The Reformer’s Days

Charles Spurgeon, “Holding Fast the Faith”:

Everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want anyone else to do the same today. When you go to the…gardens you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering about loose in the street? You tell me that would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are sort of a bear-pit or iron cage for him, but such a man today is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and their (friends) had said, “The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great (racket), and get ourselves in disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake things will have grown better.”

Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers.

It is today as it was in the Reformer’s days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it.

Look you sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today.

… Stand fast, my beloved, in the name of God! I, your brother in Christ, entreat you to abide in the truth. Quit yourselves like men, be strong. The Lord sustain you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Happy Reformation Day!

Truth Can Handle Structure

To affirm of any human production that it contained many great and instructive truths which it would be impossible to systematize without weakening each separate truth, and frustrating the design of the whole, would be a serious reflection upon the author’s wisdom and skill! How much more to affirm this of the Word of God! Systematic theology is to the Bible what science is to nature. To suppose that all the other works of God are orderly and systematic, and the greater the work the more perfect the system; and that the greatest of all His works, in which all His perfections are transcendently displayed, should have no plan or system, is altogether absurd. If faith in the Scriptures is to be positive, if consistent with itself, if operative, if abiding, it must have a fixed and well-defined creed. No one can say that the Bible is his creed, unless he can express it in his own words.

—Charles Spurgeon, quoted by Ian Murray in The Forgotten Spurgeon, 9.

Murray includes the quote above from Spurgeon to explain why Spurgeon did not shy away from calling himself a “Calvinist.” Murray himself affirms:

As long…as there is such a way of thinking about the gospel as is historically associated with Arminianism there is need of a theological term to denote that way of thinking. The hiding of the word is of no help to anyone; and if a man, as for example the eminent John Wesley, has thought through his Arminianism he is not ashamed of the title. To him it represents scriptural concepts. Similarly if there is a body of evangelical truth, rediscovered largely at the Reformation period, and if this differs in certain major respects from a more comprehensive and later evangelicalism, there is need of a term to mark the difference. It is almost an accidental fact of history that Reformation theology became known as ‘Calvinism’ but the name once established has served an important purpose: to the one who believes it, it is a scriptural system and its association with the name of the 16th century leader is merely incidental. This is the sense in which Spurgeon uses the term ‘Calvinism’. For him it was a faith which belonged as much to Augustine and Paul as to the Genevan reformer. While we thus repudiate the use of these names as divisive labels, their occasional use in discussion is probably essential in the interests of clarity. It is pointless to claim to be merely Biblical when the whole question is, What do the Scriptures actually teach on certain issues? (emphasis added, ibid., 7)

Murray adds:

[The] same school which has taught humility of mind before God has also been the strongest in affirming the Church’s duty of holing a system of theology and there is no inconsistency here because the science of systematic theology concerns the derivation of truths from Scripture and the formulation of them, as far as possible, in a connected body of doctrine. To reject this science as an intrusion of reason upon Scripture is to pre-suppose that Scripture provides no adequate material or guidance for the formulation of what may justly be called a Biblical system. This presupposition, which has not infrequently been regarded as preserving the Scripture from ‘human systems’, is itself unbiblical. (ibid., 9)

In other words, biblical truth can handle structure and a name. Even false teachers aren’t foolish enough to stand up and say, “What I’m about to tell you cannot be found anywhere in the Bible.” Virtually everyone claims to be biblical. That’s why distinguishing what kind of biblical we are by name is important.

Update – September 29 at 2:09PM: I re-listened to Piper’s biography on Athanasius while running this morning. The following quotes are from that message turned book, Contending for Our All. Piper states we ought to learn from Athanasius that:

The truth of biblical language must be vigorously protected with non-biblical language.
Bible language can be used to affirm falsehood….[Some] use the slogan, “The Bible is our only creed.” But in refusing to let explanatory, confessional language clarify what the Bible means, the slogan can be used as a cloak to conceal the fact that Bible language is being used to affirm what is not biblical. (64-65)

Piper then quotes R.P.C. Hanson:

Theologians of the Christian church were slowly driven to a realization that the deepest questions which face Christianity cannot be answered in purely biblical language, because the questions are about the meaning of biblical language itself. (emphasis his, 65-66)

Ministers Learning Sympathy

It is of need that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock.

—Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 155

His Blood is Bibline

He had studied our Authorized Version … till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and though his writings … continually make us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak with out quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.

