Josiah Audette

"Aware of the past, curious about the future, ready to argue the present." Tocqueville

King Alfred the Great

alfred the great

Wash you, make you clean, take away the evil of your works from before mine eyes: cease to do evil. Learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed: judge the fatherless, and defend the widow. come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins were as crimson, they shall be made white as snow: though they were red like scarlet, they shall be as wool, If ye consent and obey, ye shall eat the good things of the land. But if ye refuse and be rebellious, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Isaiah 1. 16-20

INTRODUCTION

This passage is increasingly relevant to the plight of western Christendom today. Our local and supreme courts have forsaken the divine justice in its exercise of its judgments, our statist, welfare society has fostered an individualism under which no one fares well, we murder the fatherless, and we commercially institutionalize the widow. Consequentially, as the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, we are being devoured religiously by immigrant invasion, devoured economically by an all-consuming state, devoured morally by the sexual revolution, devoured ethically by the supreme court zeitgeist, devoured politically by a mobocracy, and aesthetically by a culture of death. However, these things will not be the cause of our nation’s overthrow. They are the result. The result of a lethargic apostasy in the  Christian worship of local churches.

This is not the first time the church, or English speaking peoples have relinquished themselves to be devoured in such a manner. To this end, we may look back 1200 years ago to the time of the England of the Anglo-Saxons under King Alfred the Great. Who took an almost entirely defeated and devoured nation back from the viking invaders, enlightened a practically illiterate and ignorant Christian people, built a diversified and thriving economy, reformed the laws of justice in the land, and revived a latent church. He was a King David in his deliverance of Israel from the vikings, a King Solomon in his teaching and legislating wisdom and justice to the people, and a King Josiah in reforming a dying church. Truly, he was Alfred… the Great.

PROPHET OF NORTHUMBRIA

Alcuin, a native of Northumbria (Northern England) wrote the following indictment depicting the state of the nation to the king of northern England. “Carefully consider, brothers, and diligently note: lest this extraordinary and unheard of evil might be somehow merited by the habit of some unspoken wickedness. I am not saying that the sin of fornication never appeared before among the people. But since the days of King Alfwold, fornications, adulteries, and incest have inundated the land, such that these sins have been perpetrated without any shame, even against nuns who have been dedicated to God. What can I say about greed, robbery, and perverted judgments? When it is clearer than daylight, how much these crimes have flourished everywhere and it is witnessed by a plundered people.” Firstly, what was this extraordinary and unheard evil being merited? It was the viking raids. At the time of Alfred’s birth in 849 the vikings had terrorized the inhabitants of the land in their savage raids of murder, rapine, and plunder. Religious communities especially were their targets of choice. Monasteries and churches full of wealth were plundered by the vikings who then made hasty retreats evading the sluggish saxon military. Their violence was nothing less than terrorizing, where for them the crueler the death the greater the story. They preyed on the Saxon’s weaknesses of community isolation, defenceless monasteries, and Christian holidays. One record depicts the viking execution of the defeated king of East Anglia, king Edward. “First the king was bound to a tree, where he was scourged and beaten. Then the Vikings shot arrows at him until he ‘bristled like a hedgehog.’ Annoyed at his continued calling out to Christ, the Vikings finally beheaded him.” This “extraordinary and unheard evil” referred to by that native of Northumbria is sadly not a foreign reality to us 1200 years later where Christian leaders are still being tortured and beheaded by eastern invaders. No less familiar to our society is this “habit of some unspoken wickedness” in the devoured land of England. What was this unconfessed, secret national sin that the native of Northumbria was referring to which merited such plunder? Prior to the viking invasions, England had witnessed a time of prosperity. To which the Christian people had become both indolent, ignorant, and insolent. Their love of Christian works and Christian work wained so much so that at the time of King Alfred hardly any church or statesman could understand the Latin tongue. This intellectual lethargy in the church gradually digressed into paganism in the society. Paganism marked by sexual revolution, oppression, and the abandonment of justice. Just as the native of Northumbria, who patterned his speech after the prophet Isaiah, passed judgment on the land. The native of Northumbria warns even us today that the cause of this “extraordinary and unheard evil” [of eastern invaders] is merited by our “habit of some unspoken wickedness.” Where sexual revolution has “inundated the land, such that these sins have been perpetuated without any shame.” And what too can we say of the “greed [Of people rich in debt], robbery [Of wealth redistribution], and perverse judgments  [Of the courts and parliament]? When it is clearer than daylight, how much these crimes have flourished everywhere and is witnessed by a plundered people.”

O Guide, if Thou wilt not steer fortune amain

But lets her rush so self-willed and vain,

I know that the world will doubt of Thy might,

And few among men in Thy rule will delight.

My Lord, overseeing all things from on high

Look down on mankind with mercy’s mild eye,

In wild waves of trouble they struggle and strive,

Then spare the poor earthworms, and save them alive!

“A Psalm to God” by King Alfred the Great

BATTLE OF ASHTOWN

As the native of Northumbria forewarned, in the autumn of 866 the kingdom of Northumbria fell to the vikings, followed by the kingdom of Mercia in 867, and the kingdom of East Anglia in 869. The only Anglo-Saxon kingdom remaining was the kingdom of Wessex ruled by king Ethelwulf, whose son was Alfred. Like David of Jesse, Alfred was the youngest and fifth born son of king Ethelwulf. Like Joseph, he was favoured by his parents. Like Christ, he grew in wisdom and stature. Of his childhood the Bishop of Assar writes, “He was loved by his father and mother, and even by all the people, above all his brothers, and was educated altogether at the court of the king. As he advanced through the years of infancy and youth, his form appeared more comely than that of his brothers; in look, in speech, and in manners he was more graceful than they.” Alfred developed a love for the poetry of the Saxon tongue, together with the disciplines of hunting and fighting. All of which would serve him well in his future reign. However, Alfred’s family was plagued by the treachery of the eldest son against the kingship of his father together with the deaths of many of his brothers in battle against the vikings, and ultimately the death of his father in 858. Only Alfred and his older brother Ethelred remained of the royal family. Both of whom would fight valiantly against the vikings. One of the brothers most notable engagements was the Battle of Ashdown. Alfred was a mere twenty-two years of age, neither a king or seasoned soldier. Notwithstanding he lead his men to the place where the vikings had gathered for their attack on the last standing kingdom of Wessex. In this battle Alfred was not only lacking in age, kingship, and experience, but also lacked the better ground in the battle. The vikings had positioned themselves at the top of a hill and thus began the first formality of viking battle to the Saxons assembled bellow, namely, the flyting. Flyting, was an exchange of insults, ranging from accusations of cowardice, to graphic depictions of what would be done to their corpses and womenfolk waiting in Wessex. After this demoralizing assault of words, began the assault advance of the vikings tumbling down the hill towards Alfred’s men. Alfred commanded his men to form a shieldwall where the front line overlaps their shields, brace each other shoulder to shoulder, and the ranks of men behind lean into the front line for support. Once Alfred had commanded such a formation he joined the front line wall. Much to the surprise of both the Vikings and Saxons the shield wall held the initial impact and furthermore began to push the Vikings backwards up the hill from whence they descended. This initial success worked an almost animal rage in Alfred in cutting down the Vikings. His men later would depict him in battle as a wild boar on the battlefield, razing through the enemy lines as a bloody beast. Alfred and his ability to command was stuck in the shieldwall, from which no man could depart lest the vikings break through the gap. As a Saxon fell on the front line another would immediately step up from behind him to fill the wall. Naturally the length of the battle up the hill began to put a strain not he shieldwall. Alfred’s brother, Ethelred, was to join him in battle, but was delayed by a prolonged morning mass. When his aid was most needed, Ethelred accompanied by his men appeared over the ridge and attacked the vikings from the side. The Battle of Ashtown was among the first notable victories for the Saxons. After which the bulk of their men returned home to tend to their home and work leaving the two kingly brothers with a meagre army. Despite this great victory, the armies of Wessex continued to loose in battle with the Vikings. In one of which loses, Ethelred was gravely wounded an shortly went the way of all flesh. Upon the death of his last family member Alfred received the crown of Wessex. He was their only and last defender.

None would think the daylight dear

If dim night they did not fear;

So, to every one of us,

On the broad earth dwelling thus, 

Joy more joyous still is seen

After troubles once have been.

“Uses of Adversity” by King Alfred the Great

A SIGHT OF DESPAIR

One could imagine the sorrow and anguish Alfred must have felt, especially, as melancholy had been his disposition from youth. One record recounts, “The aforesaid Alfred often fell into such great misery, that sometimes none of his subjects knew where he was or what had become of him.” Beyond this mental anguish of internal anxieties, kingly burdens, and continual invasions by the Vikings, Alfred was plagued by physical pain. During his youth, Alfred found himself greatly tempted by the lewdness of the sexual revolution about him and prayed daily for God to give him some sort of physical affliction (So long as it was not deforming or disabling) to curb his sinful affliction. God delivered him from the lusts of a young man with the excruciating disease of piles. Gradually, depleted by the misery and agony of the disease Alfred asked God deliver him, which the Lord was pleased to do. Until the day of his marriage to Ealswith, where in the middle of the marriage feast Alfred doubled over in incapacitating pain. This mysterious internal torment would not leave Alfred until his death. King Alfred took great relief in the Psalms of David and wrote poetry of his own to combat his melancholy. We can glimpse something of his agony in his poem, “A Sight of Despair.”

Alas! in how grim

A gulf of despair,

Dreary and dim

For sorrow and care,

My mind toils along

When the waves of the world

Stormy and strong

Against it are hurled.

When in such strife my mind will forget

Its light and its life

In worldly regret,

And though the night

Of this world doth grope

Lost to the light

Of heavenly hope.

Thus it hath no

Befallen my mind

I know no more how

God’s goodness to find,

But groan in my grief

Troubled and tost,

Needing relief

For the world I have lost.”

Alfred’s contemporary biographer, the Bishop of Assar, wrote of this aspect of Alfred with the following: “But the Almighty not only granted to the same glorious king victories over his enemies, but also permitted him to be harassed by them, to be sunk down by adversities, and depressed by the low estates office followers, to the end that he might learn that there is one Lord of all things, to whom every knee doth bow, and in whose hand are the hearts of kings; who puts down the mighty from their seat and exalteth the humble; who suffers his servants when they are elevated at the summit of prosperity to be touched by the rod of adversity, that in their humility they may not despair of God’s mercy, and in their prosperity they may bot boast of their honours, but may also know, to whom they owe all the things which they possess.”

THE RESURRECTION OF ALFRED

This despair was only the beginning for King Alfred. Of the many battle and skirmishes waged against the raiding army after Ashdown, the victory had gone to the Viking marauders, whose ultimate victory seemed eminent. However, of all the other Saxon kingdoms none other had resisted the Vikings so strong or cost them so much as King Alfred’s Wessex. But neither resistance nor extortion payment could keep them off, so that in the end (Or what seemed to be the end) the nobles of Wessex betrayed King Alfred and took oaths of Submission to the Viking commander, Guthrum. As one biographer morbidly notes, “Cut off from his throne, his court, and his armies, Alfred, betrayed and abandoned, wandered into the moors, wastelands, and fens of Wessex, moving into the marshes and woods of Somerset.” As once King David was, so too now was King Alfred cut off and betrayed by his own people. Nonetheless, he refused to abandon his kingdom as they had abandoned him. Alfred conducted a rather successful campaign of guerrilla warfare against Guthrum from his secret headquarters in the marshlands. Alfred’s resistance at this time where he was hid away in the dark, black forest of the moors engendered a Robin Hood like fame of him among the oppressed and those still loyal to the king. One biographer records the legend of “How Alfred dressed himself up as a juggler and walked openly into the camp of the Danes, who, not recognizing him and thinking he was some sort of entertainer, welcomed him into their camp and demanded that he perform. The disguised king obliged them and performed for the Viking camp for several days, delighting them thoroughly. During this time he was able to walk freely through the camp, spying out their numbers, checking on their state of readiness, and collecting all the information necessary for forming his own straggles of attack.” Such tales inspired those loyal to the throne, both peasant and noble, and discomforted those base nobles who had betrayed Alfred. During these darkest days the betrayed king used surprise attacks, secret networks of communication with nobles still loyal, spying, and surveillance to raise an army once again to face Guthrum in battle.  Alfred’s legendary example instilled a nobility and principle in the people of Wessex. Through the continued inspiration of Alfred and the persecution of the Vikings it was clear to the people that freedom would be worth fighting for. Their sense of self-rule had been reinstated by their secret king’s example of self-discipline, preparation, and retrospection. Alfred sent a secret communication summoning those loyal to battle. The secret reunion of Alfred with his loyal nobles and armies of 5,000 men in the misty forest was a spectacular moment. “It was as if the king had been restored to life after a terrible tribulation.” 

