Carelessly Stabbing Hearts

July 25th, 2011

Thomas Manton, in his sermon on 2 Thessalonians 2:13, has a profitable word for ministers, and all believers who speak to others, to be cautious in how the threatenings of God’s word are presented to His people:

How careful we should be to support the hearts of God’s people, when we speak of his terrible judgments on the wicked. This was the practice of the apostles everywhere; as when the author to the Hebrews had spoken of the dreadful state of apostates, ‘whose end is to be burned:’ Heb. vi. 9, ‘But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak;’ he did not condemn them all as apostates, nor would discourage them by that terrible threatening. So again, after another terrible passage: Heb. x. 39, ‘But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.’ Once more, when another apostle had spoken of the sin unto death, which is not to be prayed for, he presently addeth, 1 John v. 19, 19, ‘Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.’ Zuinglius saith, Bone Christiane, haec nihil ad te, &c.—Good Christian, this is not thy portion, when he had flashed the terrors of the Lord in the face of sinners. The reasons of this are partly with respect to the saints, who, sometimes out of weakness and infirmity, and sometimes out of tenderness of conscience, are apt to be startled, electorum corda semper ad se sollicite pudeant (Gregor.) We deserve such dreadful judgments, and therefore fear them; partly, with respect to ourselves, that we may rightly divide the word of truth: 2 Tim. Ii. 15, ‘Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.’ Give every one his portion; make not their hearts sad whom God would not make sad, and, therefore, they are much to blame who, in reproving sinners, stab a saint at the heart, and take the doctrine but for a colour to make a perverse application. The apostle here useth more tenderness: ‘God shall send them strong delusion. But we are bound always to give thanks for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord; because the Lord hath from beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.’

Doing Christ a Favor

July 18th, 2011

James Durham, Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53, speaking of that phrase in Isaiah 53:11, He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied has this to say:

There is here a sweet word of consolation to poor souls, that fain would have sin taken away and are afraid to presume. Our Lord will never be angry, that you make use of his sufferings for your own good; nay, he accounts it a satisfaction to him, that you improve them; that, when you find yourselves arrested for sin, you put it on his score, and draw a bill on him to pay your debt; that, when you find yourselves under them, which, to you, looks like the dominion of sin, you look to his cross for virtue to crucify, kill and subdue it. If therefore (as I have often said), you would do him a favor or pleasure, make use of him. Be assured, that the more weight you lay on him, you do him the greater pleasure; and this is all the amends that he seeks for all the wrongs you have done to him, and all the satisfaction that he seeks for all the good turns he has done to you, that you come to him, thus to make use of him. And it is good reason, even all the reason in the world, that he get this amends made to him, and this satisfaction granted to him.

The return we make to Christ for his work on our behalf, is to make use of it. It is not presumption, as the weak in conscience sometimes think, to stake a claim to the advocacy of Christ: on the contrary, refusal to use him is the ultimate insult to his grace. Would you please Christ? Then trust him alone for all your salvation and take each qualm of conscience and pang of guilt about your sin to him to deal with.

The Most Blissful State

July 10th, 2011

I think that Topic 20 of Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology may well contain the most beautiful and moving words about the final state that I have ever read. By themselves they can stand as a complete refutation of the silly theory that academic theologians must necessarily have cool and withered hearts, or can only produce dry and dusty writings. What follows is only a small excerpt from a much longer section.

But in order to understand more fully that most blissful state, we think the three things are to be united here which inseparably cohere with each other in happiness: sight, love, joy. From these effloresces that ineffable glory with which the blessed will shine for ever on account of their fruition of the supreme good. For as that happiness is the full and ultimate perfection of the soul and all its faculties, so it requires the operation of all the powers, every imperfection having been removed (i.e., perfect vision, and from it supreme joy and consolation). Sight contemplates God as the supreme good; love is carried out towards him, and is most closely united with him; and joy enjoys and acquiesces in him. Sight perfects the intellect, love the will, joy the conscience. Sight answers to faith, which is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, which will then be changed into sight because we will no longer walk by faith, but by sight, beholding God face to face. Love consummated, by which we will be united with God, will answer to love begun, which sanctifies the heart. Joy answers to hope, which accompanies the fruition of the thing hoped for. Vision begets love. God cannot be seen without being loved; love draws joy after it because he cannot be possessed without filling with joy. Vision is opposed to the banishing of the damned from his face and to the most dense darkness of ignorance in which they lie; love the most furious hatred which they cherish toward him; joy to the dreadful despair and wailing which will arise from the multiplicity and continuity of the torments they will feel.