On October 31, 1517, a German monk and professor of theology by the name of Martin Luther posted a notice proposing a public debate to discuss abuses on the part of his Church by which she was taking advantage of the poor, distorting her teachings, and potentially endangering the souls of the faithful. Little did he know that this simple act would spark one of the great historic movements in world history which played a role in bringing the Western world into the modern era, and plant the roots of what would come to be known as the Protestant branch of the Christian Church.
Your neighbors at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church, along with Protestant churches around the world, are commemorating this event which happened exactly 500 years ago as of this October 31st, by hosting a conference presenting the life of Martin Luther, his posting of the famous “Ninety-Five Theses,” his teachings on the Cross of Christ, and the power of the Holy Scriptures in shaping the Christian life of the believer. We cordially invite you to join us at this special observance of our annual DFW Reformation Conference Friday through Sunday, October 20-22, 2017.
Cairn University Professor of Theology, Dr. Jonathan Master will introduce us to the historic life, theology and spirituality of the Father of the Protestant Reformation, Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546).
Dr. Master teaches theology, church history, and New Testament at Cairn. He also oversees Cairn’s honors program, part of Cairn’s Center for University Studies.
Dr. Master also serves as executive editor of the online magazine Place for Truth, as well as host of the podcast Theology on the Go (both sponsored by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals). He has authored the book A Question of Consensus (Fortress Press) and a number of articles, in addition to editing The God We Worship (P&R). Prior to teaching, he served in pastoral ministry for ten years.
Friday 10/20 7:00PM “Martin Luther and the 95 Theses”
Saturday 10/21 9:00 AM “Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross”
Saturday 10/21 10:30 AM “Martin Luther and a Life Shaped by the Word”
Sunday 10/22 10:30 AM Dr. Master preaches “A Mighty Fortress” in morning worship at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church
God is sovereign in his gracious salvation of sinners. These doctrines have been summarized by the popular acronym, TULIP.
T– The “Total Depravity” of the Sinner
Sinners are so completely sinful that they are unwilling and unable to do anything good to prepare themselves for salvation, let alone save themselves by good works. They do not always do the most sinful thing they possibly could, but no work of any kind that they perform can merit the righteousness they need to avoid eternal condemnation. This doctrine is also called “Radical Corruption.”
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3)
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive (Psalm 5:9).”
“The venom of asps is under their lips (Psalm 140:3).”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness (Psalm 10:7).”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known (Proverbs 1:16; Isaiah 59:7-8)”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes (Psalm 36:1).”
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
U–The “Unconditional Election” of the Father
Before creation, God graciously chose a remnant of fallen humanity and gave them to his Son as his Bride. No righteous merit of any kind in them serves as the basis of God’s gracious choice of these sinners; only God’s own pleasure and will.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
L–The “Limited Atonement” of the Son
On the cross Jesus Christ paid the ransom to the Father and effectually redeemed the remnant of fallen sinners which God graciously chose to give to him as his Bride. Sinners whom the Father has not graciously chosen are not redeemed by Christ on the cross. Christ’s atonement is necessarily “limited” in one way or the other: either it is limited in extent (Christ dying for the elect alone), or it is limited in power (only able to redeem sinners who by their own free will decide to receive this redemption). Also called “Particular Redemption.”
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
…since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him…
I—The “Irresistible Grace” of the Spirit
Those fallen sinners whom the Father has graciously chosen according to his sovereign will and whom the Son has redeemed on the cross will not fail to come to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit effectually gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead and in this way enables the chosen sinner to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3), and enter it (John 3:5) through faith alone in Christ alone. Also called, “Effectual Calling” (see also 2 Peter 1:10; Romans 11:29)
1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (literally, “drags”) him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
P—The “Perseverance” of the Saints
Those whom the Triune God has saved in this effectual way according to his sovereign grace and power he will keep, and they will persevere in faith and repentance until the end, be it his own death or the return of Christ.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
I love Christmas! Mostly because I am an overgrown child. But judging by the look of this blog, you may have already picked up on that. No matter how old I get, or how much money we throw away, I still look forward to the big day–the hanging lights part, not so much. One thing my wife dislikes is the shortened period of daylight because it’s depressing to drive home from work after sundown. I love the earlier evenings, though, because it means that Christmas is coming!
