The Prayers of J. Calvin (26)

JCalvinPic1On this last Sunday night of January 2016 we continue our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fifth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:16-23, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”:

This passage contains a valuable truth, – that faith ever brings us peace with God, and that not only because it leads us to acquiesce in God’s mercy, and thus, as Paul teaches us, (Rom.v:1,) produces this as its perpetual fruit; but because the will of God alone is sufficient to appease our minds.

Whosoever then embraces from the heart the truth as coming from God, is at peace; for God never suffers his own people to fluctuate while they recumb on him, but shews to them how great stability belongs to his truth.

If it was so under the Law and the Prophets, …how much more shall we obtain rest under Christ, provided we submit to his word; for he himself has promised it, ‘Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ And ye shall find rest, he says here, to your souls (p.342).

And this is the prayer that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to give Thee occasion of offence, and as Thou ceasest not, in order to promote our salvation, to call us to the right way, – O grant, that we may be attentive to Thy voice, and suffer ourselves to be reproved by it, and so submit ourselves to Thee, that we may continually go on towards the mark to which Thou invitest us, and that having at length finished our course in this life, we may enjoy the fruit of our obedience and faith, and possess that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen

How to Read Calvin’s Institutes and Why You Should Seriously Consider It – J.Taylor

CalvinsInstitutesOn Jan.9, 2016 Justin Taylor posted this excellent article on the Gospel Coalition website on how and why to read Calvin’s magnum opus, the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

If you have never read this classic work because you are intimidated by it or argue you don’t have time, read on. Perhaps 2016 is the year you take on this massive (in size, scope, and significance!) tour de force.

Here is Taylor’s important introduction:

If you haven’t yet read C. S. Lewis’s introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, I’d highly recommend it.

He wants to refute the “strange idea” “that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.”

Lewis finds the impulse humble and understandable: the layman looks at the class author and “feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him.”

“But,” Lewis explains, “if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.”

Lewis therefore made it a goal to convince students that “firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.”

I suspect this holds true with respect to evangelical Calvinists and one of the great theological classics: Calvin’s Institutes. Are we in danger of being a generation of secondhanders?

Let me forestall the “I don’t have time” objection. If you have 15 minutes a day and a bit of self-discipline, you can get through the whole of the Institutes faster than you think.

From there, Taylor says this, while also providing three (3) main reason why we should read Calvin’s Institutes:

The McNeill-Battles two-volume edition (for now the generally accepted authoritative standard) runs about 1800 pages total—so you could technically read it twice in one year at just 15 minutes a day!

Three reasons why this book in particular should be a particular object of serious study:

  1. The Institutes may be easier to read than you think.

  2. The Institutes is one of the theological wonders of the world.

  3. The Institutes has relevance for your life and ministry.

To read the rest of what Taylor has to say on this subject – something that applies to many classics of the Christian faith (read Lewis’ comments above again!) – visit the Gospel Coalition link below.

Source: How to Read Calvin’s Institutes and Why You Should Seriously Consider It | TGC

Monergism Reading Guide 2015

MonergismLogoMonergism.com, the beneficial website promoting articles and books of Reformed/Calvinistic persuasion, published this reading guide today and I think it is worth posting here, for the reasons they give (Christmas gift-giving) as well as for building your own personal library or church library. Check out the site at the link below.

And if you have never visited Monergism before, be sure to poke around a while – including in their free ebook section. The latest free offering? J.Calvin’s On the Christian Life in multiple formats – otherwise known as the Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life (Baker, 1952).

If you are giving books as a gift to your friends and family this year, we have compiled a list of some of the best classic and contemporary books for beginner, intermediate and advanced readers.  If you work through the books on this list you will be devotionally enriched and will be giving yourself a solid theological education that you would not get at the vast majority of seminaries. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but a good foundation.

Source: Monergism Reading Guide 2015 | Monergism

Prayers of the Reformers (10)

prayersofreformers-manschreckTwo more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958) we post here today. Both are fitting for our worship – especially our hearing of the gospel – on this Lord’s Day.

Prayer before a sermon

Let us call upon our God and Father, praying Him to turn His face away from the numerous faults and offenses whereby we continually provoke His wrath against us. Though we be unworthy of appearing before His majesty, let us beseech Him to look upon us in the countenance of His dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, accepting the merit of His death and passion for the full atonement of all our sins.

