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.’

Scourging and Receiving

August 22nd, 2010

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?”

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)

God the Comforter

March 28th, 2010

Martin Luther, speaking of John 14:16, shows that the true God is the God of comfort:

What are the devil, death, and all things over against the eternal, almighty majesty of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who want to be and are our Comforter? For if He who is sent is called a Comforter, then both He who sent Him and He by whom He is sent must be the same Comforter. Then there is surely no God besides Him who is a Comforter. And henceforth he who wants to know God aright and name Him appropriately must call Him “Comforter” or, as St. Paul terms Him in Rom. 15:5, “the God of Comfort,” namely, for those who are frightened and have no other comfort. They must not conceive of God otherwise than as a Comforter of the wretched and troubled. They must give the lie both to the devil, who threatens with God’s wrath and with hell, and to their own heart, and say to the devil: “You are a false spirit of lies!” and to their heart: “You are a false, foolish heart!”

(From Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 14-16, which is v.24 of the 55-volume Works edited by Jaroslav Pelikan.)

Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, IV.13,22

So far is the doctrine of the certainty of grace from being the mother of security and the midwife of licentiousness, that there is no greater incentive to true piety than a vivid sense of the love of God and of his benefits. This so powerfully lays hold of and inflames the mind that it is all on fire with a reciprocal love of him from whom it receives so great favors and has been so highly preferred over others left in the common mass of perdition.

Victory Through Faith

September 14th, 2009

Augustine (City of God, Book 21, Chapter 16) explains that our hearts must be purified through faith.

And if vices have not gathered strength, by habitual victory they are more easily overcome and subdued; but if they have been used to conquer and rule, it is only with difficulty and labor they are mastered. And indeed this victory cannot be sincerely and truly gained but by delighting in true righteousness, and it is faith in Christ that gives this. For if the law be present with its command, and the Spirit be absent with His help, the presence of the prohibition serves only to increase the desire to sin, and adds the guilt of transgression. Sometimes, indeed, patent vices are overcome by other and hidden vices, which are reckoned virtues, though pride and a kind of ruinous self-sufficiency are their informing principles. Accordingly vices are then only to be considered overcome when they are conquered by the love of God, which God Himself alone gives, and which He gives only through the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who became a partaker of our mortality that He might make us partakers of His divinity.

The Village Parson

November 28th, 2008

From Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village, a little snapshot of a good minister:



At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
His looks adorn’d the venerable place;
Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.
The service pass’d, around the pious man,
With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran;
Even children follow’d with endearing wile,
And pluck’d his gown, to share the good man’s smile.
His ready smile a parent’s warmth express’d,
Their welfare pleas’d him, and their cares distress’d;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in Heaven.
As some tall cliff, that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.

Faith and Sanctification

December 23rd, 2007

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Direction XI (pp.157,158)

You must therefore endeavour to continue and go on in the same right manner as I have taught you to begin this great work of believing in Christ, that your faith may be of the same nature from the beginning to the end, though it increase in degrees, for our faith is imperfect and joined with much unbelief in this world and we have need to pray still, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24), and therefore we have need to strive for more faith, that we may receive Christ in greater perfection. If you find that your faith has produced good works, you should thereby increase your confidence in Christ, for salvation by His mere grace. But take heed of changing the nature of your faith, from trusting on the grace and merits of Christ, to trusting on your own works, according to the popish doctrine ‘that our first justification is by grace and faith only, but our second justification is only by works’.

Beware also of trusting on faith itself, as a work of righteousness, instead of trusting on Christ by faith. If you do not find that your believing in such a right manner as I have described does produce such fruits of holiness as you desire, you ought not to diminish, but rather to increase your confidence in Christ, knowing that the weakness of your faith hinders its fruitfulness. And the greater your confidence is concerning the love of God to you in Christ, the greater will be your love to God and to His service. If you fall into any gross sin, after the work is begun in you, as David and Peter did, think not that you must cast away your confidence and expect nothing but wrath from God and Christ, and that you must refuse to be comforted by the grace of Christ, at least for some time; for thus you would be the more weak, and prone to fall into other sins; but rather strive to believe more confidently that you have ‘an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’, and that ‘He is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:1,2). And let not the guilt of sin stay at all upon your conscience, but wash it away with all speed in the fountain of Christ’s blood, which is opened for us, that it may be ready for our use on all such incident occasions; that so you may be humbled for your sins in a gospel way, and may hate your own sinfulness, and be sorry for it with godly sorrow, out of love to God. Peter might have been ruined for ever by denying Christ, as Judas was by betraying Him, if Peter’s faith had not been upheld by the prayer of Christ (Luke 22: 31,32).

If a cloud be cast over all your qualifications, so that you can see no grace at all in yourselves, yet still trust on Him that justifies the ungodly, and came to seek and to save them that are lost. If God seems to deal with you as an enemy, bringing on you some horrible affliction, as He did upon job, beware of condemning your faith and its fruits, as if they were not acceptable to God, but rather say, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him; but I will maintain mine own ways before Him’ (Job 13:15). Strive to keep and to increase faith by faith, that is, by acting faith frequently, by trusting on God to keep and to increase it, ‘being confident, that He which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6).

The True Perspective

October 5th, 2007

Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John (TNTC)

The Christians were a pitiably small remnant, persecuted by mighty foes. To all outward appearance their situation was hopeless. But it is only as Christ is seen for what He really is that anything else can be seen in its true perspective. So for these persecuted ones it was important that first of all the glory and majesty of the risen Lord be brought out.

Severity and Tenderness

January 10th, 2007

John Calvin, Commentary on the Prophet Amos, 7:1-3

Let then all teachers in the Church learn to put on these two feelings — to be vehemently indignant whenever they see the worship of God profaned, to burn with zeal for God, and to show that severity which appeared in all the Prophets, whenever due order decays, — and at the same time to sympathize with miserable men, whom they see rushing headlong into destruction, and to bewail their madness, and to interpose with God as much as is in them; in such a way, however that their compassion render them not slothful or indifferent, so as to be indulgent to the sins of men. Indeed, the temper of mind which I have mentioned ought to be possessed, so that they may go forth as suppliants before God, and implore pardon for miserable and wretched men: but when they come to the people, in their new character, that they may be severe and rigid, let them remember by whom they are sent and with what commands, let them know that they are the ministers of God, who is the judge of the world, and ought not therefore to spare the people: this then is to be attended to by us.

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