Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nearer and Dearer than Self

"They who have a spiritual perception of the divine beauty of God our Saviour are drawn by a high attraction, and induced to forego, not only the sins, but the pleasures, emoluments, and distinctions which absorb men's present thoughts. The knowledge of God, taught by the Spirit, is invariably connected with a new spiritual relish, or a new sense, which inclines the mind to rest in God as better than the creature, -- to regard sin as repulsive, and holiness as the element in which the mind delights to dwell. The heart is weaned by the revelation of the surpassing excellence of God, and so drawn by the cords of a man, by bands of love [Hos. 11:4 AV], that the supreme God is not only accepted as its portion, but enthroned as its Lord, to whom every power must be subjected, and who is nearer and dearer than self." [George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, p. 255]

Monday, July 14, 2014

Two Misleading Influences

In his masterful book, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, George Smeaton writes,
Two misleading influences run counter to the active prosecution of progressive sanctification in the Spirit. Some regard sanctification as occupying the subordinate place of furnishing but an evidence of our salvation. They consider that Scripture, in enforcing sanctification of the Spirit, means little more than to supply an evidence that we are justified by faith. It is thus made a mere means to an end, whereas it is everywhere inculcated in Scripture as the express command of God (1 Pet. 1:16; 1 Thes. 4:3). Another tendency, in a different quarter, is to regard sanctification in the Spirit as something necessarily developed of its own accord, without any exercise of the will. But Scripture allows no quarter for Quietism in any of its forms. [p. 249]

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Lutherans vs. Puritans

Lately I've been eagerly devouring George Smeaton's The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and honestly wondering why it took me so long to pick it up off my bookshelf! Yesterday I stumbled on something that I believe is extremely relevant in an era when many so-called Reformed teachers are gravitating toward a quasi-Lutheran approach to God's law and sanctification. According to Smeaton, this problem stems from a failure to recognize that the Spirit's sanctifying work is always accomplished through the conscious, cooperative activity of the believer. In other words, it is never passive and never bypasses the exercise of the faculties of our 'new humanity in Christ Jesus'. Whereas the Spirit's work of regenerating our dead souls was exclusively monergistic and involved no cooperation on our part, His work of progressively sanctifying us is not so (Phil. 2:12-13). Here's what Smeaton has to say:
The Spirit's work, as the great inhabitant of the regenerate heart, appears in continually sanctifying all the mental powers; and a marked line of distinction must be drawn between THE PREVENIENT GRACE OF THE SPIRIT and His CO-OPERATING GRACE. The former belongs to effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, and faith, in which the man with all his powers is the object in whom the Spirit operates by the word; the latter belongs to His progressive sanctification, in which the Spirit calls into exercise the new powers of the renewed mind, and where there are NO IMMEDIATE ACTINGS OF THE SPIRIT superseding that co-operation: for who can see without an eye, or hear without an ear? The Holy Spirit does not move the hearts of regenerate men by mere power, but on another principle. He moves them by THOSE SPIRITUAL POWERS or graces with which they are now provided. The Spirit which is in Christ without measure, is in them by measure as a Spirit of life; not moving the mind as a stone, or as a wheel, by mere power, but according to the new nature which has been created and formed in it. [pp. 238-239, original caps]
 Smeaton later adds,
 The practical neglect of this distinction may sometimes be traced in Church history and on whole generations of men. The Lutherans, for example, though they spoke much and admirably of grace and liberty, were too easily satisfied that the good tree, by the inevitable law of its existence, would bring forth its fruit. They neglected the due cultivation of the graces of the Spirit in the new creature. On the contrary, the Puritans pruned and cultivated the good tree with unwearied diligence, and made every Christian grace and duty, after scriptural example, the subject of wholesome exhortation. [p. 239]

Friday, June 6, 2014

Persecution in America

Those desiring to learn more about various forms of persecution against Christians that are presently taking place in America will find a fairly comprehensive list HERE.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Samuel Bolton on Christian Freedom

In his priceless work, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, Samuel Bolton says (in a certain sense) all that really needs to be said about antinomianism: "He that thinks not service to be his freedom thinks not sin to be his bondage, and therefore he is in bondage."  [p. 48]

