Josiah Audette

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

Month: October, 2012

The Spirit of the Times

The following is from Samuel Rutherford’s 1664 book, “Lex, Rex.”

The more prominent features of a man’s public life are generally characterized by the spirit of the times in which he lived. If the period has been peaceful and undisturbed by party controversy and the disputes of opposing factions, then all flows smoothly and quietly on; the minds of the people repose unhar- assed and unexcited by public contentions and quarrels; there is opportunity for the cultivation of the useful arts; a taste is displayed in the pursuit of learning and literature, and improvements and discoveries, in every branch of science and art, advance with rapid strides. Such a state of things men of civilized nations in general desire. Yet a period like this, when there has been “peace in the land,” looked back upon from a succeeding age, or read as a chapter of history, appears tame and monotonous. There is nothing to arouse the attention or awaken the feelings, when the only record we have of a man is, that he lived, died, and was buried. But it is otherwise when the times have been the scene of anarchy, civil war, or persecution. Then the calmness and repose of the community is broken up; men are excited and roused by the spirit-stirring events that are passing around them; each must take their side;—it is then that their characters are drawn out and shown in a true light: the weak, the timid and undecided, keep the back ground, while men of courage and daring stand forward in bold relief.

There has been in the history of mankind, in all ages, two great contending principles at issue—the contest of error against truth, and the struggle of truth with error. On the one side—error, with the violence of oppression, doing all that persecution can accomplish, in endeavouring to exterminate virtue from the moral universe; and on the other—truth, with noble courage and exalted firmness, maintaining the purity of her principles in opposition to ignorance and persecution. For upwards of four thousand years she has grappled with superstition, idolatry, and bigotry, and, with moral weapons, she has vindicated justice of her principles, which her enemies have found easier to answer with the sword than by argument. In every age error has had the majority, for truth has had few followers; but, in the end, she has been triumphant even at the stake, or on the scaffold. Yet the faggot will burn with a fiercer flame, and the guillotine will be deeper dyed with the martyr’s blood than it has ever yet been, ere the world assent to the truth of her doctrines. On looking back, and review- ing the civil and religious history of our own land, we observe the mighty contest between Popery and the Reformed Doctrine—we see the fearful conflict of right and wrong—and we see truth, with a gigantic effort, burst the fetters which had so long held the people in mental bondage and ignorance. Again, we observe the struggles between Presbytery and Episcopacy, during most of the latter half of the seventeenth century; one party urged on by a spirit of opposition and bigotry, to trample on the religious rights and privileges of the people, and doing all in their power to bring them again under the iron sway of the Church of Rome; the other, with moral courage and firmness, standing boldly forward, in the front of persecution, tyranny, and oppression, for the cause and promotion of true religion; and from the martyrdom of Hamilton, Scotland’s first martyr, many a noble spirit has been immolated and set free, for the cause, and at the shrine of Truth;

Yet few remember them. They lived unknown Till persecution dragg’d them into fame, And chased them up to heaven.

Of Studies by Francis Bacon

Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning, by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores [Studies pass into and influence manners]. Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again. If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores [splitters of hairs]. If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers’ cases. So every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.

Question 2

Q. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify him?

A. The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy Him.


As I did in my last message I would make point of the Catechism’s order. In our last question it was established that mankind’s ultimate end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Would we not conclude then that our next question is, Who is this God we are to enjoy? Or Why are we to enjoy God? Does it not appear that we are skipping or at least delaying the question about God which should necessarily follow? It would certainly seem so, but be sure the Catechism makes no blunder in addressing this question on the matter of revelation before the question of God Himself. For we can know nothing of God except through a revelation. Therefore, before we ask who God is, we must first establish who or what reveals to us who God is. It is for this same reason that when you open any systematic theology book it immediately begins with the doctrine of Scripture. Because everything which we are to know about God, the Trinity, ourselves, the Gospel, the Church, and the Future is firstly derived from Scripture itself. 


Having concluded that it is right and necessary for the Catechism to first establish what is indeed our true, divine revelation, we should note what this revelation addresses. I find it interesting that the question does not read, “What rule has God given us to direct us what man is to believe concerning God?” Rather, it reads, “What rule has God given us to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” Why is this? Why is the Catechism addressing the revelation of the rule for our obedience, rather than a revelation of God for our belief? Is the Catechism once again confused and failing to prioritize its questions? As in my last message, I would answer again with Joseph Morecraft. Question two “…Forces us to take our eyes off of ourselves, our own comfort and salvation as our primary concern, and to fix them on the God of Glory, bidding us to seek our ultimate purpose and happiness in Him.” The Catechism is not man-oriented, in that it first attempts to appease our human unbelief by capitulating to our questions. Rather, the Catechism simply presupposes the existence of God, His supremacy, and proceeds to address what we are to do in response without inquiry. The Catechism does not aim to justify God to man for what He requires. As the first, the second question of the Catechism elevates itself from what we require of God, to what God requires of us.


Understanding now why it is so critical to address the revelation of God’s rule before even God Himself, let us first denote how the Catechism specifically attributes God as being the giver of this revelation. The rule to direct us how we may glorify God is not given from a prophet as Islam teaches, nor the Pope or tradition as Catholicism in part teaches, but exclusively from God Himself. Every religion or so called “non-religion” in the world finds its knowledge/revelation in essentially two sources: human reason or human experience. Over and against these false notions is Biblical Christianity. Our source of knowledge and revelation is directly God obtained. God in His supreme being has determined the highest end in creation to be His glory and so it necessarily follows that it is He who determines how He is indeed to be glorified.


