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Quotations Theological Reflections

The Overthrow of Satan

Whether or not the Seventy actually returned to Jesus before the Feast of Tabernacles, it is convenient to consider in this connection the result of their Mission. It had filled them with the ‘joy’ of assurance; nay, the result had exceeded their expectations, just as their faith had gone beyond the mere letter unto the spirit of His Words. As they reported it to Him, even the demons had been subject to them through His Name. In this they had exceeded the letter of Christ’s commission; but as they made experiment of it, their faith had grown, and they had applied His command to ‘heal the sick’ to the worst of all sufferers, those grievously vexed by demons. And, as always, their faith was not disappointed. Nor could it be otherwise. The great contest had been long decided; it only remained for the faith of the Church to gather the fruits of that victory. The Prince of Light and Life had vanquished the Prince of Darkness and Death. The Prince of this world must be cast out. {St. John 12:31.} In spirit, Christ gazed on ‘Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.’ As one has aptly paraphrased it: ‘While you cast out his subjects, I saw the prince himself fall.’ It has been asked, whether the words of Christ referred to any particular event, such as His Victory in the Temptation. But any such limitation would imply grievous misunderstanding of the whole. So to speak, the fall of Satan is to the bottomless pit; ever going on to the final triumph of Christ. As the Lord beholds him, he is fallen from heaven — from the seat of power and of worship; for, his mastery is broken by the Stronger than he. And he is fallen like lightning, in its rapidity, dazzling splendor, and destructiveness. {Revelation 12:7-12.} Yet as we perceive it, it is only demons cast out in His Name. For still is this fight and sight continued, and to all ages of the present dispensation. Each time the faith of the Church casts out demons — whether as formerly, or as they presently vex men, whether in the lighter combat about possession of the body, or in the sorer fight about possession of the soul — as Christ beholds it, it is ever Satan fallen. For, he sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied.

Alfred Edersheim The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

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Quotations Theological Reflections

The Holy Spirit and Christ’s Character

The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ, including equipping Him for that work, has received considerable attention from Reformed, perhaps particularly from Puritan, theologians. It is a Biblically grounded and theologically significant topic that we would do well to remember and understand. Hugh Martin sets it out briefly:

Whatever therefore is now requisite or suitable in Him that shall be acknowledged as the last Adam, Head of the redeemed of God, First-born among many brethren, standing in the room and at the head of all, that the Holy Spirit shall now work gloriously by His grace in the Man that is Jehovah’s fellow, and redeemer of the sons of men. Far-reaching wisdom, and understanding, and insight into the Father’s eternal counsel with Himself the eternal Son (Isa. 11:2), shall now dwell in His human intellect. Sympathy profound with the Father’s electing love shall now beat true and tender in His human heart. Compassion for the countless perishing ones, and adoring desire for His Father’s glory in their salvation, shall now qualify Him to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken hearted (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18). Patience unmurmuring; perseverance, in the face of hell’s floods of opposition; mercy, in the face of men’s malice and rejection of Him; longings for His cross, and agonies till His baptism of blood be accomplished (Luke 12:50); all these graces, and all others needed in His office, now publicly assumed and entered on, will the Holy Spirit of His baptism unfailingly, and unto the uttermost, operate in Jesus, the Head and Mediator of His Church.

(The Abiding Presence)

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Quotations Theological Reflections

The Substance of the Covenant of Grace

He covenants with the Israelites as their God and also as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the very substance of the covenant of grace on God’s part, embracing in itself the whole communication of God towards the perfecting and glorifying of sinful man. Hence he is set forth not only as the God of his people, but also as their Redeemer; as the merciful pardoner of sins; as a sanctifier, promising circumcision of the heart; as a faithful husband, having a marital care for his people; as a kind father, who begets sons, nourishes and cherishes them with paternal affection; as a gracious king, who placed his sanctuary in the midst of the people that he might dwell and walk with them, i.e., might hold communion with them, deeming them worthy of his gracious presence for direction in difficulties, protection in dangers, blessing in adversity and consolation in griefs.

Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology XII.12,10

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Quotations Theological Reflections

The Unchanging Freedom of God’s Grace

Less open to objection than all these offered solutions is the old view, according to which, reading the clause {Ehyer asher Ehyeh, Ex. 3.14} straight from beginning to end, it gives expression to the self-determination, the independence of God, that which, especially in soteric associations, we are accustomed to call His sovereignty. Considerable support this receives from the analogously-phrased sentence in Ex. 33.19, where the context seems to call rather for an affirmation of the sovereignty of God in bestowing the favour of vision of Himself than for an assurance to the effect that, promising to be gracious, He will be truly gracious. Thus taken, the name Jehovah signifies primarily that in all God does for His people, He is from-within-determined, not moved upon by outside influences.
But from this there issues immediately another thought, quite inseparable from it, viz., that being determined from within, and not subject to change within, He is not subject to change at all, particularly not subject to it in relation to His people. Thus understood, the name fits admirably into the situation of its revealing. Jehovah, the absolute God, acting with unfettered liberty, was the very God to help them in their unworthiness as regards themselves, and in their impotence as regards the Egyptians. That sovereignty underlies God’s giving Himself to Israel is stated in so many words: ‘I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God, and ye shall know that I am Jehovah, your God’ [Ex. 6.7]. But the other element, that of faithfulness, is equally much emphasized from the beginning: ‘Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this my memorial unto all generations [Ex. 3.15]. ‘I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am Jehovah’ [Ex. 6.5, 6, 8]. In Ex. 33.19, where God gives a disclosure of His sovereignty to Moses, this is brought into connection with the name Jehovah. In the later Scriptures the second elements, that of faithfulness, is especially associated with the name [Deut.7.9; Isa. 26.4; Hos. 2.20; Mal. 3.6].

Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology

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Quotations Theological Reflections

The Cross & the Problem of Evil

Horatius Bonar, “The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ”

Such were the evil things connected with the cross, which by the work done by the Son of God have all turned into good. All our evils He took upon Him that He might secure for us all the good belonging to Himself. For condemnation, He gives us pardon; for shame, honour and glory; for weakness, strength; for pain, ease and comfort; for the curse, the blessing; for rejection, acceptance; for hatred, love; for death, life everlasting. He that believeth hath all these things. All the evil passes to Him, and all the good to us, on our crediting the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the cross and the things done there.
This cross, where so many evil things meet, is the place where all good things are to be found. God gathered all the evil to that spot, that He might utterly make away with it, through Him who took all the evil on Himself, that He might bring out of it only good. At the cross it was consumed by fire: it was buried out of sight. The crucifixion transformed evil into good.

(It is a little sad to note that Bonar did not always keep up to this level of understanding; when he is good, as here, he is wonderful, but his doctrine and thinking are so weak on certain points, it is no surprise that Dabney had occasion to criticize him in his article called “The Theology of the Plymouth Brethren”, available for download here.)

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Opening Scripture Pastoral Care Piety Practical Notes Preaching Quotations Theological Reflections

Scourging and Receiving

Augustine on Psalm 116

“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful” (ver. 5).
He is gracious, righteous, and merciful. Gracious in the first place, because He hath inclined His ear unto me; and I knew not that the ear of God had approached my lips, till I was aroused by those beautiful feet, that I might call upon the Lord’s Name: for who hath called upon Him, save he whom He first called? Hence therefore He is in the first place “gracious;” but “righteous,” because He scourgeth; and again, “merciful,” because He receiveth; for “He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;” nor ought it to be so bitter to me that He scourgeth, as sweet that He receiveth. For how should not “The Lord, who keepeth little ones” (ver. 6), scourge those whom, when of mature age, He seeketh to be heirs; “for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”

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Quotations Theological Reflections

The Beginning of Repentance

Hosea 6:1
Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

The Prophet means by these words, that God does not so punish men as to pour forth his wrath upon them for their destruction; but that he intends, on the contrary, to promote their salvation, when he is severe in punishing their sins. We must then remember, as we have before observed, that the beginning of repentance is a sense of God’s mercy; that is, when men are persuaded that God is ready to give pardon, they then begin to gather courage to repent; otherwise perverseness will ever increase in them; how much soever their sin may frighten them, they will yet never return to the Lord. And for this purpose I have elsewhere quoted that remarkable passage in Psalm 130, ‘With thee is mercy, that thou mayest be feared;’ for it cannot be, that men will obey God with true and sincere heart, except a taste of his goodness allures them, and they can certainly determine, that they shall not return to him in vain, but that he will be ready, as we have said, to pardon them. This is the meaning of the words, when he says, Come, and let us turn to the Lord; for he has torn and he will heal us; that is, God has not inflicted on us deadly wounds; but he has smitten, that he might heal.

