Archive for October, 2009

“The Nature and Danger of Heresies”

October 28, 2009

Obadiah Sedgewick (1599/1600-1658) preached a sermon before parliament with the above title.  This is an interesting work from both a historical (he has a couple of lists of errors troubling the church) and theological (defining heresy etc).  I may post his list of errors as it is enlightening and edifying.  Here is his stirring conclusion on how ministers should respond in the face of heresy:

I have also a word to say to you who are Ministers of the Gospel of Christ: Come you forth from your long silences, neglects and reserves: and help the Church of Christ, in swallowing up the flood which the Serpent hath cast out of his mouth: when Jesus Christ is blasphemed, it is not a time to fear, but to cry out … Men will  say that you are moderate and discreet, but what will Christ say to you, if at such a time you be silent in his cause?  Oh my brethren! you are the husbandmen, take heed that none sow tares in the field, whiles you sleep: you are the builders, O be sure to preserve the foundation safe: you are the shepherds of the flock, O beware of the wolves, lest they break in and destroy the sheep!  … You are the watchmen, O look out, lest the enemy slip in and surprise the city!  You are the fathers, be sure that your children have not a stone given to them instead of bread, or a serpent instead of fish.

You must help with your most fervent prayers: as Alexander once did, and prevailed against Arius: You must help with your counsels, with your watchings, with your preachings … You must … stand for truth, and withstand errors:  You are (in a singular manner) intrusted with truth and souls.  O watch, O pray, O preach, O do all that faithful ministers should do, when a flood breaks in: You read of Elijah’s zeal against the false prophets, and of Paul’s zeal against false Apostles: You have read of the zeal of Athanasius against the Arians: and of the zeal of Cyprian against the Novatians: and of the zeal of Austine against the Manichees, and against the Pelagians: You have read of the zeal of Hierome, of Chrysostome, of Nazianzen, and many others in ancient times: You have read of the zeal of Luther, and Calvin, and others in later times.  Ou have shewed your zeal to the Kingdom in our dangerous times; I say no more, remember your first works, remember your engagements and be zealous: If you who are the Angels of Christ, the Ministers of Christ, the stewards of Christ, if you be drowzie, if you be silent, if you stop your own mouths when mouths are opened against your Christ, whose mouth can we expect should open it self to swallow up the flood?

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“this Error of seeking Righteousness by our Works”

October 12, 2009

One doctrine the 17th century Scottish theologians got right (among many!) was justification.  While England was being troubled by both neonomianism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other the Presbyterian leaders of the Scottish church avoided both extremes.  It was the entrance of the dead faith of moderatism that paved the way for the neonomianism of Baxter to enter the Scottish Church.  It was this the Marrowmen did so much to fight against.  But among the mid 17th Century leaders of the Scottish church all was well.  Here is David Dickson opposing the error of those seeking to add “works righteousness” to justification:

Unto this Error of seeking Righteousness by our Works, after entering in the way of Justification by Grace, we are all naturally inclined; for, the Covenant of Works is so engraven in all Adam’s Children, Do this and live, that hardly can we renounce this way of Justification, and howsoever it be impossible to attain Righteousness this way, yet hardly can we submit our selves to the Righteousness by Faith in Christ, which not only the Expereince of Israel after the Flesh maketh manifest, but also the Experience of the Galatians lets us see; for, they having once outwardly renounced Justification by Works, and embraced the Covenant of gracious Reconciliation by Faith in Jesus, did turn about for a time, to seek Justification by the Works of the Law, and were on the way of falling from Grace and Communion…
David Dickson, Therapeutica Sacra (Edinburgh: Evan Tyler, 1664), 298.

Why is justification a perennial issue for the Christians?  Because we are all by nature inclined to want to add something to our justification.  Dickson’s example of the Galatians gives all a stark warning against this tendency:

…the Galatians, who having begun in the spiritual way of Justification by Faith, sought to be perfected by the fleshly way of Justification by works, and did fall in danger of falling from Grace and excluding themselves from the blessing of the promise through Christ.
Dickson, Thereputica Sacra, 746.

But what of the teaching of James.  Dickson accounts for this well:

…the Gospel doth not teach us to seek the Justification of our Persons before God by Works, but by Faith in Christ, and then teacheth us to seek the Justification of our Faith before Men in our own and others Conscience, by the sincere endeavour of new Obedience…
Dickson, Thereputica Sacra, 315-6

May we all be enabled to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (WLC Q&A 70):

What is justification?

Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Grace in the Garden?

October 5, 2009

Following up the discussion at Meet the Puritans Samuel Rutherford explains as follows (note particularly his third point):

In all pactions between the Lord and man, even in a Law-Covenant there is some outbreakings of grace.  It is true, there was no Gospel-Grace, that is a fruit of Christ’s merit in this Covenant.  But yet if grace be taken for undeserved goodness: There are these respects of grace.  1. That God might have given to Adam something inferior to the glorious image of God, that consists in true righteousness, knowledge of God, and holiness, Gen 1:26, Eph 4:24, Col 3:10 … 2. Being and dominion over the creatures is of undeserved goodness … 3. The Covenant of Works itself, that God out of sovereignty does not command, is undeserved condescending; that God bargains for hire, do this and live, whereas he may … [as] Sovereign Lawgiver … charge and command us, is overcoming goodness.  Law is honeyed with love, and hire; it is mercy that for our penny of obedience, so rich a wage as communion with God is given…”
Samuel Rutherford, The Covenant of Life Opened: Or, A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace (Edinburgh: Robert Broun for Andrew Anderson), 35.

Brings a helpful balance to this debate I think.  Whatever the exact view of the word “grace” in reference to the garden of Eden surely the substance of what Rutherford says is correct.

The blog will hopefully be up and running again now.  It has been a very busy time trying to finish off the thesis, work as hectic as ever and the general rush of life!