Before I would address the answer I would make one more note of the question itself. One of the greatest characteristics of the Catechism is not only the selection and systemizing of its questions, but furthermore its choice wording. In the second question we come across a wonderfully consequential word, namely, “Given.” The rule to direct us how we are to glorify God has been “Given” to us. And what is given, in its most original definition, is a gift. When you think about it, God was under no obligation to provide our fallen race with any specific and divine revelation of Himself. While we indeed needed it, God had no debt to provide it. Rather, the rule which we have from God was a gift of divine mercy. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” Matt 11:25-26. 


Again, before we even observe the answer, we see that the Catechism in its questions alone is orientated around God. This second question concludes that to rightly glorify God we are dependent upon a special revelation given by God as a divine gift of mercy. The purpose of this special revelation is to give us divine direction. This revelation is therefore the basis of all knowledge and defines all of our life around God. Our special revelation is God-centered, God-oriented, and God-originating.


The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy Him.

While God has chosen to make Himself known through general revelation  (Creation and our consciousness) He has furthermore made Himself known through special revelation, in meaningful words and sentences (Verbal and  propositional.) Let it first be asked why do we need special revelation from God? Firstly, because we are too limited and inferior in our comprehension of God and His will. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9. Secondly, because general revelation in creation and our human consciousness is incomplete by itself. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” 1 Cor 1:21 “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Cor 2:7-9. As Joseph Morecraft wrote, “Creation reveals a creator but not a redeemer.” The fact that general revelation is insufficient does not mean that it is insufficient in accomplishing its own purpose. Creation and human consciousness is to be revelatory of God, and indeed it is. The insufficiency arises not from any defect within its design, but within our sin immolated souls which are blinded to see God in general revelation. This leads us to our final reason for the need of special revelation. We need special revelation because of the destructive effects of sin on our minds. Romans 1 is most clear on this, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” 

The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy Him.


What we can immediately take note of in this answer is that our special revelation from God is verbal and propositional. Meaning our special revelation is a written revelation, and this written revelation is called Scripture. The Catechism continues to clarify the scope or canon of Scripture as being comprised of both the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. Summarily, the rule which God has given us to direct us in glorifying Him is the Bible, where God’s special revelation has been “inscripturated.”


The lost doctrine of Scripture today is that of the sufficiency of Scripture. We may declare the doctrine of the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, but an inerrant Bible which is not a sufficient Bible is completely irrelevant to direct us how to glorify God and enjoy Him. But God’s word is far from such a pitiful state. As the great theologian Cornelius Van Til wrote, “The Bible is authoritative on everything about which it speaks. And it speaks about everything.” So what is the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture? Wayne Grudem in his systematic  theology defines it well. “The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.” The rule which God has given us is devoid of deficiencies and there is no dichotomy between its Testaments. Rather, Scripture is authoritative. All it’s words are God’s words, and to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. Scripture is inerrant. Scripture always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about and nothing is contrary to fact or to itself. Additionally, Scripture is clear. It is written in such a way that it is able to be understood by all who seek God’s help and are willing to follow it. Moreover, Scripture is necessary. It is necessary for knowing how we are to glorify God and enjoy Him. All these characteristics of Scripture culminate in the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture. 


The Word of God contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament is the only rule to direct us how to glorify God and enjoy Him. Its direction is authoritative, its direction is inerrant, its direction is clear, its direction is necessary, and its direction is sufficient. Scripture’s direction is life-wide and comprehensive. Its authority is not limited entirely and exclusively to the “heavenly” or “spiritual.” It directs us in politics, law, warfare, finance, marriage, education, crime, punishment, management, funerals, inflation, ecology, agriculture, economics, entrepreneurship, culture, art, music, worship, church discipline, the gospel, and literally every sphere of life. As Paul Cook wrote, “God’s Word cannot be limited to the religious and excluded from the secular any more than God Himself.” As Dr. Joseph Morecraft wrote, “All the Christian needs to be thoroughly equipped for service to Christ in any area of life, public or private, spiritual or physical, personal or societal, individual or institutional, is in the Bible.” To deny the Sufficiency of Scripture is a grave theological error. Let me read a lengthy quote again from Joseph Morecraft which I trust will be constructive. “To make the assumption that there is an area of life or thought, however limited, that can be understood without reference to the written revelation of God is to be a humanist at that point. It is to think as an atheist. A humanist/atheist is one who thinks he has the right and ability to determine good and evil, truth and error, reality and illusion by himself without submission to the governing and enlightening authority of the divinely-revealed, all-sufficient Bible.”


“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”Deuteronomy 12:32.

“The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart, the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring  forever: the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.” Psalm 19:8-9.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” 1 Peter 1:3

“I warn everyone who hearts the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19


In conclusion to this brief treatment of the second question of the Catechism we are directed again to the ultimate end of mankind. Namely, to glorify God. This is the end for which God created us, and as we now know this is the end for which God revealed His rule. The direction of our lives is to be the glory of God. Scripture, is the only rule to direct us in this end. Necessarily then, Scripture is authoritative, inerrant, clear, necessary, and sufficient in its direction. Scripture is sufficient in its means. Meaning, we have all of Scripture, none is to be added nor likewise none to be taken away. Secondly, Scripture is sufficient in its end. Meaning, it we have everything we need in it to glorify God and enjoy Him.  The Christian’s heart should rise to God in praise and thanks for this gift of divine mercy. The Christian’s mind should endeavor to treasure up this special revelation. The Christian’s hands should be eager to apply it to every sphere of his life to the glory of God and the good of others.