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vintage Rutherford

 This past week I began reading through a printed EEBO edition of Samuel Rutherford's Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself (1647). For those like myself who absolutely need to get their hands on a hard copy in order to read a volume like this (even if the Kindle version is much cleaner), you can find one on Amazon. Below are some of the highlights from the sections I've been reading through thus far (with a few minor alterations of punctuation and spelling for enhanced accessibility). Enjoy!
[Christ] received an acquittance of justification, never a pardon of grace; 1 Tim. 3:16. Justified in the Spirit. [p. 7]
 If my soul or your souls, O redeemed of the Lord, could be valued every one of them worth ten thousand millions of souls, and as many heavens, they could not over-weigh the soul of God [in Christ]; the soul that lodges in a glorious union with God; and the loss of heaven to the troubled soul of this noble, and high and lofty one, though but for a time, was more, and infinitely greater than my loss of heaven and hte loss of all the elect for eternity. [p. 7]
 You sin (saith the Love of loves) and I suffer. You did the wrong, I make the amends. You sin and sing in your carnal joys, I weep for your joy. The fairest face that ever was, was foul with weeping for your sinful rejoicing. It was fitting that free-love in the bowels of Christ should contrive the way to heaven through free-love. We should never in heaven cast down our crowns at the feet of him that sits on the throne with such fear and admiration if we had come to the crown by law-doing and not by gospel-confiding on a rich Ransom-payer. [p. 8]
 We complain in our soul-trouble of Christ's departure from us, but he is not gone; our sense is not our Bible, nor a good rule; there is an error in this compass. [p. 11]
 If I had any hell on me, I should choose an innocent hell, like Christ's. Better [to] suffer ill a thousand times than sin. [p. 11]
The six days of creation hath been travailing and shouting for pain, and the child is not born yet, Rom. 8:22. This poor woman hath been groaning under the bondage of vanity, and shall not be brought to bed [until] Jesus come the second time to be Mid-wife to the birth. [p. 12]
Soft and childish saints take it not well that they are not every day feasted with Christ's love, that they lie not all the night between the Redeemer's breasts, and are not dandled on his knee... But they forget the difference between the inns of clay and the home of glory. Our fields here are sown with tears, grief grows in every furrow of this low-land. You shall lay soul and head down in the bosom and between the breasts of Jesus Christ; that bed must be soft and delicious; it's perfumed with uncreated glory. The thoughts of all your now soul-troubles shall be as shadows that passed away ten thousand years ago, when Christ shall circle his glorious arm about your head, and you rest in an infinite compass of surpassing glory; or when glory, or ripened grace, shall be within you, and without you, above, and below, when feet of clay shall walk upon pure surpassing glory: The street of the city was pure gold: There is no gold there, but glory only; gold is but a shadow to all that is there. [p. 13]
 If the ransom [Christ] gave had been [too] little, he would have given more. [p. 14]
 O Love of heaven, and fairest of Beloveds, the flower of Angels, why camest thou so low down, as to be-spot and under-rate the spotless love of all loves, with coming nigh to black sinners? Who could have believed that lumps of hell and sin could be capable of the warmings and sparkles of so high and princely a Love? Or that there could be place in the breast of the High and Lofty One for forlorn and guilty clay. [p 15]
 We would either have a silken, a soft, a perfumed cross, sugared and honeyed with the consolations of Christ, or we faint; and providence must either brew a cup of gall and wormwood mastered in the mixing with joy and songs, else we cannot be disciples. But Christ's cross did not smile on him, his cross was a cross, and his ship sailed in blood, and his blessed soul was sea-sick and heavy even to death. [p. 15]
 The peace that the Lord bringeth out of the womb of war is better than the rotten peace that we had in the superstitious days of the prelates.
Heaven is the more heaven that to Christ it was a purchase of blood. [p. 16]
We cannot have a paper-cross; except we would take on us to... put the creation in a new frame and take the world and make it a great leaden vessel, melt it in the fire, and cast a new mold of it. [p. 16]
 Many nowadays give out [that] they have so much of the Lord Jesus, that they are Christed and swallowed up in his love, yet should I think it all happiness, if I could but tell Christ's name [Prov. 30:4], and were so deeply learned as to know how they call him [Isa. 53:8]. [To the Reader]
 In this learned age, when Antinomians write book after book of Christ, I should say, for all their crying, O the Gospel-Spirit, the Gospel-Strain of Preaching, the Mystery of free grace (which few of them know), that one ounce, one grain of the spiritual and practical knowledge of Christ is more to be valued than talent-weights, yea, ship-loads or mountains of knowledge of the dumb school-letter. They say, the saints are perfect, and their works perfect. I slander them not: read Master Towne, M. Eaton, and Saltmarsh. But how ignorant they are of the gospel, how ill read and little versed in Christ. Yea, as Luther said, Take away sin, and ye take away Christ a Saviour of sinners. How little acquainted with and how great strangers to their own hearts are they in writing so. [To the Reader]

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rutherford's Refreshing Optimism

"Christ’s way of administration is a growing way; his kingdom is not a standing, nor a sitting, nor a sleeping kingdom, but it is walking and posting: ‘Thy kingdom come’: an increasing kingdom, a growing peace, ‘Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.’ … Despise not the day of small things. God’s beginning of great works is small. What could be said of a poor woman’s throwing of a stool at the man who did first read the new service book in Edinburgh? It was not looked at as any eminent passage of divine providence; yet it grew, till it came up to armies of men, the shaking of three kingdoms, the sound of a trumpet, the voice of the alarm, the lifting up of the Lord’s standard, destruction upon destruction, garments rolled in blood; – and goeth on in strength, that the vengeance of the Lord, and the vengeance of his temple, may pursue the land of graven images, and awake the kings of the earth to rise in battle against the great whore of Babylon, that the Jews may return to their Messiah, and Israel and Judah ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, weeping as they go; that the forces of the Gentiles, and the kingdoms of the world, may become the kingdoms of God and of his Son Jesus Christ. And this act of a despised woman, was one of the first steps of Omnipotency… And who knoweth but Christ is in the act of conquering, to create a new thing on the earth, and subdue the people to himself? Omnipotency can derive a sea, a world of noble and glorious works, from as small a fountain as a straw, a ram-horn, yea, [the] jaw-bone of a dead ass. God can put forth Omnipotency in all its flowers and golden branches of overpowering and incomparable excellencies, upon mere nothing: the wind is an empty unsolid thing, the sea a fluid and soft and ebbing creature; yet the wind is God’s chariot, he rideth on it; and the sea his walk, his paths are in the great waters.” [Samuel Rutherford, The Trial and Triumph of Faith, pp. 267-269]