Heaven upon earth begun

April 25th, 2010

Richard Sibbes shows that in the Christian life, grace comes first subjectively as well as objectively.

Again, if we would be thankful, as Paul here, and begin heaven upon earth, labour to be assured of salvation, and perseverance in the Christian course. The papists, that speak against assurance and perseverance, kill prayer and praising of God. Shall a man praise God for that which he doubts of? I cannot tell whether God will damn me or not; perhaps I am but fitted as a sheep to the slaughter, &c. How shall a man praise God for any blessing he enjoys, when these thoughts are still with him? How shall a man praise God for salvation, when perhaps he shall not come to it? How shall a man praise God for that which perhaps he may fall from before he die? when perhaps he is God’s to-day, and may be the devil’s to-morrow? How can there be a hearty thanks, but when a man can say, ‘The Lord will deliver me from every evil work,’ that by mine own weakness and Satan’s malice, I may occasionally fall into, betwixt this and heaven? Therefore, if we would praise God as we should, let us work our hearts to labour after assurance of God’s favour; let us redeem our precious time, and every day set some time apart to strengthen our evidences for heaven, which will set us in a continual frame to every good work.

Richard Sibbes, The Saints’ Safety in Evil Times, Manifested by St. Paul, from his Experience of God’s Goodness in Greatest Distress (Works, v.1)

Nothing more than Christ

April 19th, 2010

John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 2:9,10

Further, when he says that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he means simply, that God is wholly found in him, so that he who is not contented with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God. The sum is this, that God has manifested himself to us fully and perfectly in Christ.
And ye are complete in him. He adds, that this perfect essence of Deity, which is in Christ, is profitable to us in this respect, that we are also perfect in him. “As to God’s dwelling wholly in Christ, it is in order that we, having obtained him, may posses in him an entire perfection.” Those, therefore, who do not rest satisfied with Christ alone, do injury to God in two ways, for besides detracting from the glory of God, by desiring something above his perfection, they are also ungrateful, inasmuch as they seek elsewhere what they already have in Christ. Paul, however, does not mean that the perfection of Christ is transfused into us, but that there are in him resources from which we may be filled, that nothing may be wanting to us.

Despair confers no holiness

April 11th, 2010

Stephen Charnock on the grace of God:

It presents us with the strongest motives to obedience. ‘The grace of God teacheth us to deny ungodliness.’ What chains bind faster and closer than love? Here is love to our nature in his incarnation, love to us, though enemies, in his death and passion: encouragements to obedience by the proffers of pardon for former rebellions. By the disobedience of man God introduces his redeeming grace, and engages his creature to more ingenuous and excellent returns than his innocent state could oblige him to. In his created state he had goodness to move him, he hath the same goodness now to oblige him as a creature, and a greater love and mercy to oblige him as a repaired creature; and the terror of justice is taken off, which might envenom his heart as a criminal. In his revolted state he had misery to discourage him; in his redeemed state he hath love to attract him. Without such a way, black despair had seized upon the creature exposed to a remediless misery, and God would have hail no returns of love from the best of his earthly works; but if any sparks of ingenuity be left, they will be excited by the efficacy of this argument.

Leo the  Great, Letter XXVIII, to Flavian (the Tome)

He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the divine:  because that emptying of Himself whereby the Invisible made Himself visible and, Creator and Lord of all things though He be, wished to be a mortal, was the bending down of pity, not the failing of power.  Accordingly He who while remaining in the form of God made man, was also made man in the form of a slave.  For both natures retain their own proper character without loss:  and as the form of God did not do away with the form of a slave, so the form of a slave did not impair the form of God.