“He that wishes power to win,

First must toil to rule his mind,

That himself the slave to sin

Selfish lust may never bind:

Let him haste to put away

All that fruitless heap of care:

Cease while they sighs to-day,

And thyself from sorrow spare.

How shall he seem great or strong,

If himself he cannot save,

Word and deed against all wrong,

But to sin is still a slave?”

“Of Self-Rule” by King Alfred the Great

DELIVERANCE OF ENGLAND

King Alfred and his army of 5,000 met the Viking tyrrant, Guthrum to wage battle. The two enemies formed their respective shieldwalls and marched on each other. When they were within a short distance, both sides flew javelins into the sky destined for their enemies ranks. The silent soar of so many spears was said to blacken the sky as they slowly rose and then dove into the arms, torsos, and shields of those fateful souls in their trajectory. Both shield walls were weakened as the dead and wounded fell to the ground, quickly being replaced by those from behind. Axes were readied for the next stage of combat. At this juncture the Vikings unleashed a special force of maniacal madmen called the Berserkers. Before battle these men would conduct a heathen dancing ritual and consume a hallucinogenic mushroom turning them into a ravenous craze with the strength of wolves and beasts. They painted their faces into distorted, grotesque forms and went naked into battle. Yet now the men of Wessex remained noble to their great nobleman, King Alfred, and quickly dispensed with the demonic lives of the Berserkers, broke the Viking shieldwall, and gained the victory over Guthrum after so many long years of oppression. What Alfred was to do next though would be more marvellous to the people of Wessex than any battle victory could display. Guthrum offered total surrender to Alfred, never before had such terms been submitted by an invading Viking. Any time an English king had surrendered to a Viking no mercy was shown. The Vikings had in previous victories bound the king of East Anglia to a tree and packed his body with arrows and in Northumbria they ritually sacrificed the defeated king. If Alfred was to exact the same treatment on Guthrum which Guthrum had exacted from Alfred’s brethren, he too would be brutally executed. Alfred had been merciful before in his terms of surrender; settling for oaths, hostages, and extortion payments, but the Vikings continually break such oaths of peace. Alfred shocked all when he demanded Guthrum and his thirty best men be baptized into the Christian faith. This was no mere outward ceremony though. The medieval church believed as we do that the Christian faith was a rebirth. Alfred and the Christians of his day took this imagery seriously and incorporated many elements of the first, physical birth. As in the first, physical birth their are physical parents, so too in the second, spiritual rebirth their are spiritual parents. Consequently, at each baptism there was a man or woman who sponsored the new baptized Christian as a sort of spiritual godparent. This too was no empty ritual. To be a spiritual godparent was much the same as to be a physical parent. You accepted them into your family, your home, your wealth, influence, and power. Hence, when Alfred summoned Guthrum, his mortal enemy, to be baptized he was entering into a spiritual covenant, a spiritual adoption, and become a spiritual mentor to this viking. Guthrum accepted Alfred’s gesture and was baptized by Alfred himself. One biographer records, “Alfred treated his godson, along with Guthrum’s thirty Danish companions, to twelve days of Anglo-Saxon feastng. The Viking guests, once the mortal enemies of the Wessex throne, now sat in Alfred’s races mead hall, white-robed, banqueting on roasted boar and veinison draining horns of mead, and listening to the Saxon stop thrumming on his lyre and singing poems of the glory of long-dead warriors, mingled with lyrics of praising the most high God who had created the wonder-filled world.” Guthrum’s testimony of faith remained true to his death. In the future he refused to join viking raiders in planned attacks on Wessex, he preserved peace with Alfred, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records his death as King Alfred’s godson with no mention of his life as a Viking or his wars against Alfred. From his youth, Alfred, despite all odds against him, discipled himself in the Christian faith though he was racked in pain and misery. He discipled a disloyal, difficult, people in the Christian faith. He discipled his greatest nemesis in the Christian faith and delivered England as King David.

Thus quoth Alfred, England’s love,

‘Would ye live for God above?

Would ye long that He may show

Wiselike things for you to know,

That you may world’s worship gain,

And your souls to Christ attain?’

Wise the saying Alfred said:

‘Christ the Lord I bid thee dread

Meekly, O mine own dear friend,

Love and like him without end;

He is Lord of life and love,

Blest all other bliss above,

He is man, our Father true,

And a meek mild Master too;

Yea, our borther; yea our king;

Wise and rich in everything,

So that nought of His goo will

Shall be aught but pleasure still

To the man who Him with fear

In the world doth worship here.’

Thus quoth Alfred, our delight:

‘He may be no king of right

Under Christ, who is not filled

With book lore, in law well skilled,

Letter he must understand,

And know by what he holds his land.”

REVIVAL AND REFORMATION

Alfred sought to know by what he held the land. Having secured the deliverance of England as King David he sought as King Solomon in times of peace to retrieve the lost scholars, revive the floundering education, restore the justice system, raise the debased church, restart a broken economy, and reinstate a better currency, reinforced broken defences, retrained a new army, and rectify a new navy. Alfred understood as the native of Northumbria that the vikings were not the cause of England’s overthrow. They were the result. The result of an apostate people dwelling on formally Christian soil. He devoted himself as King Josiah to a revival of Christian learning and Christian worship. He translated several great works of Christendom into the Anglo-Saxon tongue such as The Consolation of Philosophy, Soliloquies of Augustine, Pastoral Care, and the first fifty psalms of the Bible. He also tasked the nobles to learn the scholarly Latin tongue. One biographer records, “Alfred orchestrated a tremendous revival of literacy, a revival that culminated in the greatest literary renaissance ever experienced in Anglo-Saxon Britain.” The end of literacy for Alfred was the Solomon-like, kingly virtue of wisdom. Thus any man presently holding or aspiring to office must attain this royal skill. Alfred composed the most comprehensive set of laws in his Domboc, or Book of Dooms. These would set the foundation for the English Common Law, the Magna Carta, and the legal systems of Canada, America, Australia, and New Zealand. His Domboc drew from the ten commandments and other prohibitions of Moses for sins and transgressions which would doom the nation of Israel. He applied the principles of Moses’ dooms and commandments to the nation of England. Justice was thereby established on the Bible and Law of God. “Of this one law” wrote Alfred, “a man can think, that he must judge all in justice; he needs no other book-book. He thinks that he should not judge to any man which he would not have judged to himself; if he then sought judgment over him.” Alfred’s laws were marked by the principle of restitution, and that the punishment must fit the crime. His laws insisted on keeping oaths and pledges, forbidding sedition and treason, offenders making restitution to victims, sexual morality, ending honour killings and family feuds. After twenty eight years of reigning, at the age of 50, in 899 King Alfred echoed Isaiah in his dying words to his throne heir and son.

“Thus quoth Alfred: “My dear son, come near;

Sit thou beside, and I will teach thee here.

I fell mine hour is well-nigh come, my son’

My face is white, my days are almost done:

And thou in all my state shalt stand alone:

I pray thee, for mine own dear child thou art,

Lord of this people, play their father’s part,

Be thou the orphan’s sire, the widow’s friend,

Comfort the poor man, and the weak defend;

With all thy might

Succour the right,

And be strong

Against the wrong:

And thou, my son, by law thyself restrain,

So God shall be thy Guide, and glorious Gain;

Call thou for help’s Him in every need,

And He shall give thee greatly to succeed.”

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Feminist Patriarchs

Feminist Patriarchs

EPHESIANS 5

Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the wife’s head, even as Christ is the head of the Church, and the same is the Saviour of his body. Therefore as the Church is in subjection to Christ, even so let the wives be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it. That he might sanctify it, and cleanse it by the washing of water through the word. That he might make it unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blame. 

SIX MILES & SIX VERSES

On July 28, 1883 outside of Calgary an unsurpassed distance of track for the Canadian Pacific Railway had been finished. All 6 miles. All in a day’s work. This championing was the work of champions, namely, the Ryan brothers, both world class spikers. Big Jack, a gargantuan Swede could pound a spike with just two blows, half the amount of any other spiker. He could also handle the entire 560 pounds of an iron rail track and lift it onto a flat rail car. Pierre Berton records a crew of 130 men in fourteen hours laid the 604 tons of rail on sixteen thousand wooden ties bound by 565 bolts and 63,000 spikes. Eight would unload the wooden ties, four would space them, two would distance them, and two more arranged them precisely in front of the spikers. Twelve men then unloaded the rails, twelve more hauled them to the front, and ten men would then swing the rails onto the ties. Fifteen men would then fasten the bolts, followed by thirty-two spikers and four spike peddlers. Berton records, “The lead and gauge spiker each drove 2,120 spikes, averaging four blows to a spike, which meant that in fourteen hours they each delivered an average of eighty-four hundred blows with a sledge hammer.”

It was 6 mile undertakings like Big Jack’s which led the CPR to “Span the World” with its parallel tracks. The rail line would later be heralded as the iron thread which held the nation together. Parallels are a powerful thing, both for trains of rail and trains of thought. The Apostle Paul laid down a parallel track over 6 verses in Ephesians which would span the entirety of human experience and hold the family, church, and state together. Like a railway track, a grammatical parallel involves two lines. Being in parallel, one naturally and logically, relates to the other. What can be observed of the one can consequential be observed of the other. In this famous parallel we see on the one line Christ’s headship over his bride the church corresponding with the line of a husband’s headship over his wife. This line of a husband’s headship has been claimed back and championed forward by many family oriented Christians today. Like Big Jack, us patriarchal, hierarchical families have laboured hard in building this iron thread of headship for our households and culture. But in the process have we forgotten the other track in this parallel, and are we in danger of derailment?

REALIGNMENT OR DERAILMENT

As heads of our households we can read Ephesians 5 and what is says with regards to our wives’ submission, but miss what it commands for our own. We see ourselves so clearly in the one parallel of Ephesians as the head of our brides, but do we miss that in the other side of the parallel we are the bride? How can we claim our own headship if we do not recognize the other Head from which we derive our position? How can we consistently call wives to submit to their head when we do not submit to our own? Are we patriarchs in the home but feminists at church? We must examine to see if how we have rebuilt Paul’s track in Ephesians 5 is due for realignment lest we are due for derailment.

COVENANTAL HEADSHIP

The first reality to come to terms with is that of headship. If by “headship” you imagine “boss” you are far, far off. Paul does not say that Christ is boss of His church or master of His bride. Such a picture is foreign thinking to the attributes of Christ. Rather, He is called the “Head.” The term “Head” is a covenantal term. In Scripture we see two covenantal heads, Adam and Christ. You are in covenant with either one or the other. By conception, as his posterity, we are in a covenant relation with our earthly father Adam.  He is our federal head as we are in league with him. When he sinned in the garden, he did so covenantally. That is, representing all mankind, and representing them accurately. We cannot plead his sin as being misrepresentative of us. So the entirety of the human race sinned in our accurate contract, party, league, and covenant representative head, Adam. Yet there is another and better head, namely Christ. As the sin of the first Adam condemned us, so the obedience of the second Adam redeemed us. Christ is the federal representative of those who are in party, league and covenant with him by sovereign grace. This means that headship in a marriage is covenantal headship. As we were one with Adam, as we are now one with Christ, the wife is one with her husband. This covenantal representation is so real, so accurate, so living, and so organic that Paul analogizes it with the human body. There is a sense in that both the head and the body are so vitally, organically, and essentially connected as one that you cannot tell where the body ends and the head begins. This is why any individualistic notion when it comes to the covenant relation with Adam and Christ is untenable. Equally so in marriage. The two shall become one. One federally. One covenantally. One representationally. One organically. One legally.

MARRIAGE COVENANT

This concept was historically reflected in society with the English Common Law doctrine of Coverture. Coverture was where “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing… and her condition during marriage is called her coverture.” This is an accurate legal picture of what headship entails. Our personal existence is suspended, incorporated, and consolidated into Adam as his earthly prodigy or into Christ as his redeemed bride. We are under their wing, protection, cover, and headship. There is no room for the individualistic notion that we are independent of such protection or cover of wing. As we are all familiar with, in Common Law Coverture a woman could not hold property or assets. Blackstone explains, “For this reason, a man cannot grant any thing to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her, would be only to covenant with himself.” What a beautiful picture of headship and the organic union of a covenant. A wife’s personal status is suspended, incorporated and consolidated into her husband. So too the believer’s personal status is suspended, incorporated, and consolidated into the bride of Christ. In marriage, this reality eliminates the blame game as Adam attempted to do after the fall. The moment the husband starts to blame the wife he begins to think of them as two, separate individuals whereas they are one flesh. A husband blaming the wife should be just as impossible an image as a head seeking to bite off its own body. So when we regard this organic union of head and body as one individual holding “bosship” over another it is sheer foolishness because such a view necessitates the notion of two individual, separate persons. Whereas there is only one. We must get clear of all such individualistic thinking with regards to headship and coverture in the marriage covenant.