Let us beseech Him to enlighten us by His Spirit, in the understanding of His Word, and grant us the grace to receive the same in true fear and humility, that we may learn to put our trust in Him, to fear and honor Him by glorifying His holy name in all our life, and to yield Him the love and obedience which faithful servants owe to their master and children to their fathers, seeing it has pleased Him to call us to the number of His servants and children.

And let us pray unto Him as our good Master has taught us to pray, saying, Our Father… (p.4).

-J.Calvin

The hearing of God’s Word

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may through Thy grace be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honor and praise of Thy name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

-English reformers, 1549

November 2015 PR Seminary Journal Is Out!

The latest PRC Seminary Journal – Vol.49, #1, Nov. 2015 – is back from the printer and was mailed out last Friday. But the current issue is also available on the Seminary’s Journal page in pdf form (the other digital forms will be available soon).

PRTJ-Nov-2015-cover

This issue is an interesting and informative combination of articles and book reviews. Prof.R. Cammenga, editor of the Journal, gives this summary description of its contents:

  Welcome to the pages of the frst issue of volume 49 of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal.  The frst article in this issue is the transcript of the speech that Dr. John Bolt gave to the student body and faculty of the Protestant Reformed Seminary, as well as area ministers this past Spring.  Dr. Bolt is familiar to the constituency of the Protestant Reformed Churches as an outspoken critic of the treatment of Herman Hoeksema by the 1924 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.  Besides critical of the treatment of Hoeksema, he also fnds fault with the doctrinal formulations of the 1924 Synod defining and defending common grace.  In his article, Dr. Bolt points out what he believes to be the inadequacies of the “Three Points” and offers alternative formulations.  Even though the very worthwhile question-and-answer session that followed Dr. Bolt’s speech cannot be reproduced here, we trust our readers will proft from the transcription of the speech.

Our readers are once again favored with an article by a familiar contributor to PRTJ, Dr. Jürgen Burkhard Klautke, professor in the Academy for Reformed Theology in Marburg, Germany.  This article is the transcription of a speech by Dr. Klautke at a conference sponsored by the PRCA denominational Committee for Contact with Other [Foreign] Churches. The speech is a stirring defense of the truth of God’s covenant of grace, according to which elect believers are “in Christ,” as is the language of our Lord in His High Priestly prayer. Along the way, Dr. Klautke engages in necessary polemic against those who have perverted the truth of God’s Word that believers are “in Christ.

This issue contains the frst three parts of an eighteen part “John Calvin Research Bibliography” by the undersigned.  This bibliography was constructed over the course of a number of years and copies of it were distributed to students who took a newly developed interim course on “The Theology of John Calvin.”  It was thought that publishing this bibliography would make available a valuable resource for any who are interested in doing research on the great Reformer John Calvin.  Each section of the bibliography corresponds to a class session devoted to that main topic, with the related sub-topics that were covered in the class listed beneath each main topic.

Prof. David Engelsma, emeritus Professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, contributes a review article of Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in Early Modern Reformed Thought, edited by Willem J. van Asselt, J. Martin Bac, and Roelf T. te Velde.  The book examines the teaching of leading Reformed theologians of the sixteenth through the early eighteenth centuries on the freedom of the will.  It demonstrates that the Reformed tradition has consistently rejected the
error of “free will,” while at the same time upholding genuine human freedom.  Be sure to read this very worthwhile extended review—and then perhaps get the book and read it for yourself.

      As always, this issue of PRTJ contains a number of excellent book reviews.  This is a much appreciated feature of any theological journal, and that certainly is the case with our journal.  We take this opportunity to express our thanks to the men who regularly contribute book reviews.  Hopefully they know how much our readers anticipate their regular contributions in each new issue and beneft from them.

We remind our readers that our journal is made available free of charge.  The cost of its production and mailing are covered by the seminary.  Your gifts, therefore, are appreciated.  And many of you do send gifts periodically.  We are grateful for your support.

Now read and enjoy. Soli Deo Gloria!

If you wish to receive this issue or become a PRTJ subscriber, you may either stop by the Seminary, or contact the Seminary at the information given on its homepage.

Love for the Church – and Her Discipline: Prof.B. Gritters

StandardBearerFor the November 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer, editor Prof.B. Gritters submitted his latest installment in the series “What It Means to Be Reformed” (#10). Treating the subject of “The Church: My Chief Joy“, he writes in this third part about the third mark of Christ’s true church – Christian discipline.