My enthusiasm for the holiday is in no way deterred by the debate surrounding the origin of the Christmas holiday. Since my days in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement, I have seen some leaders advocate for December 25 as the true date of the birth of Jesus, while most I have seen take no position on the date, but certainly promote the celebration of the “official,” if not actual, anniversary of the incarnation and birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being the revivalists that they are, fundamentalists would never discourage church attendance by downplaying Christmas! In fact, part of my personal love for Christmas is probably rooted in the virtual show-and-tell encouraged by my beloved childhood pastor, who had the children bring their favorite Christmas gift to church to show it off and tell us about it.
Since about the year 2000, however, I have embraced Reformed theology, and since 2010, my wife, youngest daughter, and I have worshipped in a congregation of the Orthodox (as in, not liberal!) Presbyterian Church. The attitude and practice of my new denomination and theological tradition regarding Christmas is much more varied. I find a few who reject it entirely, many like myself who love and celebrate it with enthusiasm, and leaders who walk a very diplomatic public line between the varying opinions. The fact is that the Reformed wing of the Protestant Reformation is the historical source of the rejection of Christmas and Easter, although many sects and factions who reject these holidays often do so for reasons completely foreign to the Protestant Reformation.
So, the question of the true origin of Christmas continues to be an issue of interest for me. In the past I have promoted Touchstone Magazine‘s interesting article,” Calculating Christmas.” This article takes the “Mere Christianity” approach to defending the Christian origin of Christmas against claims of its pagan origin.In other words, it deals primarily with issues agreed on by each major branch of Christendom: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. Some details of Touchstone’s case remain a matter of debate; however, their full-throated affirmation of the Christian origin of Christmas appeals to a guy like me. Nevertheless, Touchstone’s ecumenical approach leaves a few issues outstanding as the issue of celebrating Christmas relates to a Reformed believer’s observance of the holiday.
Reformed theology subscribes to Scripture’s authority to regulate the worship of the church–a doctrine we call “the regulative principle of worship” (RPW). Nowadays, Reformed churches differ on how this principle applies to the observance of Christmas. Some, while rejecting the Catholic Church Calendar on the grounds of the RPW, retain the observance of Easter and Christmas. This view seems to predominate today among Reformed churches. Others reject even these two holidays in favor of only observing the Lord’s Day, applying the Old Covenant Sabbath principles to New Covenant worship. They say we celebrate 52 holidays on the Reformed “church calendar.” While the former agree with the latter on the primacy of the Lord’s Day, they do see a place for the commemoration of the anniversary of the incarnation and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life of the church, even on the Lord’s Day. The goal of the Protestant Reformation was to reform the doctrine and practice of the church according to the Scriptures and the customs of the ancient church (Clary, Glen. The Eucharist in the Didache; Abstract, p. v).
This year, I thought to inquire into further reading by a more Reformed source on the subject. Who better to ask than my own presbytery’s scholar on the customs of the ancient church, Dr. Glen Clary, Pastor of Providence OPC in Pflugerville, Texas, and a regular contributor to the Reformed Forum through his Ancient-Reformed Worship blog. Pastor Clary, who studied under the great Hughes Oliphant Old, directed me to his post, “The Origins of the Church Calendar.” This lengthy piece features quotes by many early writers like Chrysostom, Clement and Jerome on the subject of the history of the Church Calendar and the Easter and Christmas traditions. There is much interesting content in this article, to which I would direct your attention. Allow me to whet your appetite for the details by sharing Clary’s nuanced conclusions regarding Christmas, and leave it to you to go back to his article yourself to work through the evidence he presents (emphasis mine):
“Those who argue for the derivation of Christmas from this festival [the Roman festival of the Invincible Sun, dies natalis solis invicti] lay great emphasis on the role of Constantine, who is known to have been a devotee of the Sun prior to his protection of Christianity.
“However, it should be noted that although we find several places in the Church fathers where Christmas is compared and contrasted with Sol Invictus, it does not necessarily follow that Christmas was instituted as its substitute.
“One manifest weakness of this theory is that Constantine did not institute the observance of Christmas on December 25 in Bethlehem after dedicating the Church of the Nativity.
“As we have just seen in Jerome’s sermon, Bethlehem continued to observe January 6 as the Nativity until the end of the fourth century or even the beginning of the fifth.
“Furthermore, Constantine does not institute the observance of Christmas in the new capital of his empire either. Christmas first came to Constantinople in 380 when it was introduced by the newly installed bishop, Gregory of Nazianzus.