CHURCH COVERTURE

But when we do hold such an individualistic view as we tend with regards to the marriage relationship it is no wonder we can think in such individualistic terms when it comes to the church relationship. Again, these things are in parallel one to the other. As we have seen, there is no room in covenantal headship and covenantal coverture for individualistic thinking patterns. Christ is not your head if you are not in coverture as and with His bride.  How can we uphold a woman’s coverture in the home when we deny our own in the church? What are our wives to think when we refuse to suspend our personal existence and incorporate and consolidate ourselves into the marriage union of the church with Christ? It would be fallacious for a bride to refuse to suspend her status and incorporate herself into the marriage union as the body. How is it any less ludicrous (Or feminist for that matter) when a Christian family refuses being incorporated into the marriage union of Christ, in which they are the body? Christ is the federal head of the Church. The church is the universal body of believers. The universal body of believers is made up of many local bodies of believers. Consequentially, Christ is not your head if you are not incorporated into a local body of believers. You are not part of the church universal if you are not part of the church local. Again, there is no room in this covenant relation for individualistic tendency. There is no room for it in the marriage relationship or the church relationship. The two must be aligned in parallel or derailment is impending.

SUBMISSION

Having established our personal status being necessarily suspended and incorporated into the marriage union of Christ, in which we are the body, we may proceed to examine our duties in such relation. The first duty is submission. We submit as we recognize ourselves in the body of Christ, just as wives submit when they recognize themselves in Coverture. In Ephesians 5 “submission” is synonymous with “subject”. It could read, “Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, subject yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord.” We are definitionally, subjects of Christ, subjects of the Church. So Church coverture is practically realized when we submit ourselves as subjects to the local body of Christ. In such a sense, the Church is the congregation of Christ’s subjects. Such subjection is in itself both a rejection of our independence and recognition of our covenant incorporation into the body. You cannot recognize the head if you do not first recognize the body. Though we be patriarchs at home, anything less in the church is a sheer declaration of covenantal feminism.
SUBJECTION OF REVERENCE

Puritan William Gauge identifies the proper submission of inferiors to their superiors as being a subjection of reverence. The sufficient means of which is entailed in testifying by speech, gesture, obeisance, action, or ready obeying of their commandment the eminence and superiority in them whom they revere. Wives submit to their husbands when they recognize themselves as inferiors and voluntarily testify the eminence in their superiors in such a manner. Patriarch’s likewise model this submission in parallel when they recognize their households as inferiors and voluntarily testify the eminence in the superior household of God. “Remember them which have the oversight of you, which have declared unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering what hath been the end of their conversation.” Hebrews 13:7. “Obey them that have the oversight of you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give accounts, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17. The suitable manner of this submission of reverence is in meekness. “To necessary subjection, must voluntary subjection be added.” The effectual cause of this submission’s means and manner is to be the filial fear of the Lord. Wives are not to submit to their husband with ultimately their own self-gratification in view, nor their husband’s praise, but in a careful endeavour to please God. Likewise, we subject ourselves to the body of Christ with no view to ourselves or others, but because it pleases our Father and we fear him. A wife or church body’s subjection of reverence to their respective superiors is not conditioned upon anything other than this. We would call a women who refused to subject herself to her coverture a feminist. Though we be patriarchs in the home what are we then if we refuse our Church coverture? We make the bride of Christ a feminist. As William Gouge puts it, “Let this duty of submission be first well learned, and then all other duties will be better performed.”

COVENANTAL LOVE

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it.” Outside of covenantal thinking we may regard this passage to mean that Christ loved the Church “lots” and husbands ought do the same. Wilson observes, “What it means is that husbands should love their wives federally, the way Christ loved the Church.” How did Christ love the Church? By giving himself for it. By covering it. By offering to her His “wing, protection, and cover.”  A federal love free of all individualism. Indeed headship and coverture are inescapable realities despite any of our individualistic misconceptions. The choice is between being a good federal head or a poor one. The tenant is not that all federal headships are good, but that all federal headships are necessary. As husbands we can model Adam’s blame game headship or Christ’s loving headship. Christ sacrificed for things He didn’t do, so husbands should be willing to do the same for their wives. As federal head the husband takes responsibility for the state of his marriage as Christ presumes responsibility for the state of his. Just as the husband assumes responsibility so therefore the wife can assume the privileges of marriage. That she receives his provident care for her name, soul, goods, and body. This is embodied in the subjection of service common to all Christians, even superiors to inferiors. Gauge defines, “Subjection of service is that whereby one in his place is ready to do what good he can to another.” The manner is also in meekness and motive is the filial fear of God. This subjection of service is to be paralleled in Church leadership to the body. “The Elders which are among you, I beseech which am also an Elder… Feed the flock of God, which dependeth upon you, caring for it not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: Not as though ye were Lords over God’s heritage, but that ye may be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive an incorruptible corn of glory.” Again we see that “headship” is not “bosship” “as though ye were Lords over God’s heritage”.  Our subjection of service as husbands or church leadership is not conditioned by the subjection of reverence we receive from our wives or church body. It is conditioned by the constant fear of God. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” If Christ conditioned his submission of service based upon what he received from us there would be no bride, no church.

SANCTIFY & CLEANSE

Subjection of reverence from inferiors engenders subjection of service from superiors and likewise subjection of service from superiors engenders subjection of reverence from inferiors. Although neither party conditions their respective subjection upon what they do or do not receive from the other. Again, such a reaction would be highly individualistic, the hand attempting to decapitate the head or the head trying to snap at the hand. “For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourished and cherisheth it, even as the Lord doth the Church.” The process of this unconditional subjection is purely sanctifying. Consequently, the Church is the dominant place where Christ’s sanctification and cleaning occur. Do not mistake me to mean exclusively within the confines of the building or limitations of the worship service duration. But rather to indicate the intimate, organic, life lived out in the body of believers as the powerhouse of purification. The Church is Christ’s institution for sanctification.  We ought therefore to subject ourselves to its coverture. So too marriage parallels this reality. One of the greatest helps of sanctification is the institution of marriage where two sinners are made one flesh. One sinner in headship and the other in coverture. Both within the Church body and marriage union a due measure of pain will come with this sanctification. But when done in the fear of God it will be effectuated without strain.

COMMANDED TO OUR WEAKNESS

Scripture always commands to our weaknesses. When Scripture commands husbands to love their wives, it is because they are by tendency  weak in doing so. Likewise, when Scripture commands wives to submit reverence to their husbands it is because they are generally weak in doing so.

COVENENTAL NOT CONDITIONAL

Because husbands tend to be harsh to their wives love is pressed upon them to prevent abusing their authority. Such authority without being tempered by love would become a tyranny. Paul goes out of his way to qualify a covenantal love rules out such harshness. We read in Colossians 3 “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter unto them.” This love is neither harsh or inconsiderate. Peter in chorus with Paul exhorts, “Likewise ye husbands, dwell with them as men of knowledge, giving honour unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, even as they which are heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not interrupted.” The Lord will not hear their prayers because He holds husbands responsible.  Husbands carry the principle charge, they shall give an account for that which is amiss, the blame lies upon them. Such is the nature of federal headship and a wife’s coverture. The Lord will not hear our prayers, but if we are in such a state of harshness it is more than likely we are not praying much in the first place. Rather than taking the state of their union to God they pour it on their wives who may have reason to say with the poet.

“Oft did I well, and that hear I never:

Once did I ill, and that hear I ever.”

Furthermore, love according to knowledge is both inward, with regards to his opinion of her, and outward, with regards to his affection toward her. Again, love from the head to the body is a covenantal love, not a conditional love. As Gauge observes, “No duty on the husband’s part can rightly be performed except it be seasoned with love.” So Paul in the first place commends and commands a husband’s love just as Christ first manifested his love. Husband’s initiate as Christ initiated. Nothing will engender and quicken the spirit of a wife to think her reverence be not in vain than this. Notwithstanding, heads are not to do so with a primary view to their self gratification, but to their body’s ultimate glorification. This is the Gospel in marriage. This is also why any failure in undertaking marriage is a failure in understanding the Gospel. Our covenant union is modelled after the union in the Gospel. The same parallel can be seen in the church where love is exhorted to prevent the abuse of church authority. A love too that is covenantal and not conditional. Just as the Lord will not hear our prayers if there is discord in the home, so He will not hear our prayers when their is discord amongst the brethren. Mark 11. It is motivated by the Gospel in the glory of Christ being fully realized in us. It is mannered according to the Gospel in meekness. It’s means is the Gospel in the covenant love of Christ. Both the undertaking of the institutions of church and marriage stand and fall on our understanding of the Gospel.

PSEUDO-SUBMISSION

The wife is called to be a help-meet to their husbands, not a help-meet to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit requires no aid in convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Whereas God is the holy comforter who reproves us, wives can be unholy confronters who reproach us. Hence Paul commands wives to their weakness of disrespect. They tend to desire a reception of unconditional love while they owe their respect conditionally. This is pseudo-submission. Submitting to their husbands in areas they deem subjection fit to their husbands. But it can hardly be called submission when no subjection is ever involved. Just as a husbands love is to be in inward opinion and outward affection so the submission of a wife is to be harmoniously both inward and outward. If there be no inward respect in the first place any outward reverence which proceeds is very unfounded. Her inward reverence consists in the respect she has for her husband. Her outward reverence consists in her gesture and speech towards him. I find an inverse reality that the bigger the patriarch’s beard, the less submission in the Church. Likewise, the bigger a woman’s head covering, the less submission in the home. Along with this pseudo-submission  comes a hurtfulness when unconditional respect and a disposition of benevolence is called upon from them. Wilson also notes, “While men tend to harsh bitterness, women tend to hurt bitterness. In the emotional realm, women bruise easily. Some have concluded from this, falsely, that women have a right to any offence… [But] It is as much a sin to be offended as it is to offend.” Again there is a parallel here for the church body. The bride of Christ tends to the same weaknesses as our earthy brides. We expect unconditional service from the church but condition our respect to it. We are easily offended. We do not respect it. We do not subject ourselves to it. But the failure of the bride and bride of Christ to submit spawns from a failure to understand the Gospel rightly. Brides are to subject themselves because of God’s ordained creation order. Submission starts with this declaration and recognition of this creative order.  The the saintliness or sinfulness of a husband do not deprive him of the order God has placed him in as superior. “Though an husband in regard of evil qualities may carry the image of the devil, yet in regards his place and office he beareth the Image of God.” William Gauge. Likewise, the state of her husband as saint or sinner does not move her from her position as inferior by God’s creation order. “Likewise let the wives be subject to their husbands, that even they which obey not the word, may without the word be won by the conversation of their wives. While they behold your pure conversation which is with fear… For even after this manner in time past did the holy women, which trusted in God, tire themselves, and were subject to their husbands.”What is the motive of such tiresome subjection? The Gospel. If you lack motive, you lack the Gospel. Again, marriage is the primary institution for sanctification. If you have an easy marriage, praise God, he has given it for your best sanctification. Have you a difficult marriage? Praise God, he has given it for your best sanctification. He has given it to purify your conversation. He has given it that he may perfect the fear of God in you to surpass any other regard you may have. Similarly, the Church is the primary institution of sanctification. We are necessarily subjects of it in God’s creation order. If you have been placed in a easy church, praise God, as it is best for your sanctification. If you have been placed in a difficult church, praise God, as it too is best for your sanctification. “Finally, be ye all of one mind: one suffer with another: love as brethren: be pitiful, be courteous.” “Notwithstanding blessed are ye, if ye suffer for righteousness; sake. Yea, fear not their fear, neither be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” Submission for the subjects of Christ to the local body is not optional. Any notion of such is feministic. We must purge all individualistic ideals and feministic tendencies from our respect for the local church.

CONCLUSION

So have we rebuilt the track of these six verses in perfect parallel to each other or is there some realignment needed? Is the track in direct following of the Gospel or does it bend to our self-gratification and conditions? Wives do we recognize ourselves as inferiors to our husbands? Households do we recognize ourselves as inferiors to the Household of God? Husbands do we initiate and model Christ’s covenantal love, his federal coverture? Church leaders, is your authority tempered by this love? Husbands and wives are you so intimately and organically one as head and body? Brethren is Christ your head? Is the Church your body? Do we all this in view of living out the Gospel or living out our selfish desires? Let us not be patriarchs to the home but feminists to the church.

