Quotes

The Reformed Catholic Family: Timeless Wisdom From A Westminster Divine by Blake Blount

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An Introduction To The Series on Building a Godly Home by William Gouge

By now I ought not to be surprised that an old Reformed churchman is a fountain of godly piety, encouragement, and conviction, but here I am again. William Gouge’s practical handbook on family life is a refreshing stream of water flowing from such a wellspring. Modernized in three volumes under the title Building a Godly Home, the book was originally released in a single volume as Domestical Duties, and it excellently presents the blessings we have in Christ, along with the duties we owe to Him and to one another in our homes. It’s just what you’d like to see from an honored member of the Westminster Assembly: warm, firm, attentive, fatherly, compassionate, biblical, and catholic. It’s a work worthy of rediscovery in all the churches of God.

To that end, I’ll be posting a series of excerpts from Building a Godly Home.

The first is the very opening lines of the book:

It has pleased God to call every one to two vocations. One vocation is general, in which certain common duties are to be performed by all men (as knowledge, faith, obedience, repentance, love, mercy, justice, truth, etc.). The other is particular, in which certain specific duties are required of individual people, according to those distinct places where divine providence has set them in the nation, church, and family.

Therefore God’s ministers ought to be careful in instructing God’s people in both kinds of duties; both those which concern their general calling and those which concern their particular calling. Accordingly Paul, who, like Moses, was faithful in all the house of God (Num. 12:7), after he had sufficiently instructed God’s church in the general duties that belong to all Christians, regardless of sex, state, degree, or condition (Eph. 4:1-5:21), proceeds to lay down certain particular duties, which apply to particular callings and conditions (Eph. 5:22-6:9). Among these particular duties, he notes those which God has established in a family.

With excellent skill he passes from those general duties to the particular ones, laying down a transition between the with these words, “ Submitting your selves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). The form and manner of setting down this verse, with the participle “submitting,” shows that it depends on that which was said before. Again, the fact that the word itself is the very same which is used in the following verse, shows that this verse contains the sum of that which follows, and connects the general to the particulars. This manner of passing from one point to another, by a perfect transition which looks both to that which is past and to that which is coming, is very elegant and frequently employed by our apostle.

Thereby he teaches us to pay attention to that which follows, while we do not forget that which is past. While we must give diligent attention to that which remains to be said, we must also retain that we have heard, and not let it slip. Otherwise, if (as one nail drives out another) one precept makes another be forgotten, it will be altogether in vain to add line to line, or precept to precept.

Let us not upon pretext of one duty, though it may seem to be the weightier, think to discard another, lest that fearful “woe” which Christ denounced against the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:23) fall upon our heads. As God is careful to instruct us how to act both towards His own majesty and also towards one another, so in both let us seek His approval. Remember what Christ said to the Pharisees, “These ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42). The same Lord that requires praise to His own majesty instructs us in mutual service one to another. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).

As was the case throughout, I was struck by how pointedly this speaks to our modern moment, which is to say: pitting duties one against another to avoid the ones we don’t like is a timeless temptation. One of the two broad classes of duties Gouge identifies here often cannibalizes the other. In teachings on the sexes, for instance, it’s not hard to find folks denying that there are manly duties distinct from womanly duties; all are simply to “be like Christ.”

But while all are to be like Christ with regard to our general duties, we must also render our due according to the particular callings to which we are called. Likewise, I see in young men (myself included) a tendency to use particular calls to defend the Faith as a cover to their lack of general, personal holiness. It is a deadly poison. Let us all endeavor to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and not think to discard one duty on the pretext of another.

The Fall Was Not A New Creation: Bavinck On Nature, Sex, And Socialism by Blake Blount

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“In all these issues Reformed theology was able to make such sound judgments because it was deeply imbued with the idea that Adam did not yet enjoy the highest level of blessedness. Sin undoubtedly has cosmic significance. As is evident from the phenomenon of death, sin also impacts our physical existence and has brought the entire earth under the curse. Without sin the development of humanity and the history of the earth would have been very different—though still unimaginable. Still, on the other hand, the state of integrity cannot be equated with the state of glory. We may not draw conclusions from the former for the conditions of the latter. Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25 can no more be applied to the state of human life before the fall than Mark 12:25; Luke 20:36; and 1 Corinthians 6:13 (etc.). Though the form (forma) has changed, the matter (materia) of humankind, plant, animal, nature, and earth is the same before and after the fall. All the essential components existing today were present also before the fall. The distinctions and dissimilarities between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends; the numerous institutions and relations in the life of society such as marriage, family, child rearing, and so forth; the alternation of day and night, workdays and the day of rest, labor and leisure, months and years; man’s dominion over the earth through science and art, and so forth—while all these things have undoubtedly been modified by sin and changed in appearance, they nevertheless have their active principle and foundation in creation, in the ordinances of God, and not in sin. Socialism and communism, also the socialism and communism of many Christian sects, are right in combating the appalling consequences of sin, especially also in the sphere of society. But these systems do not stop there; they also come into conflict with the nature of things, the creation ordinances, and therefore consistently take on, not a reformational, but a revolutionary character.”

From Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2. ch. 13 on Human Destiny

Godliness Evidenced When Against The Stream: Richard Baxter by Shane Anderson

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I know law, and custom, and education, and friends, when they side with godliness, are a great advantage to it, by affording helps, and removing those impediments that might stick much with carnal minds. But truth is not your own, till it be received in its proper evidence; nor your faith divine, till you believe what you believe, because God is true who doth reveal it; nor are you the children of God, till you love him for himself; nor are you truly religious, till the truth and goodness of religion itself be the principal thing that maketh you religious. It helpeth much to discover a man's sincerity, when he is not only religious among the religious, but among the profane, and the enemies, and scorners, and persecutors of religion: and when a man doth not pray only in a praying family, but among the prayerless, and the deriders of fervent constant prayer: and when a man is heavenly among them that are earthly, and temperate among the intemperate and riotous, and holdeth the truth among those that reproach it and that hold the contrary: when a man is not carried only by a stream of company, or outward advantages, to his religion, nor avoideth sin for want of a temptation, but is religious though against the stream, and innocent when cast (unwillingly) upon temptations; and is godly where godliness is accounted singularity, hypocrisy, faction, humour, disobedience, or heresy; and will rather let go the reputation of his honesty, than his honesty itself. 

From Richard Baxter’s “Christian Directory”  http://a.co/0rbSMSd

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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