“One conclusion that we may draw from this historical data is that the nativity of Christ was not widely observed in the church on December 25 until the late fourth or early fifth century.
“That is not to say that Christians did not celebrate the nativity of Christ before that time. They certainly did! But the point is that December 25 was not regarded as a holy day by most Christians until pretty late in church history.
“The church calendar is something that evolved over a very long period of time. Even after the first two or three ecumenical councils, the church calendar was still in a state of flux.
“As diligent students of the church fathers, the Reformers were well aware of that fact.
“The Reformers knew that there was an unbroken tradition of Lord’s Day worship handed down from the apostolic age. And they were eager to preserve that apostolic practice.
“But many of them had misgivings about the church calendar. One reason for those misgivings was the lack of evidence from the ancient church to substantiate its apostolic origins.“
On a lark, as soon as the DFW Reformation Conference kicked off on Friday night, October 28, 2016, I figured I’d see how this new-fangled Facebook Live thing works. It works so well, it killed my phone battery the first night, filled my storage and shut off during the first Saturday morning lecture, but if I recall correctly, I may have gotten all of the second Saturday lecture. I know this is old news, but those of you who were not in attendace will still benefit greatly from Dr. Bill Dennison’s detailed interaction with classical apologetics and philosophers ancient and modern in these three lectures on our most common natural worldviews: Reason, experience, opinion and naturalism.
Lecture 1: “My Mind is Absolute; My Experience is Absolute.”
Lecture 2: “Nature is Absolute.”
Lecture 3: “My Opinion is Absolute.”
2. God commanded Israel to circumcise their households (believers, their children and anyone else of any status in the household).
3. Divine Commands remain in place if they are never rescinded.
4. Israel, by the plan of God, was a mixed multitude of believers whose circumcision signified the circumcision of their hearts (their faith and repentance), and unbelievers whose circumcision was a constant reminder to them of their need to circumcise their hearts (to repent and believe).
5. In Christ, the sign of circumcision–the sign and seal of faith (Romans 4:11)–was changed to baptism (see how the one is identified with the other in Colossians 2:11-12), and this sign continued to be given not only to individuals, but also to households in the New Testament.
6. The command to apply the sign and seal of faith to households is nowhere rescinded in the New Testament; therefore, the command remains in force.
7. For this reason, it is biblical to baptize the infant children of believers before they make a profession of faith.
8. In conclusion, the Bible teaches Christians to baptize their children with a view to raising them to repent and believe in the providential timing of the Lord.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, hosts the Day-Higginbotham Lectures each year. “…[E]stablished by an endowment fund in 1965 donated by Mrs. Edwin M. Reardon, III as a memorial to the late Paul Clanton Higginbotham and to Mr. and Mrs. Riley Day, Mrs. Reardon’s parents.” In 2014, when Southwestern Seminary President Dr. Paige Patterson introduced Carl Trueman (Paul Wooley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) who preached on Elijah in a chapel service (see my post on that), Patterson said while he generally “has no use for Calvinists,” he does appreciate Carl Trueman’s work as “a critic of the culture.” The lectures Dr. Trueman delivered at the 2016 Day-Higginbothm Lectures certainly demonstrate what Patterson appreciates most about him.
In his introduction to the second lecture, Dr. Trueman explains that his denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is known more for the “spirituality of the church”, rather than for “engaging the culture,” and that social commentary has not always been his focus, but that the rapid change in modern American culture toward the LGBTQ movement is a case of “the culture engaging the church,” making it a moral issue which stands to trigger important changes in the way the Christian church relates to the issues of sexual identity politics in the years to come.
The title for Trueman’s series of lectures is “Christiantiy and Its Discontents,” a title which alludes to Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. He also cited much from another early twentieth century philosopher, Wilhelm Reich, and Trueman shows how much of what both writers thought about issues related to sexual identity so many decades ago is bearing fruit in today’s rapid change of attitudes about the definition of marriage and more recently with the issue of transgenderism. He also recommends Phillip Rieff’s book Triumph of the Therapeutic, now available in it’s 50th anniversary 2016 edition (couldn’t find a link to it, but here’s its 40th anniversary edition).
