Quotes

It’s Easier To Get New Religion Than To Get A New Heart: A Warning From Baxter by Shane Anderson

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 “Either a religion made up of loose opinions, like the familists, ranters, libertines, and antinomians, and the Jesuits too much; or else made up of trifling formalities, and a great deal of bodily exercise, and stage actions, and compliments, as much of the popish devotion is: and a little will draw a carnal heart to believe a carnal doctrine. It is easier to get such a new religion, than a new heart. And then the devil tells them that now they are in the right way, and therefore they shall be saved. A great part of the world think their case is good, because they are of such or such a sect or party...”

If you’ve engaged in social media for long, you surely have seen at least some religious conversions and de-conversions. The modern context puts everything on display, making observations of human tendencies as easy as a click away. Even for the well-grounded Christian, it can be disconcerting to see someone falling into various doctrinal and practical sins. Or, it can be disappointing to see people stay in unbiblical churches, opinions, and practices when you hoped better for them. Particularly troubling is when someone seemed to know and love Christ and his Word, but later falls to a sect with a false gospel, false worship, false piety.

Sometimes the problem is less severe, at least outwardly. In our context, there are so many religious options that a person can simply find whatever degree of soundness they can tolerate and settle there, until they again are strongly challenged (by the Word or Providence) in the particulars of their own life before God. Then they simply move on again to somewhere that feels easier to the flesh.

In this quotation from Baxter’s Christian Directory he warns of two kinds of sects that appeal to this sort: on one side are those that are of “loose opinions” (what I call “free range”) and on the other side are those that excel in man-made religious activities (exotic liturgies, false worship, special works or missions, and extras of all sorts.) So then, as you see if you are observant and wise, times have not changed! These great Scylla and Charybdis still wreck many souls. As Baxter says, “It is easier to get such a new religion, than a new heart.”

They Live On Earth But Their Citizenship Is In Heaven: The Epistle to Diognetus by Shane Anderson

The Epistle to Diognetus is an early, apologetically oriented, Christian writing (c. 150-250 AD). It survived into the modern era by only one manuscript that eventually was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War. You can find the text online in many places, one of which is here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diognetus-roberts.html

The letter feels quite familiar to modern Christians and contains some beautifully written sections. This one describes the place of the Christian Church in the world: 

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For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Always In Christ Alone: Baxter On Sanctification by Shane Anderson

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I am continuing slowly through Richard Baxter’s monumental Directory and am sharing various ideas and quotations I have found particularly encouraging. Immediately preceding this quotation, he has been challenging the person who wants to please God to rid himself of any thought of self-merit or deserved acceptance before God in anything but Jesus Christ. Conversion and the beginnings of new life are only in and by Christ, but so it the way of sanctification and ultimate victory:  

 Alas! without Christ,

we know not how to live an hour;

nor can have hope or peace in any thing we have or do;

nor look with comfort either upward or downward, to God, or the creature;

nor think without terrors of our sins, of God, or of the life to come.

Resolve, therefore, that as true converts,

you are wholly to live upon Jesus Christ,

and to do all that you do by his Spirit and strength;

and to expect all your acceptance with God upon his account.

A Cheerful & Constant Use Of The Means & Helps Appointed By God: Richard Baxter by Shane Anderson

I’ve recently begun reading Baxter’s monumental  “A Christian Directory, Or A Sum Of Practical Theology And Cases Of Consience.”  In this post I provide a quotation of a brief section in which he next lays out the road map of spiritual growth. He describes the means God gives and we must use to progress spiritually. I hope it will be a help to you, and may the Lord provide you with each of these means and the grace of His Spirit to use them cheerfully and constantly!

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Bavinck: The Unanimous Opinion Of The Reformed Regarding Covenant Children by Shane Anderson

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Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4, p. 56 

“Reformed theologians unanimously agreed on the following points:

  1. That the benefits of the covenant of grace were usually distributed by God in connection with the means of grace; hence regeneration is in connection with the Word;
  2. That God, however, is not bound to these means, and hence he could also take an unusual route and regenerate and save especially young children without the Word;
  3. That he, as a rule, worked that way in the case of children of believers who were taken by death before reaching the age of discretion;
  4. That the baptized children of believers who were part of the life of the congregation had to be considered elect and regenerate until the contrary was evident from what they said and did; and
  5. That this however, was a judgment of charity, which must indeed be the rule for our attitude toward these children but cannot claim to be infallible.

On the other hand, from the very beginning there was disagreement over whether the children of believers, to the extent that they were elect, were regenerated already before, or in, or only after baptism.  Some—like Martyr, a Lasco, Dathenus, Alting, Witsius, Voetius, Mastricht—tended to favor the first view.  But the majority—Calvin, Beza, Musculus, Ursinus, de Bres, Acronius, Cloppenburg, Walaeus, Maccovius, Bucanus, Turretin, Heidegger, and others—left the question undecided.”

Bavinck: God’s Threats Against Believers Are Means Of Them Persevering by Shane Anderson

Herman Bavinck outlines the passages where Christians are warned and threatened against falling away, and are called to persevere in Christ, his word, and his love. Bavinck argues that these threats are used by God to motivate the willing perseverence, a perseverence that he has guaranteed in our regeneration and is not undermined by these threats.

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Only One Covenant of Grace: The Earliest Commentary On The WCF by Shane Anderson

The New Testament and Old Testament do not differ in substance but only in accident (its manner or shape fitting to its time and use). The essential unity of the Old and New Covenants is seen clearly in that both contain the same spiritual blessings: the promise of grace, forgiveness, and eternal life and blessing for believers in Jesus Christ. In addition, both covenants contain the requirement of the same faith and obedience. 

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John Calvin On The Sacraments As Offers Of Mercy & Pledges of Grace by Shane Anderson

In this passage from the Institutes IV.14.7, Calvin argues that the rejection of Christ in the sacraments does not imply that the sacraments are not efficacious. Instead, to those who receive them in faith, the sacraments are evidences of God's grace to us, "seals of the good-will which he entertains toward us." They "nourish, confirm, and increase our faith." 

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