Furnished Faith

Jascha Heifetz

I should like to draw your attention this morning to 2 Peter 1:5-8

“Therefore give even all diligence thereunto: join moreover virtue with your faith: and with virtue, knowledge: And with knowledge, temperance: and with temperance, patience: and with patience, godliness: and with godliness, brotherly kindness: and with brotherly kindness, love. For if these things be among you, and abound, they will make you that ye neither shall be idle, nor unfruitful in the acknowledging of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jascha Heifetz

It was May 20, 1912 just a month after the historic Titanic’s sinking. The place was none other than the culture seat of the world, Berlin, at the home of Arthur Abell. The occasion was a private press matinee for the European debut of a new, unfamiliar violinist. The piece was Fritz Kreisler’s Schon Rosmarin. The august audience consisted of many leading violinists and musical figures of the time, including the incomparable Kreisler himself. It was a regal event to be sure. The music however for the performance was found to be missing so Kreisler stepped forward to replace the piano accompanist and perform with the new violinist his own piece of music from memory. With the distinguished Kreisler seated at the piano the time arrived for the violinist to take centre stage. The audience listened in anticipation to the soft footsteps trudging up the stage when a small boy of eleven appeared holding under a small hand his dear instrument. The bow itself was over half his height. With the violin tucked under his tiny chin the supple fingers began to effortlessly work the instrument into producing mellifluous, dulcet tones. The piece was finished and the result was pandemonium. Kreisler reported, “you should have seen the amazement on their faces.” Indeed Kreisler himself was surprised at this young virtuoso’s performance of his own piece of music as he confessed to the audience afterwards, “We might as well take our fiddles and smash them across our knees.” The eleven year old boy was Jascha Heifetz, regarded now as one of the greatest artists of all time. Although he was a virtuoso, Jascha was a musician of strict discipline. Much later in life he confessed to his students, “If I don’t practice one day, I can tell. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics can tell. If I don’t practice for three days, the public can tell.” This coming from a prodigy. Herein lies the reality of the Christian’s need for daily discipline and diligence. There is an element of Christian activity and we have to get a hold of this principle. The question is what can you tell of your current condition as a Christian? What can your critics  and opposition in the world tell? What can your brothers and sisters in the Lord tell?

Marasmic Malady

We can note that the Apostle Peter is indeed writing to Christians, but more particularly, Christians of a certain condition. A condition which is indicated in verse 8 as idle and unfruitful. This is a pitiful state in the Christian layman of spiritual lethargy which inevitably produces spiritual depression. This was an audience of miserable Christians. Though they were Christians (And they certainly were or else Peter wouldn’t be writing to them) they didn’t count for much. They lead ineffective lives without activity, accomplishment, or affect. They were tired. Marasmic. Indolent. Unaffected by their own sickness. In the words of Lloyde Jones, “The sort of person you have to grant that they are a Christian and yet there is so little in their life to show for it.” Such a marasmic malady is sadly not foreign to our time. This is not a 1st century problem and our interest in it is not merely theoretical. We too can correspond to Peter’s audience. We too know very little of the fullness of a Christian life. We too are unfamiliar with the meaning of Paul’s exhortation to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Yet what is the cause of such a condition? What can you even tell is your condition?

Fatigued Faith

Lloyde Jones observes, “The whole cause of trouble is the sheer absence of discipline and order in their lives.” There is a general type of indolence and fatigue which effects us all in matters of spiritual activity and is produced by none other than the Devil. With regards to the question of Christian life we do not experience the same vigour and vitality as we do with our other pleasures, business, or interests. If such a state of religious exhaustion continues the Apostle warns we will have “forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” Meaning, the life and energy which is to distinguish our current state from our past is so severely diminished that we find ourselves in a point of unemployed ambition, meaningless reality, and fatigued faith. We have forgotten why we are Christians and what it means to be such in the first place. This actuality is not evidence that we are not Christians, but rather that we are among the miserable Christians which Peter is writing to. Is your faith fatigued? What can you tell?

Magical & Mystical Faith

Another cause of this marasmic malady is a wrong view of faith in the first instance. As noted by Lloyde Jones there are primarily two errors persisting in modern day with regards to the subject of faith. The first is a magical view of faith and the second is a mystical one. Some Christians regard their faith as being quite magical. The notion that it happens all by itself. God makes it appear in our lives and from thereon is automatically works in our life. You needn’t do anything to it because it will function and develop of its own accord. They regard it as though it were some vestigial internal organ of the soul and not a muscle to be exercised. The second notion, which is quite related, is a mystical one. It is a conception of faith that considers it as a whole and measures it in terms of a personal relationship to Christ. Negatively speaking they do not recognize it in component elements as Peter does. Faith to them is merely to be continually waiting and looking upon the Lord.  The only activity required on our part is passivity. Their mantra is to abide in the Lord as the only thing to do. Naturally such rational, no matter how oft repeated or reevaluated, can only produce spiritual lethargy. So these together, an erroneous view of faith and a spiritual indolence, are the most productive cause of spiritual depression. Lloyd Jones admonished, “The modern heresy in protestantism and perhaps dare I say, evangelicalism, is that in our fear of justification by works we have been tempted to say works don’t matter. Antinomianism in other words. Faith alone counts, and because I’m a man of faith it doesn’t matter very much what I do. My life can be thoroughly lacking in discipline… The opposite to trusting in your works is not to do nothing it is to do everything but not to trust them. It is not the works that are wrong it is the trust in your works, that your works are meritorious.”  This abuse of justification by faith, this abuse of the perseverance of the saints, this kind of new, reformed antinomianism affects our interest in the Gospel as consisting in purely intellectual terms. Where faith in the whole is an intellectual assent by which one grasps the Gospel’s dogma and doctrine, one understands it, revels in it, expounds with it, but stops at that as though nothing more is necessary to it. Faith involves the whole personality. Not exclusively the mind through intellectual propositions, but inclusively also the heart, the will, and the personal behaviour. There is nothing contradictory or incongruous here to us as custodians of faith. What can you tell of your understanding of faith?

Discipline

“Give even all diligence.” This is not an admonishment to passivity. Just to surrender it all to God, that we have nothing to do with regards to our faith. This is utterly unscriptural. “The treatment prescribed by the Apostle for his condition is to make every effort, exercise discipline, management, and order.”Lloyd Jones. Herein is the element of our activity. We are concerned with being as active as possible, but only as active as we are empowered by the Lord. “To be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Indeed it is His might but is is also in us. Just as Jascha found his capacity for music within so likewise we have latent, and inherent faith to be practiced in us. Likewise Peter exhorts us to “Giving all diligence, add to your faith.” Faith was put into us at rebirth, but it is for us to develop it, supplement it, furnish it out, and actually add to it. It is not going to be added for you. It is our activity. Again, your faith is not automatic or magical. Again, you must add to it, it is not a mystical all-encompassing, full, complete entity.  There is more to it and there is more you have to do with it. Herein lies so much of the confusion about spiritual development and power. Peter reaffirms this principle later, “Give rather diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Granted you cannot elect yourself, but you can diligently give affirmation to it. “For if you do these things, ye shall never fall.” You have got to be doing them. There is no doctrine of passivity with regards to faith. So be diligent. Negatively, do not dismiss the need of personal diligence. Understand that such passivity runs the risk of spiritual depression and religious lethargy. Acknowledge that no progress or development will ever be realized in your faith apart from attending to it with all diligence. An undisciplined army is a defeated army. Spiritual discipline combats spiritual depression mightily. Which can you tell is your spiritual state?

Furnish Your Faith

We all have experienced that discipline without direction is drudgery. So how are we then to direct our discipline? By adding to your faith. “The first thing is the sheer necessity of discipline, and order, and arrangement. The second is that we have to supplement our faith.” Lloyd Jones. The best depiction of the term “Add” is “Furnish.” In other terms we are to furnish out our faith. Supplement our faith. We are to think of it as supplying our faith. Don’t be satisfied with leaving it as it is, go ahead and furnish it out. Is it complete, cultivated, fuller, and developed? What can you tell?

Moral Energy

Firstly, we are to furnish out our faith with virtue. By virtue we mean not the common connotation of goodness, but rather virtue as strength, acting power, or something efficacious. Lloyde Jones describes it as “Moral Energy.” We understand something of this from Mark 5:30 where Christ was touched by the woman with an issue of blood and “Immediately Jesus did know in himself the virtue that went out of him.” Similarly, we are to add to our faith the selfsame virtue that was in Christ. Indeed such a virtue is quite unfamiliar to ourselves. Christ sensed it flowing from him whereas we can hardly sense it flowing in us. Considering again that Peter is writing to Christians experiencing a condition that is languid, undisciplined, and slack thusly his exhortation to moral energy is first and foremost. You have been regenerated with faith and in addition you must cease to be languid. Positively stated you must supplement your faith with moral energy, grit, power, might, and strength. Arouse and awake yourself. If you were to go about treating anything in life as lethargically as you do your faith hardly anything good would come of it. Far to many latitudinarian Christians suffer from the mumps and measles of the soul. Without this virtue, this vigour, added to your faith the depression and lethargy will go by unaffected. What can you tell?

Insight

Second we are to furnish out our faith with knowledge. Now that we have the energy to act we must know what to act upon and how to do so. This knowledge is not merely doctrinal or scholarly conclusions, but more particularly, Christian insight, understanding, and enlightenment. You have to know the Christian life. You have to know the wiles and temptations about you. You have to know the efficacy of discipline and diligence. You have to know your religion, its ordinances, and your duties in it. Such insight is only attained by diligent attendance to the Scriptures. What can you tell by your observances of Scripture?

Self-Control

Temperance simply means self-control and self-control simply means control of yourself. More specifically of your appetites, lusts, passions, and desires. Webster defines it as “Moderation; particularly, habitual moderation in regard to the indulgence of the natural appetites and passions; restrained or moderate indulgence; as temperance in eating and drinking; temperance in the indulgence of joy or mirth. Temperance in eating and drinking is opposed to gluttony and drunkenness, and in other indulgences, to excess.” Indeed what is a greater producer of spiritual and physical lethargy than inordinate indulgence? You can experience no furbishment of your faith or diligence of discipline apart from controlling every aspect of your life. We experience so little of virtue because we expend so much of it by our appetites. Self control is one of the most evident marks of being Spirit controlled. So what can you tell?

Patient Endurance

Patient endurance is also to be furnished to our faith. As with all disciplines they are not merely to be started but to be continued. It is a daily, moment by moment continuing under pain or distress without sinking or yielding to the pressure of the religious lethargy which besets us. Peter assures us that if we patiently endure “Ye shall never fall.”Indeed when we have fallen has it not been due to an implicit failure in this regard? Do you know this? Can you tell?

Can They Tell?

The later three furbishments are towards others. Namely, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Interestingly this is something too which we are to add to our faith. We can add godliness. Lloyde Jones plainly comments godliness as, “Maintain your attitude towards God.” Consciously walk in the sight of God. This is piety.  Do your diligence as though it is done in the sight of God Himself. Exercise your discipline in view of His viewing you. Webster defines, “A careful observance of the laws of God and performance of religious duties, proceeding from love and reverence for the divine character and commands of Christian obedience.” And of brotherly kindness Webster writes, “Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants, or alleviating their distresses.” There are many Christians who deprive themselves of strength and might as they deprive themselves of the brethren. Loving the brethren is rather a proof of life as the Apostle John states. Some of our lives look the complete opposite of Peter’s exhortation. Our attitude towards this would read thusly, “Do the least you can, and see that your faith carries with it inability. Your inability must be accompanied by ignorance, your ignorance by indulgence, your indulgence by inaction. Your inaction too must always be accompanied by inconstancy to God; that in turn must have the quality of incivility, and your incivility must lead to indifference.” What can they tell?

Commanded to Character

It is interesting to observe that always in Scripture we are exhorted towards character, not specially towards particular deeds or disciplines. You can have some character without discipline. It will be weak and frail. You will be counted among Peter’s idle and barren Christians, but Christian nonetheless. However there is a discipline without Christian character. Such is the disciplines of the pharisees and sadducees. Peter does not list us to add prayer, meditation, memorization, silence, solitude, fasting, and reading to our faith. We are to furnish our faith not with disciplines but with character. We add character only by discipline. Though we, like Jascha Heirfetz, have latent and inherent vigour in our respective capacities it still behooves us to furnish it out through diligent discipline.  We need discipline ourselves as regenerated believers as much as Jascha needed to practice as a prodigy. Lloyd Jones comments,“The most essential thing in the development of any power, faculty, any force that is latent within us is the more exercise the more developed they become.” So if I don’t discipline myself one day, I can tell. If I don’t discipline myself for two days, my oppressors can tell. If I don’t diligently discipline myself for three days, my brethren can tell. What can they tell? What are they and God concerned primarily with? My disciplines? No. Rather what my disciplines produce, namely, character. We mustn’t confuse diligent discipline as either the beginning of faith or the end of it. The triune God begins faith in us and Christian character is the end of it. Diligent discipline only affirms the former and supplies the latter. This progression of faith’s beginning in the sovereignty of God and end in the full character of Christ does not happen by itself, it does not happen to it, we are to do it and discipline is required. If you are currently in a mesmeric malady, experiencing spiritual lethargy and depression, arrest yourself. Arouse and shake off your languidness. Arise and incite within you a moral vigour, a spiritual energy. Saturate your mind with Scriptural insight. Restrain yourself from those inordinate appetites which so easily beset and fatigue you. Patiently endure the character building process of such diligent discipline. Do so in the sight of God for the sake of the brethren in love. “For if these things be among you, and abound, they will make you that ye neither shall be idle, nor unfruitful in the acknowledging of our Lord Jesus Christ.” May zeal for the Lord consume you.