Here is part of what he has to say:

     Not many churches exercise discipline these days. Exercising discipline on people is hard. Exercising discipline on myself is hard too. But if a church does not exercise discipline on her members – loving, corrective, purifying discipline – she may not call herself Reformed, any more than I may call myself Christian if I do not discipline myself. Both are difficult; both are extremely painful; but both are necessary for survival. The Head of the church mandates it.

…When Christ lives in a church – Christ’s presence is the most basic way to know if the church is true – the church will not be sleeping. The true church, the Reformed church, will behave Christ-like in ‘putting away from among yourselves that wicked person,’ (1 Cor.5), in counting some unto them ‘as an heathen and a publican’ (Matt.18), as well as in ‘forgiving and comforting’ the penitent, lest they be ‘swallowed up with overmuch sorrow’ (2 Cor.2).

A Reformed man has a high view of the church. Which is not the same as going to church morning and evening every Sunday. It means that he regards the church and her offices, her formal worship, her official teaching, her requirement for membership, her determination to take all things seriously by discipline, as essential. He has a high regard of the institutional church, her offices, her assemblies, her worship, and her government (pp.77-79).

 

“…We must continue to be a people of the Book.” – J.Tweeddale

Biblestudypic     Our problem as evangelicals is not that we have failed to defend the Bible; our problem is that we have neglected to heed it. As Psalm 78 makes clear, our capacity to tell future generations of the ‘glorious deeds of the Lord’ depends largely on how well we have attended to God’s Word in the present. When God bids us to listen to His instruction, He means more than for us simply to hear and regurgitate it. He intends for us to incline our ears, focus our minds, bend our hearts, and orient our lives to His Word (see Ps.78:1-4).

Spiritual decline within the church rarely begins with overt heresy or full-orbed persecution. It often starts when God’s people are bored with the claims of truth – that is, when we know the truth but are no longer gripped by it (read Judg.1-2). This is why the local church is so important for countering biblical illiteracy as well as upholding a commitment to biblical inerrancy. We gather together Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day in order to be awakened from our spiritual lethargy by the ministry of the Word. In all our strivings, we must continue to be a people of the Book: we must love it, study it, meditate on it, teach it, defend it, and live by it.

Taken from this weekend’s devotional (Oct.31-Nov.1) of the October issue of Tabletalk. The devotional is by Dr. John W. Tweeddale and is titled “Upholding Inerrancy.”

WIMTBR – Love for Christ’s Church – Prof.B. Gritters

SB-Oct1-2015-coverThe first issue of Standard Bearer volume year 92 is now available (October 1, 2015), and in it Prof.B. Gritters returns to continue his series of editorials on “What It Means to be Reformed” (WIMTBR, #8).

This time he begins to address the third “C” of the Reformed faith – “Church”, emphasizing the Reformed believer’s love for the church of Jesus Christ. This editorial is titled “The Church: My Chief Joy,” based in part on Ps.137:6 (and Psalter #379).

This is a portion of his description of that love for the church:

A Reformed believer’s love for the church reflects a profound reality: Christ, who loves the church with a profound love, lives in the believer. That is, Christ creates that love in the believer when Christ Himself comes to live in him. Christ said, ‘I will build my church’ (Matt.16:18, and now Christ in us responds: ‘Build her!’ Christ says, ‘I love her well’ (Psalter #368, from Ps.132); and Christ in us says, ‘We also love her!’

Our love grows when we read Christ’s word in Ephesians that God exalted Him over all things to, or for the sake of, the church (Eph.1:22,23). ‘From heaven he came and sought her.’ Now, in heaven, He governs all things for the church’s sake! As Ephesians teaches ecclesiology – the church’s blessedness, election, redemption, unity, holiness – it reaches one of its pinnacles when chapter four explains why Christ gave gifts to men: for the edifying of the church.

The entire Scripture teaches the importance of the church, ending in Revelation’s letters to the seven churches. And if there remains any question whether a Christian ought to love the church above his chief joy, the question will fade when he understands that, when Christ returns, He does so in order to marry this church and love her forever (Rev.19:7ff.; 21:2).

For more on what is in this Oct.1 issue, see the cover image here (click on it to enlarge). For subscription information, visit the “SB” homepage.