Dr. Trueman opened his first lecture on Thursday morning with a reading of Genesis 2:15-25, focusing on verse 24:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:15-25 ESV)
In his second lecture Thursday night, Trueman explained that verse 24 was not a sentimental or emotional description of human sexuality, but that it focuses on the way sexuality serves as a social rite of passage to adulthood in the ancient world, and continued to do so even in the peasant societies of the late medieval and early modern eras of Western civilization, evidenced by the fact that marriage was consummated in the view of witnesses, if not put on public display as a means of making this formal relationship a matter of public record, so far from being some form of voyeurism.
Trueman helps us understand that when Christians argue that what it is they are against is homosexual activity, the broader culture still insists on seeing it as an attack on the very psychological identity of a segment of society, and therefore the Christian’s words fall on deaf ears at best, and are taken as a form of political oppression at worst. We aren’t conceding the presuppositions of the world, therefore the world rejects our attempts to explain our rejection of homosexual behavior.
Trueman discusses pornography, explaining that it is a perennial problem which has existed for as long as humans have had the capacity to convey images of sexuality, but that it’s recent sharp increase in accessibility by everyone who has internet access is unprecedented in history and is now the #1 pastoral problem in the Christian church, even seeing a sharp increase in usage among females.
I was unable to take down a precise outline of Dr. Trueman’s remarks, but the above is an introduction to the issues he describes as currently changing the modern world and challenging the Christian church.
“Arianism–Arianism was a 4th-century Christian heresy named for Arius (c. 250-c. 336), a priest in Alexandria [Egypt]. Arius denied the full deity of the preexistent Son of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He held that the Son, while divine and like God (“of like substance”), was created by God as the agent through whom he created the universe. Arius said of the Son, “there was a time when he was not.” Arianism became so widespread in the Christian church and resulted in such disunity that the emperor Constantine convoked a church council at Nicaea in [A.D.] 325.” (from Class Handout)
On Sunday, November 1, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie taught about the Arian Heresy and Nicene Orthodoxy.
Christianity faces more controversies and heresies than other religions because it is based on propositional doctrine rather than morality, as other religions are. “Contending for the faith” is a biblical duty intended to preserve the peace and purity of the church (Jude 3). In the ancient era of church history, the Faith needed to be stated more clearly in a formal way, hence the development of Nicene Orthodoxy.
The heresiarch Arius taught that Jesus was the first created being, and denied the “ontological Trinity,” which means he denied that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are of one divine essence. The councils which developed the Nicene Creed demonstrate the fact of the eternal generation of the Son, and the…
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I’m looking forward to having Reformation Day music to enjoy from now on! Bach the Lutheran is an incredible contribution to “reeeal music.”
Luther “wrote [the 95] theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517,” wrote Phillip Melanchthon. Protestants have celebrated this event since the late 16th century, and October 31th became Reformation Day in the Protestant areas of Germany in the early 18th century.
The famous composer J. S. Bach wrote cantatas for Reformation Day. For the one in 1727, he wrote the following cantata, based on Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God (“Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”).
And for the Reformation Day of 1725, he wrote this one.
Let us, with Bach, rejoice and be glad.
Post Tenebras Lux
“[T]he idea of the presence in man of a divine “spark”…, which has proceeded from the divine world and has fallen into this world of destiny, birth and death and which must be reawakened through its own divine counterpart in order to be finally restored. This idea…is ontologically based on the conception of a downward development of the divine whose periphery (often called Sophia or Ennoia) has fatally fallen victim to a crisis and must–even if only indirectly–produce this world, in which it then cannot be disinterested, in that it must once again recover the divine “spark” (often designated as pneuma, “spirit”).”
–Congress on the Origins of Gnosticism in Messina, 1966 (cited in Rudolph, Kurt; Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. Harper & Row, 1987. Page 57)
On Sunday, October 25, 2015, elder Wayne Wylie taught on Gnosticism, and introduced Docetism in his series on Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Elements of the ancient heresy of Gnositicism include the ideas of dualism, the elitist attitude of the “Gnostikoi” who are the chosen few favored with secret knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, and some discussion of how this two-tiered attitude is reflected in various Christian movements to this day. Another prominent custom among modern Christians which bears some parallel to the notion that Christians have direct knowledge of God apart from Scripture is in the notion of receiving individualistic “guidance by the Holy Spirit,” often appealed to in day-to-day decision making. Important varieties of Gnosticism, such as that of the arch-heretic Marcion and the school of Valentinus were also introduced.