Let us therefore be up and doing.

Ghouls

The Bachelor’s Wife

Tobacco Pipe Smoking

A most astute observation on pipe smokers (Among whom I happen to be) from Cecil B. Hartley’s 1860 work, “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.”

“But what shall I say of the fragrant weed which Raleigh taught our gallants to puff in capacious bowls; which a royal pedant denounced in a famous “Counterblast”; which his flattering laureate, Ben Jonson, ridiculed to please his master; which our wives and sisters protest gives rise to the dirtiest and most unsociable habit a man can indulge in; of which some fair favourers declare that they love the smell, and others that they will never marry an indulger (which, by the way, they generally end in doing); which has won fame over more space and among better men than Noah’s grape has ever done; which doctors still dispute about, and boys still get sick over; but which is the solace of the weary labourer; the support of the ill-fed; the refresher of overwrought brains; the soother of angry fancies; the boast of the exquisite; the excuse of the idle; the companion of the philosopher; and the tenth muse of the poet. I will go neither into the medical nor the moral question about the dreamy, calming cloud. I will content myself so far with saying what may be said for everything that can bless and curse mankind, that, in moderation, it is at least harmless; but what is moderate and what is not, must be determined in each individual case, according to the habits and constitution of the subject…

…In another point of view, I am inclined to think that smoking has conduced to make the society of men, when alone, less riotous, less quarrelsome, and even less vicious than it was. Where young men now blow a common cloud, they were formerly driven to a fearful consumption of wine, and this in their heads, they were ready and roused to any iniquity. But the pipe is the bachelor’s wife. With this he can endure solitude longer, and is not forced into low society in order to shun it. With it, too, the idle can pass many an hour, which otherwise he would have given, not to work, but to extravagant revelries. With it he is no longer restless and impatient for excitement of any kind. We never hear now of young blades issuing in bands from their wine to beat the watch or disturb the slumbering citizens, as we did thirty or forty years ago, when smoking was still a rarity; they are all puffing harmlessly in their chambers now. But, on the other hand, I foresee with dread a too tender allegiance to the pipe, to the destruction of good society, and the abandonment of the ladies. No wonder they hate it, dear creatures; the pipe is the worst rival a woman can have, and it is one whose eyes she cannot scratch out; who improves with age, while she herself declines; who has an art which no woman possesses, that of never wearying her devotee; who is silent, yet a companion; costs little, yet gives much pleasure; who, lastly, never upbraids, and always yields the same joy. Ah! this is a powerful rival to wife or maid, and no wonder that at last the woman succumbs, consents, and rather than lose her lord or master, even supplies the hated herb with her own fair hands.”

Unmortified Sin

Mortification of Sin in Believers

Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God. 

Solemn Sins Don’t Make a Sinless Saint

There was a small, seaside village where lived two sailors. While they were both out at sea a frightful hour arose with the heavens turned as black as hell, clouds disgorging as would a mountain cascade, and surging wave began. At the moment the first wave spewed its harrowing expanse over the first sailor his vessel became overset and descended into the fathomless depths of the shadows. Whereas the other sailor pressed on as the wind assailed his masts, the sharp mist pierced his eyes, and the sea continually swallowed his vessel only to vomit it out again until the storm had finally passed. Which sailor knows more about the sea? As the proverb says, “Smooth Seas Don’t Make a Skilled Sailor.” Somehow Christians miss the picture when it comes to sin. We think the person who knows the most about sin is the person who has sinned the most, not the least. This is why we who with conservative upbringings often regard our testimonies as inferior to the testimonies of those who come out of ill-bred backgrounds. Not so. Contrarily, the one Person who knows the most about sin, its efficacy, its reality, its temptation, its nature, its deceit, its prevalence is the one Person who never sinned. Christ. Even in our own experience with temptation, it never gets easier. It is like the pain of an insatiable appetite which increases moment by moment until it is fed. It is like the irritation of an itchiness that perpetually festers and hankers to the point of shrouding all other bodily sensation until it is scraped. In one sense Christ was tempted like as we are, yet in another sense he wasn’t. The compulsion of Christ’s temptation surpassed that which has ever been known to human experience, because he never gave in. He entered into temptation, but temptation never entered into him. We think we know so much about sin and its effects, but we know so little because we know so little of Christ. So if you want to learn about sin and how to mortify it do not look to another sinner. Do not look to your own sin. Look to Christ. “Solemn Sins Don’t Make a Sinless Saint.”

The Breeder is Inbred.

“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” There is a point of time in Christian experience when we all come to the same discovery as the Apostle Paul and echo with Job, “Behold, I am vile.” These declarations are not intellectual conclusions. Paul says, “I found.” Job says, “Behold.” Their discovery was unexpected. They learned by experience that they are vile and as Isaiah wail in shock, “Woe is me! for I am undone.” Herein is the difference between knowing the law of sin and experiencing the power of this law. Paul is not reading an electrical schematic here, he is grasping the hot wire. Believers likewise experience the power and efficacy of indwelling sin. Evil is present with you. Yes, through regeneration by the Holy Spirit you now have an ordinary, constant prevailing will of doing good, but it does not go unchecked by the force of indwelling sin to the contrary. This evil within you is not just dormant and abiding, but furthermore active. It is always seducing, tempting, and deceiving you. Sin conceives and brings forth death and this breeder of every evil is inbred first in you. Consequently sin is either killing you or you are killing it. There goes not a moment where sin foils or is foiled, conquers or is conquered, prevails or is prevailed on. John Owen writes, “Sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying.” This is the daily business of every believer. There is no compromise, no truce, no agreement between the flesh of your old man in you by natural generation of your first father Adam and the Spirit of God in you by supernatural regeneration of your second Adam. Hence Christ exhorts, “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” Few things in war are more dangerous than a traitor within the gates. Its been said that Napoleon once confessed that he would rather face 10,000 well trained, well commanded soldiers than one Calvinist who thought he was in the will of God. Similarly, the one thing more dangerous to the state of your soul than 10,000 demons in hell is one unmortified instrument of unrighteousness in you.  The old man within you is more dangerous than ten thousand demons without. Ambrose Bierce then rightly defines “Alone” as “In bad company.” You are in bad company “So I say unto all, Watch.” Be killing sin or sin will be killing you. “Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who does not kill sin in his way takes no steps towards his journey’s end. He who finds not opposition form it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it.” John Owen.

The Bonds without Bounds

Unmortified sin aims always at the utmost and outermost. Owen observes, “Every time it rises put to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every coats desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head… it is like the grace that is never satisfied.” When you swallow one mouthful into excess it aims to make you an bulimic glutton. When you perform just one task in a lethargic manner it would make you an unresponsive sloth. When you quaff one sip beyond propriety it seeks to make you an insatiable drunkard. When you countenance one flirtation it seeks to make you an unreserved whoremonger. So have no toleration for sin because it has no toleration for you. Have no mercy upon it or it shall have no mercy upon you. There are no bounds to the bonds sin would have on you. “So I say unto all, Watch.”

The Irrational is Smart

Sin is totally irrational. Sin is suicidal because it kills you. “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.” Sin is cosmic treason because it foists itself against God. Although it be incomparably irrational, unmortified sin is smart in deluding, deceiving, and disillusioning the hearts of men. Here are the 7 deadly progressions of unmortified sin.

  1. Unmortified sin will weaken the soul by depleting its vigour. “It was weak through the flesh” the Apostle writes.
  2. Unmortified sin redirects the affections towards its own ends as desirable thus exiling the excellencies of God for the soul’s communion. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one , and despise the other.” Sin is a surrogate pleasure.
  3. Unmortified sin will rob the soul of its comfort and peace. “To be spiritually minded is life and peace.” By rule of reference, unmortified sin is not life and peace.
  4. Unmortified sin consumes the mind. Owen illustrates the thoughts of our mind as being the purveyors or delivery service carrying objects to satisfy our soul’s affections. If our affections thus have been reconstituted by unmortified sin, consequently our imaginations will be darkened and now begin to generate defiled provisions to satisfy the lusts of our sinful soul. The knowledge which has been bestowed upon as the image bearers of God has been dethroned.
  5. Unmortified sin hinders our duty before God as we labour and contrive to provide for our sensual, vain imaginations when we ought to be engaged in the worship of God.
  6. Unmortified sin desensitizes us. The frequency and habit of the lusts which unmortified sin is generating in our affections and imaginations tend to interrupt any moment, dispel any notion, or mute any consideration to hinder its reign of death. This process is characterized by an inveterate hardening where with each new temptation our lusts receive a fresh vigour, violence, and vitiated expression which before was not capable.
  7. Unmortified sin is an incubator of death. This engrossment of debauched affections, this defilement of the imaginations renders the Christian to have no great fear of God’s chastisement, no bitterness as they daily digest sin, no beleaguering guilt of sin, but only slight and transient thoughts of their lusts. So they are not easily disquieted by sin, not especially sensitive to sin, nor altogether considerate of sin. Secretly their indulgent heart countenances a particular lust, reserves judgment upon it, and applies instead mercy to it. We say with Naaman, “The Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.”

If any of these irrationalities have outsmarted you dear Christian; awake, “You are fast asleep in a storm of anger round about you.” “So I say unto all, Watch.”

How Not to Mortify Sin

If the Holy Spirit has spoken over the noisome chatter of your defiled imaginations so that you now have a mind to mortify your sins. Mortification is not to utterly terminate sin, this is the aim but in this life cannot be accomplished. If now you make cry out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” consider first what mortification does not consist of.

  1. Mortification of sin consists not in spiritual disciplines. Often we subordinate the Holy Spirit and subrogate spiritual disciplines with him to perform the work and play his role in the duty of mortification. Spiritual disciplines, fasting, praying, meditation, silence, solitude, and such things are insufficient things in and of themselves to mortify your sin. Those who employ such means are always mortifying but never come to any measurable mortification. They may come to a sudden and fearful realization of their frightful state in unmortified sin and instantly pledge themselves to God in new rituals, disciplines, and duties yet never to experience mortification. John Owen reminds us, “Duties are excellent food for an healthy soul; they are no physic for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation. Spiritually sick men cannot sweat out their distemper with working. But this is the way of men who deceive their own souls.”
  2. Mortification of sin consists not in a quiet, sedate nature. Ambrose Bierce humoursly defines, “Abstainer” as “A weak person who yield to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.” Impairing your body and weakening your temperament is not a good thing in itself and no mortification consists therein. A man may have a lean body and still have an unquiet soul. Impeding your personality, temperament, and disposition does not necessarily mean you are improving it. Such persons have no understanding of indwelling sin. They see their bodies which are created in the image of God but imagine them to be the incarnation of sin. So they set out to impair, weaken, abstain and suppress their human flesh. But even if they were to peel every strip of skin from their bodies still they would not have mortified sin. For while unmortified sin may subsist their appetites and affections they do not consist in them. Outward weakening and impairing “Are to be looked on only as ways whereby the Spirit may, and sometimes does, put forth strength for the accomplishment of his own work.”
  3. Mortification of sin consists not in the diversion of sin. Capping a frequent sin only to have it vent itself elsewhere is not mortifying its multiplying. You may alter your temperament, vocation, relations, and designs only to change your master but be a servant still.
  4. Mortification of sin consists not in just occasional victories. Yea, this is often merely an illusion of mortification when in reality your unmortified sin is just playing dead. Suppose you quaff back drink in a uncontrolled carousal to the point of intoxicated unconsciousness. As you spent the next days recovering you would have no care for liquor. It would be foolish to confuse this effect as mortification. Your sin isn’t mortified its malignant. Similarly you may encounter some egregious sin and in a fit of fervour set out against it. Consequently your sin quiets itself for a season until your busying is over and the inquest past. Your sin isn’t mortified its malingered. The mother of death is playing dead. “So I say unto all, Watch.”

Mortify & Master

Owen writes, “All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit.” This is the task of every Christian. The vigour, peace, and comfort of the soul, the thoughts of our mind, the duties from our God, and our life in Him depends upon this constant warfare. To neglect the mortification of sin is to neglect the Holy Spirit who was given us for the task. Only the Holy Spirit is both sufficient and efficient for the work of mortification.