John Calvin, Commentary on the Prophet Hosea, Lecture 16

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Opening Scripture Piety Practical Notes Quotations Theological Reflections

The light shineth in darkness

Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, (on Isaiah 9:1):

As always the people of God must decide what reading of their experiences they will live by. Are they to look at the darkness, the hopelessness, the dreams shattered and conclude that God has forgotten them? Or are they to recall his past mercies, to remember his present promises and to make great affirmations of faith? Isaiah insists here that hope is a present reality, part of the constitution of the ‘now’. The darkness is true but it is not the whole truth and certainly not the fundamental truth.

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Practical Notes Quotations

Stoicism is not patience

You see that to bear the cross patiently is not to have your feelings altogether blunted, and to be absolutely insensible to pain, according to the absurd description which the Stoics of old gave of their hero as one who, divested of humanity, was affected in the same way by adversity and prosperity, grief and joy; or rather, like a stone, was not affected by anything. And what did they gain by that sublime wisdom? they exhibited a shadow of patience, which never did, and never can, exist among men. Nay, rather by aiming at a too exact and rigid patience, they banished it altogether from human life. Now also we have among Christians a new kind of Stoics, who hold it vicious not only to groan and weep, but even to be sad and anxious. These paradoxes are usually started by indolent men who, employing themselves more in speculation than in action, can do nothing else for us than beget such paradoxes. But we have nothing to do with that iron philosophy which our Lord and Master condemned — not only in word, but also by his own example. For he both grieved and shed tears for his own and others’ woes. Nor did he teach his disciples differently: “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice,” (John 16:20.) And lest any one should regard this as vicious, he expressly declares, “Blessed are they that mourn,” (Matthew 5:4.) And no wonder. If all tears are condemned, what shall we think of our Lord himself, whose “sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground?” (Luke 22:44; Matthew 26:38.) If every kind of fear is a mark of unbelief, what place shall we assign to the dread which, it is said, in no slight degree amazed him; if all sadness is condemned, how shall we justify him when he confesses, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death?”

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.8.9.

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Quotations Theological Reflections

Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude

The Heidelberg Catechism explicitly adopts a threefold structure in its treatment of Christian doctrine.

Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
Answer: Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

Francis Turretin demonstrates the benefits of knowing those three things, and finds them exhibited in the OT ceremonial law:

With regard to the covenant of grace, there was a use of the law to show its necessity by a demonstration of sin and of human misery; of its truth and excellence by a shadowing forth of Christ and his offices and benefits; to seal his manifold grace in its figures and sacraments; to keep up the expectation and desire of him by that laborious worship and by the severity of its discipline to compel them to seek him; and to exhibit the righteousness and image of the spiritual worship required by him in that covenant. Undoubtedly three things are always to be specially inculcated upon man: (1) his misery; (2) God’s mercy; (3) the duty of gratitude: what he is by nature; what he has received by grace; and what he owes by obedience. These three things the ceremonial law set before the eyes of the Israelites, since ceremonies included especially these three relations. The first inasmuch as they were appendices of the law and the two others as sacraments of evangelical grace. (a) There were confessions of sins, of human misery and of guilt contracted by sin (Col. 2:14; Heb.10:1-3). (b) Symbols and shadows of God’s mercy and of the grace to be bestowed by Christ (Col. 2:17; Heb. 9:13,14). (c) Images and pictures of duty and of the worship to be paid to God in testimony of a grateful mind (Rom. 12:1). Misery engendered in their minds humility; mercy, solace; and the duty of gratitude, sanctification. These three were expressly designated in the sacrifices. For as they were a “handwriting” on the part of God (Col. 2:14) representing the debt contracted by sin, so they were a shadow of the ransom (lytrou) to be paid by Christ (Col. 2:17, Heb. 10:5,10) and pictures of the reasonable (latreias logik?s) and gospel worship to be given to God by believers (Rom. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:5)

(Institutes of Elenctic Theology XI,24.9, punctuation slightly modified for clarity)

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