In Gnosticism, knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, rather…
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The following continues a series of excerpts from “An Introduction to the Right Understanding of the Oracles of God,” by the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, as published in his Self-Intepreting Bible (1859 edition). (Punctuation and Scripture references have been modernized).
OF RULES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE SCRIPTURES OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS
- Let us labor, in much fervent prayer and supplication, for the powerful influence and inhabitation of the Holy Ghost (who perfectly understands the Scriptures, and indited and appointed them for our spiritual edification,) that he may effectually interpret and apply them to our heart. He is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ; He it is who searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God:–He is the Anointing, that is Truth, and teacheth all things. He can enlighten our eyes, and make us to know things freely given us of God, and to see wondrous things out of God’s law; can make us by the Scriptures,–wiser than our teachers—wise unto salvation (Ephesians 1:17-18; 3:16-19; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12; 1 John 2:20, 27; Psalm 119:18, 96-109; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
- Being renewed in the spirit of our minds, and having in us the mind of Christ, we ought, under a deep sense of God’s presence and authority in the Scripture, earnestly, and with much self-denial, to search the Scriptures, by much serious reading and meditation thereon; chiefly that we may spiritually know the mind, behold the glory, and feel the effectual power of God therein, in order to our faith in, and obedience to them. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: it is the man who feareth God to whom he will teach his way, and reveal the secrets of his covenant;–it is the man who hat the Spirit of Christ, the mind of Christ–who hath seen the Lord, and tasted that he is gracious—the man who hath had his eyes opened, that can discern, judge of, and understand the matter or manner of Scripture revelations (1 John 2: 20, 27; Psalm 25:12, 14; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; John 14:21-23; Luke 24:45; Psalm 114:18). A deep sense of our ignorance, and of our absolute need of Scripture influence, must animate us to the earnest study of knowledge. He, who thinks that of himself he knows divine things to any purpose, knoweth nothing as he ought to know—only with the lowly is wisdom. God, who resisteth the proud, giveth grace to the humble: the meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way. The mysteries of the kingdom he hides from the self-conceited, wise, and prudent; and reveals them unto babes (1 Corinthians 8:2; Proverbs 11:2; James 4:6; Psalm 25:9; Matthew 13:11; 11:25). Scarcely can anything then more effectually to blind the mind, and harden the heart, than the searching of the Scriptures in a philosophical manner, regarding merely or chiefly the rational sense of the passage. Hence multitudes of preachers, who daily study the Scriptures for the sake of their external performances, are of all men the most ignorant how Christ’s words are spirit and life. The god of this world blinds their minds; so that hearing many things, they never open their eyes; and seeing many things, they never behold one truth, or the subject thereof, in its glory (Isaiah 6:9-10; 42:18-19; 56:9; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
“Heart knowledge” of Scripture’s Self-Attesting Evidences Persuades of Its Divine Inspiration and Authority
The following continues a series of excerpts from “An Introduction to the Right Understanding of the Oracles of God,” by the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, as published in his Self-Intepreting Bible (1859 edition).
X. Though the above arguments are sufficient to silence gainsayers, and to produce a rational conviction that the Scriptures are of divine original and authority, it is only the effectual application of them to our mind, conscience, and heart, in their SELF-EVIDENCEING DIVINE LIGHT and POWER, which can produce a cordial and saving persuasion that they are indeed the word of God. But, when thus applied, this word brings along with it such light, such authority, and such sanctifying and comforting power, that there is no shutting our eyes nor hardening our hearts against it; no possibility of continuing stupid and concerned under it: but the whole faculties of our soul are necessarily affected with it, as indeed marked with divine evidence, and attended with almighty power; 1 Thes. 1:5; 2:13; John 6:63.
The following continues a series of excerpts from “An Introduction to the Right Understanding of the Oracles of God,” by the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, as published in his Self-Intepreting Bible (1859 edition).