  1. This work of mortification consists in the habitual weakening of sin. All means of grace, all spiritual disciplines are subordinate to Him in this effort. How are we to mortify sin? By the Spirit. How does the Spirit mortify sin? By increasing in us the fruits which are contrary to the lusts of the flesh. “For I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” By weakening the root of sin. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” By applying the work of Christ to the sinner so we can commune with him. “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” But if the Holy Spirit does the mortifying why are we exhorted to mortify? Because “we live in the Spirit” and “also walk in the Spirit.” We do not act against the Spirit nor does he act without us.
  2. Mortification of sin consists in fighting and contending against sin. “To load it daily with all the things which… are previous, killing, and destructive to ti is the height of this contest. Such a one never thinks his lust is dead because it is quiet, but labours still to give it new wounds, new blows every day.” John Owen
  3. Mortification of sin consists in frequent success. Habitual, consistent, steady weakening is the true mark of mortification. It searches out the root and proceeds to beat it down.
  4. Mortification of sin consists in universal obedience. The war against unmortified sin is a universal one effected by a declaration of universal obedience. Let not a man think if he regards iniquity in his heart that he shall ever arrive at mortification of an indwelling sin. You will only love God so much as you first hate sin. If you reserve judgment and instead apply mercy to an unmortified sin you evidence that you contend against sin merely because it disquiets you. Consequently if it did not trouble you, you would not be troubled. If it did not disquiet you, you would not be disquieted. If it did not hurt you, you would not hurt it. Owen states, “Let not any man think to do his own work that will not do God’s. God’s work consists in universal obedience.” So if you will do anything you must do everything. It is not the mortification of sins, rather it is the mortification of sin, universally and unreservedly. It will cost you everything, but it would cost even more to fail in paying such a price.

Charge & Commission

  1. Examine yourself for the seven deadly delusions of unmortified sin. 
  2. Provoke your senses with a clear awareness of the guilt of unmortified sin. Say not with Naaman, “The Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.” Consider that your sin is especially grievous and aggravating before God. That your unmortified sins have inconceivably more guilt  than those who have not been bestowed with countless means of grace, upheld by the mercies of God, and experienced relief and deliverance from the hand of God which you have. “God sees a great deal of evil in the working of lust in their hearts, yea, and more than in the open, notorious acts of wicked men.” Do not belittle the guilt of your cosmic treason. Load your conscience with the guilt of sin.
  3. Imbue your faculties with a clear apprehension of the danger of unmortified sin. The danger of inveterate hardening. The danger of a delusional mind and defiled imaginations. The danger of temporal correction. Is it a little thing that God should bring weakness to your body, ruin to your estate, suffering to your family, reproach to your name?
  4. Incite your consciousness with a clear empathy that unmortified sin grieves the Holy Spirit. We have harboured those enemies He was meant to destroy in our hearts with Him. Be ashamed that your temple is kept defiled.
  5. Instil your your considerations with a clear perception that the Lord Jesus Christ is wounded afresh by it. “Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
  6. Do not declare peace to your soul before God declares it. A false peace will not abide, but only create an environment for sin to once again fester. Wait upon God to speak peace to your soul.
  7. Declare Total War & Total Obedience. Be watchful for sin is watching you. Be killing sin or sin will be killing you. Be foiled by sin or foil sin. Be conquered or conquer. “So I say unto all, Watch.”

If you feel the guilt, danger, and evil of unmortified sin accept the call to worship. Say not you are to sinful to worship. It would be like saying your to dirty to have a bath, to hungry to eat, or to tired to rest. Come to Christ.

Collision

Idolatrous Iconoclasts

Devil's DictionaryThis message is borrowed heavily from Rev. Douglas Wilson’s message at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, “The Politics of Sodomy IV: Remember Lot’s Wife.” Worth the listen.

ICONOCLAST

“I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first work of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubles less clear to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselfs  is difficult, but fine.” You will read this excerpt in a favoured book of mine from the Scottish satyrical writer Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary.” I have often perused this book since its first introduction to me through the frequent references of it in the debates of the reputable polemic Christopher Hitchens and theologian, Douglas Wilson. As you may deduce, this brief excerpt in the volume of satyrical word definitions is from the introduction in the alphabetical category of the letter “I”. The other week I interested myself in the second word listed in the category, namely, Iconoclast. In its serious definition and modern connotation Iconoclast means a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. It was love at first sight for me. After all, the dictionary is a book of love and one giant romance novel to the effervescent bibliophile. “A person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. Iconoclast.”  Its historical meaning refers to A breaker or destroyer of images; a name which Catholics gave to those who reject the use of images in religious worship. Indeed I should like to conceive of myself as an Iconoclast after the Puritans and reformers before me. More specifically, as a Christian Iconoclast modelled after that peerless Iconoclast in Biblical history, King Josiah. “Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.” As I perceived it, Christians ought and are the congregation of Iconoclasts bringing about the decimation of societies’ idolatrous abominations. Removing every revered institution, dismantling every venerated ideology which abrogates the law of God. So the Christian is either an Iconoclast or an Idolator. As Mr. Amberson observed in his last message, their are several and sundry idolatries without the Church that if we as Iconoclasts do not crush, they shall doubtless crush us.

IDOLATER

By idol or idolatry I mean something beyond some conception of a pagan figure or object, I mean rather a created thing which endeavours to place itself where only the uncreated God is. In “The Anatomy of Melancholy” Robert Burton writes, “We are thus bad by nature, bad by kind, but far worse by art, every man the greatest enemy unto himself. We study many times to undo ourselves, abusing those good gifts which God hath bestowed upon us, health, wealth, strength, wit, learning, art, memory to our own destruction.” So we can be idolatrous with our without images. Idolatry as such is strictly forbidden, “Turn ye not unto idols, more make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God.” For we are doomed if we do so. “I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.” I wonder if we realize just how doomed our society is by its idolatrous abominations. If we are blind or just ever belligerent optimists to the present and future state of our culture. Now I am no fan of optimism or its denomination. In the words of Ambrose Bierce, optimism, “Is a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof – an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.” As Douglas Wilson illustrates, two days before the destruction of Sodom was it possible for Lot’s wife to say, “Well, its all right so far.” We may even confess to ourselves, Yes, we have some issues in our city, a looming crises in politics, and other problems in the economy, but its not so bad.” Thus we join the company of the idols which are reserved by God for complete annihilation. However I don’t see that being the common response to the state of the nation in our church. I don’t think any of us are saying, All right so far.” I believe rather that each of us are concerned with responding to the current situation. We all want to do something about it. The question merely, is, “What is something constructive which we can do?” How can we be Christian Iconoclasts? How can we effectively and actively quell the present judgment?

WORSHIP

The one thing which we can do, and indeed the only thing which we can do is worship God as we have the privilege of doing every Lord’s Day.  “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Not just the iconoclasts maxim, but also our prayer and model. Since idolatry is placing ourselves where God belongs we know to combat idolatry in our hearts we must place ourselves at the feet of where God is. When we worship we rise to the courts of the Lord in heaven. When we worship we ascend that holy hill, we boldly enter into the holy of holies, we have entrance into the heaveanlies. In response to our worship, God in heaven comes to us. We do not pray, “Thy Kingdom go” because it is coming. Heaven only comes through worship. His Kingdom only comes only as we hallow our heavenly Father’s name. How do you hallow God’s name on earth? Hallow it in heaven. How does God’s Kingdom come to us? We go to it. How do we go to it? Worship our Father in the name of is Son in the power of his Holy Spirit in the heavenly places with the congregation of God. Our church’s mission statement rightly begins with the simple declaration that we exists “For the right worshipping of God.” This is the central function of Christ’s Church and its local, visible expression here in Grace Haven.

WEAPON OF WORSHIP

The statement, “Thy Kingdom come” doesn’t just infer it does not “go” but rather “comes” through hallowing worship. It also infers that here on earth we are under an entirely different and opposing kingdoms and kings. The Christian Iconoclast comprehends this reality more so than others. The Christian Iconoclast knows what the Kingdom of God actually is. Morecraft writes, “Christ’s mediatorial kingdom is the manifestation of the sovereign rule of God in power and grace which establishes a new civilization of righteousness and blessedness in history by the power of the Holy Spirit in, under and through the Lord Jesus Christ in fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises.” It is establishing the crown rights of King Jesus for all of life, for all the world. Thus the Christian iconoclast as they read the news realizes it is far from being so. The troublesome problems, the idolatrous ideologies, the crisis and catastrophes, we have done on earth as it is not done in heaven. They comprehend the extent the Kingdom of God has to come just in order to be realized. The Christian iconoclast realizes how our nation is enclosed and fortified within the bulwarks of hell. But the Christian Iconoclasts also knows what weapon the parapets of hell cannot withstand. As states just a few Sundays ago, it is the church. “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So you want to do something? You read the news and ask what equips you to stop that stuff? You browse the internet and wonder what to do with all the stupidity out there? You want to storm the gates of hell? Well every seven days Grace Haven gathers at their castle gates and has the privilege of taking up the battering ram of worship and taking another swing. Our one weapon and our only weapon is the right worship of God. But it is no small weapon. Rather against its force, “The gates of hades will not prevail.” 

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shin upon us; Selah.

That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield ehr increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

SPOILS OF BATTLE

When we prevail against these gates there will be many consequences. We will experience change and reform in economics where we take credence to the seventh commandment and no longer steal through inflation or redistribution. We will experience political consequences as we begin to recognize God’s order of state, local, church, family, and individual government. We will experience social consequences in dealing with the poor, widows, and orphans and exercising restitution through justice in the courts. We will experience cultural consequences as we shed the ideals of humanism and statism. We will experience artistic consequences as we stop thinking outside the Bach and in the Cage. However, we must keep in mind that these areas are the spoils of battle and nor our weapons.

IDOLATROUS ICONOCLASTS

This is where the Iconoclast can made an idol out of his very iconoclasm. Politics, economics, arts, sciences, education, food, culture are what we are fighting over and for, but they are not what we are fighting with. It is a form of idolatry for the Iconoclast to think he is going to change anything by advancing particular economic policies, advocating certain educational conventions, applying a political agenda, or adjudicating on artistic or cultural methods.  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” “Confused be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols.” Christopher Hitchens quipped on stage with his Jack Daniels whiskey flask in hand, “I don’t believe we need better politicians. I believe we need a better electorate.” Close, but no cigar. Conservative politics, family economics, home education, multi-generational families, artistry or culture are not our saviours, but they do still need saving. How are they to be saved? Who is their saviour? The only saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. How do we appeal to our only Saviour? Through the triune worshipping God in Jesus’ name, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the heavenly places. Worship is our weapon in the battle. These things are the spoil of battle and not our weapons. As Douglas Wilson exhorts, “So, you want to do something constructive? Its right before you. You have a Bible? A Car? You got a hymnal? You can go to church and worship God.” If you are watching the news during the week and wonder what you are able to do about it all you should say, “Well today’s Friday… Sunday’s coming.” But instead what do we often do as misguided Iconoclasts? We watch the news first thing in the week, are horrified, encounter the urge to bring resolution, and imbue our week with all kinds of activities. On Monday we study the weapon of political agendas. Tuesday we really hone in on our home education pedagogy. Wednesday we start to overtake the artistic scene. Thursday we maneuver ourselves into becoming a cultural influence in the community. Friday we experiment with family economics. Saturday we busy ourselves with social engagements and ministry. Sunday we engage with raising our multi-generational homes, and oh wait a minute…. what about church worship. Right, this too is idolatry. This is backwards. Politics, family, economics, education, social welfare, the arts and sciences are the spoils of battle not the weapons. Worship is our one and only weapon effectual to prevailing against the bastion of hades.

ENGAGEMENT & INTEGRATION

Douglas Wilson illustrates worship in the local Church on Sunday as the centre or the engine of reformation and revival. There are some dualist, gnostic Christians who are all about majestically liturgical worship but disavow any engagement in the nitty-gritty of politics, economics, education of the world. This is like starting a big engine, but without ever putting it into gear. There are other Christians who are all about cultural integration, political agendas, artistic influence, social engagements but this whole worship thing just weighs the car down. Their Christianity is never any good at going up hill. Worship is the engine with which we engage all of life with and furthermore integrate with all God’s people for. The right worship of God is our only pure, entire, whole, and peaceful common ground. If you make anything other than worship your engine for reform you commit idolatry and your car falls apart. When you make anything other than worship your integration point your fellowship divides and everyone exits the vehicle. If you make politics your engine then your will integrate based on your political agendas. If you make generations of children your engine you will collect passengers based on their family discipline and educational customs. The problem is not that these pursuits are intrinsically bad, but rather such prioritization is idolatry (Placing the created where the uncreated God is) and are insufficient grounds for full fellowship and effective reform. You will never fully integrate on political agendas, artistic influence, social engagements, culture, educational conventions, or child raising principles. These things do not produce worship. These things are not the ladder by which we ascend into heaven. These things are not the red carpet upon which the Kingdom of God proceeds. Rather, when you worship God on the Lord’s Day in the local church His kingdom comes as promised in Christ. He makes you right with Him. He makes you a charitable Christian, a hospitable disciple, a submissive wife, an honouring child, an industrious daughter, a godly patriarch, an epistemologically self-conscious educator, an inspired artistic influence, and so on. These are the fruits of worship, not the works of worship. These are the spoils of battle, not the weapons of battle. So ask yourselves why do we hang out together? What bring us together? Is it our common practice of home education? Is it our calvinistic theology? Is it our multigenerational family model? Or is it ultimately and unfailingly the triune worship of God in the name of His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the heavenly places? If it were not for Jesus Christ would you be hanging out with these people? No. Then why do you qualify your fellowship with others on any other basis than worshiping the One who was whole that was made broken that we who are broken may be made whole?

