer daily to its end, until thou receivest us at length into that celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. – Amen.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (16)

calvin-preaching-genevaOn 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 fifteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:7-14, which includes Calvin’s commentary on v.14, where God admonishes His backsliding people with these words , ‘O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved….’

But they reason foolishly who maintain that repentance is the cause of salvation, because it is said, ‘That thou mayest be saved, wash thy heart from wickedness:’ and the Papists lay hold on such passages to set up free-will; and they hold that sins are abolished and punishment remitted through satisfactions made by us. But this is extremely absurd and frivolous. For the Prophet is not speaking of the cause of salvation; but …he simply shews that men are extremely thoughtless when they expect a peaceable condition, while they carry on war with God, and when he is armed to execute vengeance on them.

We are not then to inquire here, whether a sinner delivers himself from God’s hand by his repentance; but the Prophet had only this one thing in view – that we cannot be safe and secure, except God be reconciled to us. He further shews, that God will not be propitious to us, except we repent, and that from the heart or from a genuine feeling within (220).

After this lecture, this prayer was recorded and published:

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou art pleased daily to invite us to repentance, and since our own conscience is a witness, how we have in various ways provoked thy vengeance, – O grant, that we may not remain obstinate in our sins, nor harden our minds by perverse delusions, but suffer ourselves to be subdued by thy word, and so offer ourselves to thee with a pure and sincere heart, that our whole life may be nothing else but a striving for that newness which thou requirest; so that, being consecrated to thee in mind and body, we may ever labour to glorify thy name, until we be made partakers of that glory, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son — Amen (222).

The Prayers of J.Calvin (15)

JCalvinPicWe 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 fourteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:1-6, which includes Calvin’s commentary on God’s call to true conversion on the part of His erring people in v.4 – “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem…”:

‘For why’, he says, ‘has circumcision been enjoined? Does not God by this symbol shew, that if a man rightly aspires after true religion, he ought to begin by putting off all the evil propensities of his flesh? Is he not to deny himself, and to die as it were both to himself and to the world? for circumcision includes all this.’

Then the Prophet shews that the Israelites had no excuse, that they went not astray through mistake or through ignorance; but they were acting perversely and deceitfully with God; for circumcision, by which they had been initiated into God’s service, sufficiently taught them, that God is not rightly nor faithfully served, except when men deny themselves.

…Circumcision was their great boast; but only before men; for nothing but ambition and vanity ruled in them, while they openly exulted and boasted that they were God’s holy and peculiar people. Hence the Prophet bids them not to value what was of no importance, but to become circumcised to Jehovah; that is, he bids them not to seek applause before the world, but seriously to consider that they had to do with God (204-5).

This lecture Calvin fittingly concludes with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to alienate ourselves from thee by our sins, and as thou yet kindly exhortest us to repent, and promisest to be appeasable and propitious to us, – O grant, that we may not perversely go on in our sins, and be ungrateful to thee for thy great kindness; but that we may so return to thee, that our whole life may testify that our repentance has been unfeigned, and that we may so acquiesce in thee alone, that the depraved lusts of our flesh may not draw us here and there, but that we may continue fixed and immovable in our purpose, and so labour to obey thee through the whole course of our life, that we may at length partake of the fruit of our obedience in thy celestial kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

“Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.” -Gerrit Vos

The following quote is taken from a meditation Rev. Gerrit Vos (pastor of Hudsonville PRC at the time) wrote for the March 1, 1964 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.40, #11), in connection with the church’s remembrance of the suffering and death of her Lord Jesus Christ. It is based on Matt.16:21“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”

The Unspeakable GiftLater, these meditations such as these were pulled together and published by the Men’s Society of Hudsonville PRC under the title The Unspeakable Gift: The Gift of God’s Son – Selected Meditations. This book is available through the Reformed Book Outlet in Hudsonville, MI.

Rev.Vos was gifted with a unique style of writing, a style that matched the intent of a meditation well (As did his preaching!). That is reflected in these words that form the closing part of the above-linked meditation. May its reflection on the gracious gift of God’s Son for us sinners serve to stir our souls and fill our mouths with humble thanks and praise to the God of our salvation.

However, when that happens, do not despair. But, rather, rejoice, and be very glad, for such was done primarily to Jesus, and to you for Jesus’ sake.

Partake of Jesus’ suffering, and . . . you will also partake in His glory.

For that is the third part of God’s program which must come to pass.

Although it seemed as though all was lost when Jesus hung on the accursed tree, He, nevertheless, obtained a glorious victory.

All the foregoing, no matter how horrible, was eternally necessary.

Jesus is the great Vicar, Substitute. Jesus is the Substitute for the elect church, which in itself is damn-worthy.

And Jesus takes over all their damn-worthiness and in their stead treads the weary pathway to everlasting death and condemnation.

And the elders, chief priests and scribes are the agents of God. Look up Acts 4:27, 25.

Necessary, I said. It was the only way of God’s wisdom. Only through the horrible spectacle of Golgotha could God come to the highest glory of His name. It took that Cross to reveal just how lovely and attractive our God is.

Looking at that bleeding Lamb unto all eternity it will not be too long to tell of His praises and to tell of His dory.

The cross of Jesus tells us of a lovingkindness that beggars description. Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.

God does not need us at all. He is the Self-Sufficient in Himself. He needs no world, no angels, no elect men, no heavenly music and chorus of millions of voices in order to enjoy Himself unto all eternity.

He has His everlasting Covenant life in Himself, and is happy.

God was happy in eternity before the world was.

He does not need the creature.

But He wanted to show to untold millions how limitless is His love and lovingkindness. He wanted to make His Name and His power known, and so He willed the wicked and the devils and the hosts with their devilish howling about that Cross and that Suffering Servant of Jehovah. He wanted the Blood of the Innocent as a Testimony of the everlasting power of His love.

Oh yes, we see it, we love it, we adore it, and we sing of it. And we shall never grow tired of telling Him how we love Him.

And so our Jesus rose from the dead, and took our glorified new nature smith Him to heaven. And He works in heaven, and shall work until all the saints are safe and time ended.

In your suffering, shame and reproach, remember: God loves you!

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