VII. Multitudes of MIRACLES, which only the infinite power of God could effect, have been wrought for the confirmation of the doctrines and facts mentioned in the Scriptures, and for evincing the divine mission of the principal publishers thereof. The wisdom and goodness of God required him, especially when in the days of Moses and Christ he was establishing a new form of worship, to mark the important declarations of his will with some distinguishing characteristics, awakening to consideration. Nothing appears more proper for this end than a series of uncontrolled miracles, which no power could check, and which supported nothing but what was agreeable to reason, so far as it could conceive of it. Neither reason not experience can admit that the infinite wisdom and goodness of God could permit one, much less multitudes of uncontrolled miracles wrought in confirmation of the Scriptures have every favorable circumstance that could be wished. Their number was almost beyond reckoning, and all of them calculated to answer some great and benevolent end. According to the nature of the broken law, many of those wrought by Moses, Elijah, and Elisha, were tremendous and dreadful. According to the nature of the gospel which they published, the miracles wrought by Jesus Christ and his apostles were generally of a benevolent nature and tendency. Moreover most of the miracles mentioned in Scripture were performed in so public a manner that both friends and foes had the fullest access to a thorough examination of their nature and certainty. Most of them were wrought when the concurrent circumstances of Providence loudly called mankind to observe and examine them. Most of them—as the passage of the Hebrews through the Red Sea and through Jordan; the forty years’ sustenance of the people in the Arabian desert, by manna from heaven, and water from a rock; the stoppage or retrograde motion of the sun; the feeding of thousands with a few loaves and fishes; and the raising of dead persons—were of such a nature, that nothing less than absurdity itself can suppose the senses of the witnesses to have been deceived, or that any power less than divine could have produced them. Besides, all these miracles were wrought in confirmation of a religion the most holy, pure, and benevolent; and most of them by persons who were eminent patterns of virtue. And that such miracles were wrought, is in part attested by the inveterate enemies thereof, whether Jews or heathen.
The Character of John Brown
Among the things which obviously claim our attention in the character of Mr. Brown, we must not pass over the astonishing extent of his scholastic acquirements. Though possessed of no very considerable fund of originality, his capabilities for the acquisition of almost every species of literary knowledge was such, that he outran most of all his contemporaries, though possessing every advantage of a regular education, and that from their infancy. Ordinary attainments, whether in languages or science, could by no means satisfy the ardour of his inquisitive mind. With a memory strongly retentive, a solid and discriminating judgment, and an inflexible and persevering assiduity, with the blessing of God on his labours, he acquired and secured an uncommon share with which, from a child, he had cultivated a very particular acquaintance, so that he could repeat almost every text, and state its meaning and connexion. His feet were early turned into the paths of wisdom. Apprehended by the grace of God while his mind was yet young and tender, he made choice of his law as the rule of his life, and solemnly devoted himself to his service. In prayer, public, secret, or domestic, he overstepped the rules of almost any prescribed routine; even amid the ordinary business of life, the breathings of his soul were continually breaking forth in ejaculations of gratitude and praise, particularly while composing, or committing his discourses to memory. He possessed such an habitual evenness of temper, that hopes realized or disappointed seemed neither to elate nor greatly depress his spirits. He lived always conscious of God’s presence, and as one who had learned to lay down the sinful suspicion that men by nature have of Him. On hearing a peal of thunder he remarked, “that is the low whisper of my God.” His Christian Journal, which presents a good index of the general tone of his mind, bears this inscription, “The soul that is ever attentive to God never hears a voice that speaks not to Him; the soul, whose eye is intent on Him, never sees an atom, in which she does not discern the face of her best beloved.” He was scarcely ever seen to weep, unless it were from the impressions of divine truth on his own heart, or compassion for perishing souls. Bodily pain, or the death of relatives, he suffered without a tear; but when warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and, in Christ’s stead, entreating and beseeching them to be reconciled to God, his heart got frequently too big for utterance.
I’ve added a link to the top of my sidebar to the right. It links to Post Tenebras Lux, the website of Dr. Thomas R. Browning, Assistant Pastor of Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. At his site is a lecture series about the life and ministry of Martin Luther and the story of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It is the month of October now, and Luther nailed the historic 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, so it is time to begin gearing up to commemorate the Protestant Reformation, which was the providential way “How Christ Restored the Gospel to His Church.”
“The Christian Curmudgeon” was a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) since its founding. He recently left the PCA for his own reasons and is now ministering in the Reformed Episcopal Church. In the past few weeks, you may have noticed that The Aquila Report has posted two articles expressing the growing concern over the state of the PCA. In light of this, The Christian Curmudgeon has written a very helpful post characterizing the various theological and practical trajectories represented by the first generation of the PCA. The point being that the PCA was never intended to be a strictly confessional Reformed denomination. This sheds light on how they got into the chaotic state they are in today. Read his informative post, “I Don’t Have a Dog in this Fight, But That Doesn’t Keep Me From Having an Opinion.”