REFORMATION & REVIVAL

Judgment begins in the house of the Lord. Francis Schaeffer writes, “The church in our generation needs reformation, revival, and constructive revolution. At times men think of the two words reformation and revival as standing in contrast one to the other, but this is a mistake. Both words are related to the word restore. Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine; revival refers to a restoration in the Christian life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture; revival speaks of a life brought into its proper relationship tot the Holy Spirit. The great moments of church history have come when these two restorations have simultaneously come into action so that the church has returned to pure doctrine and the lives of the Christians in the church have known the power of the Holy Spirit. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival.” This brings us to the second portion of the Lord’s Prayer we have before us. “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Reformation and revival as Schaeffer writes, doing the will of God as Mr. Johnson last spoke about, rightly worshiping God as was covered today is not possible without the Holy Spirit. We live in the Spirit and the Spirit in us by regeneration and continually receive him through prayer and the Scriptures. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth… the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life.” “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” How do we walk in the Spirit? Romans 8:5, “They that are after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit.” What are the things of the Spirit we are to be mindful of? “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodnesss, faith, meekness, temperance.” What does the Spirit do in our worship? “He shall testify of me.” “For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” “Now we have received… the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

CONCLUSION

Want to be a Christian Iconoclast? First repent of being an idolatrous one. Restore through reformation and revival worship as the engine of all of life and the integration of all God’s people. Avail yourself of the weapon of worship and gather with the congregation of Iconoclasts each Lord Day to prevail against the gates of Hades. In the fullness of the Spirit realize God’s transformation in your life. Worship God the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit with the assembly of God in the heavenly realms.

On The Origin of Sin: By Means of Natural Selection

Origin of Sin

Question 13: Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?

Answer: Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.

“Nothing is so easy to denounce, nothing is so difficult to understand.” Augustine.


Original Righteousness

Before we can address the doctrine of Original Sin we ought address first the much neglected doctrine of Original Righteousness. Namely, that period in Scripture and history where man was created and living in righteousness, knowledge, and holiness in the image of God. In the prose of Milton,

“Of living creatures new to sight and strange…

The image of their glorious Maker shone,

Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure.”

Here was the life of our representative heads in the Garden of Eden under the Covenant of Life. The estate wherein they were created was that of original righteousness. God created Adam and Eve, “very good.” C.S. Lewis observes, “God created all things without exception good, and because they are good, ‘No nature (i.e. no positive reality) is bad and the word Bad denotes merely privation of good,’…. What we call bad things are good things perverted.” Lewis goes on to say, “From this doctrine of good and evil it follows that good can exist without evil, but not evil without good.” Adam’s original existence was that of the former, good without evil. While Adam was created perfect, his perfection and the benefits of his perfection were not yet guaranteed. Hence, “God entered into the Covenant of Life with him, upon the condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.” In Milton’s fictive reflection of Eve speaking to Adam,

Needs must the power that made us, and for us this ample world

Be infinitely good, and of his good

As liberal and free as infinite,

That raised us from the dust and placed us here,

In all this happiness, who at his hand

Have nothing meretied, nor can perform

Aught whereof he hath need, he who requires

From us no other service than to keep

This one, this easy charge, of all the trees

In Paradise that bear delicious fruit

So various, not to taste that only Tree of Knowledge planted by the Tree of Life,

So near grows death to life, whatever death is,

Some dreadful thing no doubt, for well thou now’t

God hath pronounced it death to taste that Tree,

The only sign of our obedience left

Among so many signs of power and rule”

Probationary Prohibition

This Covenant of Life was a limited, representative probationary period. An indefinite opportunity was given to innocent Adam to virtuously secure for himself and all his posterity that state of righteous innocence. “Innocence is life untested, but virtue is innocence tested and triumphant” says one reformer. Within this probationary period Adam’s innocence was not guaranteed. Morecraft writes, “A temporary probationary period of testing was accepted by God in place of an everlasting exposure to the possibility of falling into sin under the perpetual demands of God. God limited the probationary testing period for Adam, and in so doing, accepted temporary obedience during that time frame, as equivalent to what Adam’s perpetual innocence would have accomplished.” However God not only graciously limited the time of probation, but also the persons under the probation. “Without the Covenant of Life” says Morecraft, “Wherein Adam stood for all men, representing all who would descend form him in ordinary generation, each individual would have to stand or fall according to his own individual obedience.” Hence the Covenant of Life was an indefinite, representative, probationary period by prohibition upon reward of life or threat of death. A probationary period constitutes four elements. 1. In a probationary period, the status of the probationary persons are not yet confirmed. So while Adam did not have death in him from the Tree of the Knowledge, neither had he yet attained to eternal life through the Tree of Life. 2. In probation, the persons are tested. The test for the Covenant of Life was very clear, a prohibition against eating of the Tree of the Knowledge. 3. In a probationary period the outcome has the status of the probationary persons confirmed. The outcome of obedience in the Adamic Covenant was eternal life from the Tree of Life and of disobedience, death. The fact that Adam (post-fall, post-probation) was denied the Tree of Life indicates that the Tree of Life was in fact the reserved, future award for obedience to the Covenant of Life. 4. Consequently, in a probationary period the testing is for a limited period of time. Albeit indefinite, Adam’s testing was indeed limited otherwise their would have been no mention of a promised reward or threatened punishment indicating finality to the probation.

Free Agency & Moral Ability

“I made him just and right, 

Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.”

Illustrates Milton of God concerning Adam. Scripture is incredibly clear that post-fall, post-probation man is not able not to sin by reason of his sin nature.  In this regard Karl Kraus was correct in stating that “The Devil is wildly optimistic if he thinks he can make human beings worse than they are.”  We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. “Free-Will” for us, the moral ability to select between good and evil, is an empty word. A man cannot prefer against his preference or choose against his choice, and Scripture is clear our only preference is evil and our only choice is sin. This is what we may call “The freedom of slavery.” Not free-will but self-will. As Lorraine Boettner writes, “We deny the existence in man of a power which may act either way, on the logical ground that both virtue and vice cannot come out of the same moral condition of the agent.” Martin Luther wrote, “Free will is an empty term, whose reality is lost. And a lost liberty, according to my grammar, is no liberty at all.” However, if there ever was a man who had free-will, apart from the incarnate God-man, it was Adam. He had no such “freedom of slavery”, no lost liberty, no self-will, no sin nature. To say differently would be to hold God liable as the creator of faultiness, or author of evil. Our representative’s moral ability and free-agency to guarantee his state of righteous innocence was being tested in the probationary period. Unlike us, Adam had both the capacity and ability for either virtue or vice. The power of contrary choice, as the angels before him, and the incarnate Christ after, was his to avail. John Murray notes, “There was no necessity arising from his physical condition, nor from his moral nature, nor from the state of his environment, why he should sin.”


The Origin of Original Sin

Original Sin did not originate in Adam, although it was indeed perpetuated by him.

“He trusted to have equaled the Most High,

If he opposed; and with ambitious aim

Against the throne and monarchy of God

Raised impious war in Heav’n and battle proud

With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power

Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky

With hideous ruin and combustion down

To bottomless perdition, there to dwell

In adamantine chains and penal fire,

Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.”

The origin of sin as Milton here portrays, was with Satan. As one theologian writes, “Sin did not break out on earth in the first instance, but in heaven, in the immediate presence of God, and at the foot of his throne. The thought, the wish, the will to resist God arose first in the heart of the angels.” Now sin’s originator, the original sinner, Satan, conspired against God’s creation vowed to his legions,

“To waste his whole creation, or possess

All as our own, and drive as we were driven,

The puny habitants, or if not drive,

Seduce them to our party, that their God

May prove their foe, and with repenting hand

Abolish his own works. This would surpass

Common revenge, and interrupt his joy

In our confusion, and our joy upraise

In his disturbance, when his darling sons

Hurled headlong to partake with us, shall curse

Their frail original, and faded bliss

Faded so soon.” Milton.

Thus arose the originator who would supply the external suggestion of original sin to Adam. Laidlaw writes of original sin in Adam, “It arose with an external suggestion, and upon an external occasion, but it was an inward crisis.” Samuel Rutherford clarifies, “Can Satan force us against our will to sin? A. No, he tempts us and knocks at the door without, but our will and lust opens the door. Satan is the midwife that helps forward the birth but our will and lust is the father and mother to all our sins.” So our parents fell from the estate wherein he was created by sinning against God. “What is the Fall?” asks C.S. Lewis, “The Fall is simply and solely Disobedience – doing what you have been told not to do: and it results from Pride – from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place, thinking that you are God.”


Original Knowledge

The fall from original righteousness was through the original sin of original knowledge.

“Will God incense his ire

For such a petty trespasss, and not praise

Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain

Of death denounced, whatever thing death be,

Deterred not from achieving what might lead

To happier life, knowledge of good and evil;

Of good, how just? Of evil, if what is evil

By real, why not known, since easier shunned;

God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;

Not just, not God; not feared then, nor obeyed:

Your fear itself of death removes the fear.

Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe,

Why but to keep ye low and ignorant,

His worshipers; he knows that in the day

Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear,

Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then

Opened and cleared, and ye shall be as gods,

Knowing both good and evil as they know.”

Know as they know the knowledge of Good and Evil. The prohibition of the probationary period went far beyond sensual intemperance and mammon appetite. Its grimace was graver than gluttony. It would also be a mistake to say that knowledge was prohibited in the Covenant of Life. Our first parents were indeed created in, “knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.” Their knowledge must have been surpassing for Adam to have the originality of thought and the discernment to give names to the creatures and to manage paradise itself. This quality of knowledge, this pure and vast natural knowledge was not an inducement to the fall. So too ought we not abandon learning, scholarly pursuits, and intellectual cultivation in the work of the dominion mandate. It was not the quantity of Adam’s knowledge (as vast as it was) which induced the fall, but rather the quality of knowledge. Namely, moral knowledge. Francis Bacon writes in his essay on “The Advancement of Learning” , “It was not the pure knowledge of Nature and universality, a knowledge by the light whereof man did give names unto other creatures in Paradise as they were brought before him according unto their properties, which gave the occasion to the fall; but it was the proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself, and to depend no more upon God’s commandments, which was the form of the temptation.” The limitations of righteous knowledge are therefore threefold as Bacon considers, “1. That we do not so place our felicity in knowledge, as we forget our mortality.” This was the original lie in the original sin of original knowledge. “Ye shall not die.” Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? As the fool.” Momento Mori, remember your mortality. Bacon continues, “The second, that we make application of our knowledge, to give ourselves repose and contentment, and not distaste or repining.”  The latter quality of knowledge puffeth-up. It set our first parents at enmity with God and then with themselves. “The third, that we do not presume by the contemplation of Nature to attain to the mysteries of God.” Herein again was the lie of original knowledge. “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Bacon wonderfully summarizes, “Let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain that a man can search too far, or be too well studies in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works, divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficiency in both; only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation;” 


Apologetics for Dogmatics

It makes God the author of sin.

Not so.

“And man there placed, with purpose to assay

If him [Satan] by force he can destroy, or worse,

By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert;

For man will hearken to his glozing lies,

And easily transgress the sole command,

Sole pledge of his obedience: so will fall

He and his faithless progeny: whose fault?

Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me

All he could have; I made him just and right, Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.”

Again, the fall arose out of external suggestion, upon external situation, but from an inward crisis. Adam was the author of his own sin. “God left him [Adam] to the freedom of his own will, and that freedom he abused. No doubt God could have prevented his fall if he had pleased, by giving such influences of his Spirit as would have been absolutely effectual to hinder it; but this he was under no obligation to do. He did not withdraw from man that ability with which He had furnished him for his duty, nor did He infuse any vicious inclinations into his heart – He only withheld that further grace that would have infallibly prevented his fall.” Robert Shaw. Consequentially, God allowed the fall. We meant it for evil, but God decreed it for good.

“As my eternal purpose hath decreed:

Man shall not quite be lost, but saved who will,

Yet not of will in him, but grace in me

Freely vouchsafed; once more I will renew

His lapsed powers, though forfeit and enthralled

By sin to foul exorbitant desires;

Upheld by me, yet once more he shall stand

On even ground against his mortal foe,

By me upheld, that he may know how frail

His fall’n condition is, and to me owe

All his deliv’rance, and to none but me.”

So if God decreed the Fall as Milton depicts, how then can there can be moral responsibility without free agency?