—In reference to John Bunyan. Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 159.

Repentance Clips and Quotes

Ian Lugg created the following video for our snow retreat on Repentance last week. It moves my affections every time I watch it, and since many people have asked for the quotes, I’ve included those below for prolonged marination.


Quotes

In order:

Repentance stands, then, in opposition to all our former prejudices against the divine character; and in opposition to that sin-extenuating, self-justifying, law-hating, God-blaming disposition which reigns in every impenitent soul. ~ Joseph Bellamy

Though it deserves to be hated with perfect hatred, and though there be every reason why we should be horrified on account of it and abase ourselves before God, mourning it in bitterness of heart, fearing it, watching against it as the greatest of all evils, yet we shall never do so until we see sin in its real hideousness. Thus a deep sense of the infinite evil of sin is plainly essential to repentance, yea, it is from this that repentance immediately springs. ~ A.W. Pink

You may today go home and pretend to pray, you may today be serious, tomorrow honest, and the next day you may pretend to be devout; but yet, if you return—as Scripture has it, like the dog to its vomit and like the sow to its wallowing in the mire—your repentance shall but sink you deeper into hell, instead of being a proof of divine grace in your heart. ~ Charles Spurgeon

If a soul is truly converted, there will be a battle, and an awful chasm that will never be filled up but with the love of God; and therefore when we say, Repent and be converted, it is no more than saying, Repent and be happy. Indeed we shall never be completely happy till we get to heaven. O that every man could see the good of every thing of a sublunary nature drop off like leaves in autumn: God grant this may be known by every one of you. ~ George Whitefield

Audio Clips

In order:

  • Myself (Right, I don’t belong in this list, but it was our retreat, after all.)
  • Steve Lawson
  • Paul Washer
  • John MacArthur

Making Ministers through Difficulties

*I finished reading Lectures to My Students yesterday. The journey took almost two years and included some breathtaking sights. The Void previously published highlights related to the preacher and praying, preaching with clarity, and holding on to the truth. While creating my index inside the back cover I retread precious, providential, faith-focusing ground concerning how God makes His ministers through difficulties.

Afflictions make sensitive shepherds.

It is of need that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock. (155)

These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. (155)

Troubles make clean vessels.

The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. (160)

Adversities make humble instruments.

Those who are honoured of the Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil. (164)

Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. (164)

Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker. (163)

Trials make trusting servants.

Put no trust in frames or feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. (164)

Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith’s rare wisdom enables a man to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy. (165)

Puritanic Rigidity Is not the Problem

Series | The Lord’s Day

Charles Spurgeon once wrote,

Ah, sirs! there may have been a time when Christians were too precise, but it has not been in my day. There may have been such a dreadful thing as Puritanic rigidity, but I have never seen it. We are quite free from that evil now, if it ever existed. We have gone from liberty to libertinism. We have passed beyond the dubious into the dangerous, and none can prophesy where we shall stop. (quoted by MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, p.87)

Even though Spurgeon was specifically confronting the church’s general lack of holiness in the Down-Grade, I think the quote applies equally well to our modern day disregard for the Lord’s day.

Perhaps we don’t value the Lord’s day because for all our talk, we’re not that desperate for God after all. We treat the Lord as if He were dispensable and we take delight in other things. Maybe if we hadn’t been busy all week trying to drink from broken cisterns we would thirst for the fountain of living waters and come for a corporate drink on His day.

Still the discipline of celebrating the Lord’s day every first day reminds us how much we need Him and how important His Body is. I think that’s why John Calvin said about Sunday corporate meeting,

we adopt it as a necessary remedy for preserving order in the Church. (Institutes, 2.VIII.33)

This is especially so for those of us in student ministry. I am convinced that the first mark of a healthy student ministry is that we are part of the local church. We will always be sickly and weak if we do not participate and praise the Lord on His day with His Body in “big church.”

As we lay to rest this series on the Lord’s day, let me conclude with one final thought. My son Calvin is almost two. He doesn’t know a lot of words but he’s at least learned (his own version of) the names of all the people living at our house. Since he can’t call things by what they are, he identifies an item by the person who owns it. He’ll circle the room and point out everything he recognizes by who uses it: books, chairs, ladders, coffee cups, cars, whatever. The question is, if someone looked at how you spend your Sunday, who would they say owned it? You? Or the Lord?