The Antithesis and the Theater – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn the last few months we have been quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman relates the antithesis to movies and theater attendance on the part of the students at Calvin. He has some very frank and revealing comments about the breakdown of the antithesis at this point – and this is in the 1920s.

The antithesis failed in the matter of amusements. Many leaders of the church demanded abstinence from movies, card-playing, and dancing. These are dead chestnuts today; but in the 1920s these prohibitions, questionable in theory and unenforceable in practice, were on the books. I never saw either card-playing or dancing at Calvin, though I heard about the latter. Movie attendance was another matter. Often somebody in the dormitory would holler, ‘Who’s going to Wealthy [theater]?’ and a group would gather. The fact is that many Christian students saw no evil in attending a good motion picture. In 1928 there were movies you could take your mother to. The students broke the rule as a silly one; some faculty members felt the same way but observed it. This rule triggered more dissimulation than did anything else at Calvin.

The first movie I ever saw was Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1928. I went to see it on the invitation of a preseminary student, a gentleman who has since served our church with devotion for a lifetime. The theater was a place some went to nonchalantly and some with guilt attenuating or intensifying their enjoyment; some sneaked in, and some bough their tickets defiantly. For some time, students had to sign pledges not to attend. Were it not for the profound convictions of the church leaders, rooted in their idea of loyalty to the Lord, the insistence on the rule would now seem to have been much ado about nothing. In the 1920s, the defense of movie attendance cost Prof. B. K. Kuiper his seminary post (p.30)

“It is what we believe about Scripture more than anything else that sets us apart.” – August 2015 “Standard Bearer” – Prof.R. Cammenga

SB-Aug-2015-coverThe latest issue of The Standard Bearer has been published and is now available. The August 2015 issue (the “SB” is published monthly in the months of June, July, and August; otherwise bi-monthly) contains a fine variety of articles once again – from a meditation on 1 Cor.12:3 to material on Reformed doctrine, world and life view, missions, and family matters (cf. cover image to the left; click on it to enlarge).

One of the featured articles is the latest installment on the Second Helvetic Confession from the pen of Prof.R. Cammenga (PRC Seminary). In this article he expounds Chapter I,B of this Reformed confession, “Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God.”

Here are his opening lines as he introduces his conclusion to Chap.1:

Fundamental to everything that the Reformed Christian believes and confesses is the truth of sacred Scripture: “…in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God….” (SHC, 1.1). What we believe and confess is derived from Scripture, is taught in Scripture, and can be defended on the basis of Scripture. It is what we believe about Scripture more than anything else that sets us apart. It distinguishes us from those who are not Christians and who have no regard for the authority of Scripture. It sets us apart from those who have apostatized from the faith, who invariably regard Scripture as less than the divinely inspired book that it is and therefore undervalue its authority. For good reason, then, the very first article of the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith concerns the doctrine of Holy Scripture. In the opening paragraphs of Chapter 1, the SHC affirms the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture, as well as the sufficiency of Scripture. In addition, the creed relates Scripture and preaching, expressing the Reformed conviction that “the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.”

Part of Cammenga’s exposition is pointing out the errors of those who deny the Bible’s sole authority and sufficiency:

Either error, whether taking away from or adding to the canon of Scripture, is a fundamental denial of sola Scriptura—Scripture alone. Both fall under the condemnation of the apostle in Revelation 22:18, 19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

What arrogance, that puny man should presume to excise certain books of sacred Scripture—the Word of God! What arrogance, that puny man should presume to exalt his writings to the level of the Word of God! That same arrogance is on exhibition in our own day. It is evident in the cults and sects, who add to Holy Scripture either the writings of the founder of the cult, or additional sacred writings like the Book of Mormon or the Quran.

And so he concludes with this positive point:

The distinctive mark of the believer and of the true church of Jesus Christ in the world is the confession that Scripture alone is the authority for faith and for life. Nothing may be taken away from Scripture and nothing may be added to Scripture. Because Scripture is the Word of God nothing need be added to Scripture and nothing may be placed alongside Scripture. Scripture is sufficient for the individual believer and for the church as a whole. In the words of the opening paragraph of this first article of the SHC: “And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God….”

To receive this Reformed magazine, contact the Reformed Free Publishing Association at the “SB” link above.

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