The decretive will of God which is the cause of the futurition of the Fall is neither its physical cause (infusion of sin in Adam) or its ethical cause (Approval of sin in Adam). Nor because Adam fulfilled the decretive will is he held less guilty as he still violated the preceptive will of God graciously revealed to him. John Piper refers to this most wisely as the two wills of God. Piper writes, “We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God’s will.” The preceptive will of God is “His general intention and longing, not his effective purpose.” The decretive will of God is his inviolable sovereign decree or effective purpose of what will happen. The former is what he would delight in happening. The latter is what he finally decides in happening. The former is what he would want to happen. The latter is what he wills to happen. The two wills of God working together are paradoxical but not contradictory. Furthermore, the Pelagian doctrine that goodness and vice are measured in proportion to the selection  of either being devoid of any influence is fallacious. Calvin deduces, “The goodness of God is so connected with his Godhead that it is not more necessary to be God than to be good; whereas the devil, by his fall, was so estranged from goodness that he can do nothing but evil. 

Should anyone give utterance to the profane jeer that little praise is due to God for a goodness to which he is forced, is it not obvious to every man to reply, “It is owing not to violent impulse, but to his boundless goodness, that he cannot do evil?”

Therefore, if the free will of God in doing good is not impeded, because he necessarily must do good; if the devil, who can do nothing but evil, nevertheless sins voluntarily; can it be said that man sins less voluntarily because he is under a necessity of sinning?”

The voluntary or involuntary nature the natural selection of virtue or vice does not effect the praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of such a choice.


Conclusion

“But to destruction sacred and devote,

He with his whole posterity must die,

Die he or Justice must; unless for him

Some other able, and as willing, pay

The rigid satisfaction, death for death.

Say Heavenly powers, where shall we find such love,

Which of ye will be mortal to redeem

Man’s mortal crime, and just th’ unjust to save,

Dwells in all Heaven charity so dear?”

He asked, but all the Heavn’nly choir stood mute,

And silence was in Heav’n: on no man’s behalf

Patron or intercessor none appeared,

Much less that durst upon his own head draw

The deadly forfeiture, and ransom set.

And now without redemption all mankind

Must have been lost, adjudged to death and Hell

By doom severe, had not the Son of God,

In whom the fullness dwells of love divine,

His dearest meditation thus renewed.

“Father, thy word is past, man shall find grace;

And shall grace not find means, that finds her way…

Behold me then, me for him, life for life

I offer, on me let thine anger fall;

Account me man; I for his sake will leave

Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee

Freely put off, and for him lastly die

Well pleased, on me let Death wreck all his rage;

Under his gloomy power I shall not long

Lie vanquished; thou hast giv’n me to possess

Life in myself forever, by thee I live,

Though now to Death I yield, and am his due

All that of me can die, yet that debt paid,

Thou wilt not leave me in the loathsome grave

His prey, nor suffer my unspotted soul

Forever with corruption there to dwell;

But I shall rise victorious, and subdue

My vanquisher, spoiled of his vaunted spoil;

Death his death’s wound shall then receive, and stoop

Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarmed.

I through the ample air in triumph high

Shall lead Hell captive mauler Hell, and show

The powers of darkness bound. Thou at the sight

Pleased, out of Heaven shalt look down and smile,

While by thee raised I ruin all my foes,

Death last, and with his carcass glut the grave:

Then with the multitude of my redeemed

Shall enter Heaven long absent, and return,

Father to see thy face, wherein no cloud

Of anger shall remain, but peace assured,

And reconcilement; wrath shall be no more

Thenceforth, but in thy presence joy entire.”

His words here ended, but his meek aspect

Silent yet spake, and breathed immortal love

To mortal men, above which only shone

Filial obedience: as a sacrifice

Glad to be offered, he attends the will

Of his great Father. Admiration seized

All Heav’n, what this might mean, and whither tend Wondering.”

Home Education Graduate Panel

School Boy

The following is a series of questions and answers from a graduate panel of which I was a part.

2015 SHBE CONVENTION

Grad Panel Questions:

1. Describe your homeschooling experience.

In a word, at the risk of sounding pretentious, successful. But I suppose that raises the question of what successful homeschooling is.  Initially, my education was a basic imitation of the public school system. We exercised with inimitable discipline classroom itinerary, curricular grade order, standardized testing, scoring, textbook modules, and other such organons of bureaucracy. The objective of this quixotic pedagogy and the success measurement was to get into university. We subscribed to the common notions that a successful homeschooler gets the highest grades, or performs extracurricular studies, or becomes a peerless career person, or an entrepreneur, or university student. While some of these are laudable pursuits they are limited and misconceived objectives. Through a series of providential events my parents came to discover that “schooling” was not necessarily annexed to “success.” Postman’s evaluation was that, “We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think “success” is synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, “schooling,” but historically that isn’t true in either an intellectual or economic sense.” Thus, pragmatically speaking, for the times of substantial economic development in America and Canada schooling was in its most puerile form and thereby inconsequential to the prosperity encountered. My parents recognized as Whitehead writes, “Education is the acquisition of the art of utilization of knowledge” and therefore, “There is only one subject-matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations.” Contrary to common opinion, homeschooling is not by the book, or at least, the textbook. Home education reformed in our family away from being merely well-informed individuals on the systematic facts regarding a particular series of textbook disciplines. The bureaucratic instruments I mentioned earlier became more and more foreign and alien to my education as sound learning and sound character was imparted to me by the discipleship of my parents. My education began to look something like John Milton’s exhortation where he states, “I call a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public of peace and war.” Summarily, my homeschooling experience was not defined by my grades, my character development, the intensity of my curriculum, my career, or secondary education although I underwent all of those components. Rather, my parents acknowledged that a successful homeschooler was not a well-taught person as the public school system would propose, but instead a self-taught person. That is to say, autodidactic. Hence I have difficulty saying that I am a “graduate” from schooling. Because I am learning more now than I ever did as a homeschooler. My years as a homeschooler were not to inculcate me with a supposedly sufficient systematic knowledge of facts so I could be “successful.” My years as a homeschooler was an introduction and inducement to continue to learn and teach myself to “perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the office both private and public.”

2. Is there anything you would change about your homeschooling experience?

Again in short, everything. I believe it to be my duty and every succeeding generations duty to be actively and constantly reforming upon the previous. An unfortunate misconception in homeschooling is to raise our children to be “well-informed.” We teach them to think and know multiple facts about science, math, logic, music etc… However, education of mere half-digested facts and too many of them is “The devil in the scholastic world” and we’re really being no different than the public institutions except for the fact were just more stubborn. Neil Postman warned, “The teaching of a scientific outlook in the curriculum does not insure that students will develop a scientific mind-set.” Alfred North Whitehead had this critique for such curriculum, “We must beware of what I call ‘inert ideas’ that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combination.” Teaching children disconnected, contextless, and fragmented facts is not only useless but harmful. Useless, idle, inert thoughts are brain cancer to the autodidactic mind. They will kill any desire and love of learning. Contrary to educating our children to think about science, math, logic, and music Whitehead is saying we must educate our children to think scientifically, mathematically, logically, and musically. The key is knowledge applied. “Let the main ideas which are introduced into a child’s education be few and important… The child should make them his own, and should understand their application here and now in the circumstances of his actual life.” Education follows life, not life education as is the characteristic of some homeschooling expectations. What I would make to be the “Few and important” ideas which are introduced into a child’s education is, as Postman recommends, the Trivium model of the Middle Ages. The Trivium consisted of teaching the child to think critically through logic, rhetoric, and grammar. Grammar diagrams, rhetoric form, and logic laws not taught as facts, but as the applicable means to think grammatically, logically, and communicably. Once the child is able to think critically I would continue to the Quadrivium. The Quadrivium consisted of the scientific art disciplines (Physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc…). I would most definitely include the lost sciences such as jurisprudence. Teach your children Biblical Case Law, and Lord William Blackstone’s English Common Law, and Kennedy’s Canadian constitutional law. Lord Blackstone acutely wrote, “For I think it an undeniable position, that a competent knowledge of the laws of that society, in which we live, is the proper accomplishment of every gentleman and scholar; an highly useful, I had almost said essential, part of liberal and polite education.” Additionally, I would teach everything from etiquette, economics, culinary arts, culture, worldview, philosophy, history, to horticulture. Benjamin Franklin, a model autodidact illustrated the development of the mind which should characterize the multi-generational, autodidactic, homeschooling family. “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” Finally, there is a simple but difficult process for attaining all of this and Francis Bacon summarizes it well. “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” In other words, specialized, active, applicable knowledge in these disciplines can be attained through reading good books to and with your children, conversing about them, and requiring essays of them. This is what I did at home, it is what I do now, and this is the very same model Cambridge uses to remarkable success. Notice how foreign standardized testing, grading, textbooks, and such like bureaucratic organons are to this model. As Postman noted regarding these modern conventions, “I shall not argue here that this is a stupid or dangerous idea, only that it is peculiar. What is even more peculiar is that so many of us do not find the idea peculiar.”

3. What was the best part about being homeschooled? (You can include favourite subjects or activities)

Discipleship. Geoffrey Botkin observes the hebraic discipleship model practiced in Cambridge university where students need no GPA, or credit hours, or typical grade averages, or even lecture attendance. They only have need of an understated endorsement from their tutor which goes something like this in Latin. “Here is a man I know to be of sound learning and good character, suitable to receive his degree.” In order to merit such an endorsement the student was placed under a mentor and tasked to write an essay on their particular discipline with which they know nothing about. It was the responsibility of the student to discover the resources, time, lectures, books, and interviews needed to form their essay. Periodically, the student met with their mentor in order that they might have opportunity to defend and review their essay work. It was a difficult and refining process for the student. One defined these interview moments as, “Exploring the vast wildernesses of my ignorance.” Finally, the essay was authoritative, clear, and sufficient and the understatement for the endorsement was granted by the mentor. Notice the parallel to the earlier quotation from Francis Bacon. “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and wiring and exact man.” I practice this method to this day. For instance, I am currently reading a stack of books and writing an essay on “The English Common Law Doctrines of Primogeniture & Coverture as distinguished from their counterparts of Gavelkind and Universal Suffrage together with their consequences upon English & Canadian society in the 1800s.” With regards to reading John Taylor Gatto writes, “Close reading of tough-minded writing is still the best, cheapest, and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself… Reading, and rigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense.” This is nothing less than homeschooling, where face-to-face discipleship imparts sound character and stimulates sound learning.

4. Do you feel your home education has prepared you for your education choices since high school and for adulthood? Explain.

Yes, so much so I have yet to want or need it. Higher education or post-secondary is not helpful to the autodidactic homeschooler for two reasons. One, Universities are not places of higher learning. Geoffrey Botkin acutely defines them as, “Pseudo-academic bureaucracies of politically correct indoctrination and statist compliance.” Secondly, by definition, autodidacts don’t need post-secondary or credentials to be successful. The real achievement of a homeschooler is not entrance into university to succeed in life but to succeed in life without university all together. If the very intent of home education is to separate ourselves from wicked influence then why are we so attracted to the modern university which is the very scourge of depravity itself? If the very intent of home education is family independence, liberty of content and freedom of expression why would we desire to place ourselves in an environment which revokes such rights? University professor himself, Niel Postman, writes, “Schools became the first secular bureaucracies, structures for legitimizing some parts of the flow of information and discrediting other parts. Schools were, in short, a means of governing the ecology of information.” If we are truly self-made individuals and self-learners why the lust to institutionalize ourselves? I simply do not understand how homeschoolers hate public school with such vehemence, but have this inordinate love for university, the veritable culmination of the vices of compulsory schooling. Autodidacts don’t need or want post-secondary credentials. Again, contrary to common opinion schooling and success are not necessarily conducive towards each other. John Milton writes, “The end of learning is to repair the ruin of our first parents, by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge, to love Him, to intimate Him, to be like Him.” You can’t do that in university.

5. a) Are you taking or have you taken any post-secondary education? Explain, including any difficulties you encountered and how you worked those out.

I have taken post-secondary. Again, the difficulty and challenge is not in doing university but doing without it. Employers or customers are far more eager for an individual who has the experience which states they have done it rather than the piece of paper which states they can do it. Alfred North Whitehead remarked, “The valuable intellectual development is self-development.”

5. b) Did you go directly into the workforce instead of post-secondary?  Explain, including any difficulties you encountered and how you worked those out.

I have worked in both white and blue collar vocations during and after homeschooling. A mentor of mind shared with me recently a enormously true consideration. Just because your homeschooled doesn’t mean you get a head start in the workplace. We deceive ourselves if we consider public schoolers as failures and rejects. They will give you a run for your money so think critically and don’t take opportunities for granted.

6. Do you plan/hope to home school your own children someday?

As a homeschool “graduate” I am engaged in Bacon’s curriculum of reading, conference, and writing more than ever before. While reviewing my answers for these questions I came to the realization that I am currently learning, reading, writing, and communicating more ideas regarding more subjects more efficiently and more effectively than I ever remotely did while being educated at home. Therefore the notion of passing this love of learning and accumulation of knowledge on as a homeschool dad if the Lord wills is something beyond pleasure to my mind.