Josiah Audette

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

Category: Theology

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.

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.

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.”

Love the Church

William Montague DykeQ. What are the special privileges of the visible church?

A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation; and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

In the spirit of the Commonwealth Day tomorrow we shall commence with a truly wondrous British story. William Montague Dyke was the son of one of the most prosperous baronets of England. As such he was reared in cultivated and noble society.  In 1887 however he became stone blind at the mere age of ten. Composing himself to this new state in life William became devoted to his studies. Without the sundry of distractions which encumbered his peers William gained a temperament which solely cultivated itself in the pleasures of the mind. With this temperament he gained early entrance into Cambridge, and during his studies he encountered the daughter of a high-ranking British naval officer, Miss Cave. Although William was blind his love for Miss Cave was indeed not. Tenderly observing the more delicate and sweeter frames of Miss Cane’s voice, words, and air William courted her hand in marriage. He chose to satisfy himself with what he saw of Miss Cane in his mind more passionately than to behold her in the flesh. As one biographer wrote, “William Montague Dyke had lived in darkness, studied in darkness, won high university honours in darkness. He had met his affinity in darkness, learned to lover her in darkness, wooed her in darkness.” As wonderful as this is, the story does not end here. Two weeks before their wedding William submitted himself to an experimental treatment to restore his sight. The surgery was completed and William’s face was left wrapped in bandages which were to be removed on October 12, the day of his wedding to Miss Cave. No one new whether or not the treatment would actually work, but nonetheless William requested his father to remove the bandages from his face the moment his wife-to-be walked up the isle and only at that point. The day arrived and the wedding ceremonies commenced with many an august and prestigious gentry, cabinet ministers, bishops, and professors in attendance for what was to be the marriage of the decade between the children of England’s wealthiest baron and  Britain’s highest military officer.  Nobly dressed at the alter stood William, patiently awaiting his betrothed, his face still bundled in cloth. Finally, with the soft tone of the Wedding March, Miss Cave was led by her white haired father, the prestigious admiral, down the isle. William’s father began to carefully remove the bandages from his son’s eyes. He continued to unravel the bandages as the bride walked up the isle until finally, when William’s face was fully uncovered his bride stood before him. The hushed congregation of England’s finest watched intently as the blind William and bride now stood face to face. William’s exhilarated words echoed throughout the cathedral braking the silence, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!” He could see her. 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass darkly: but then shall we see face to face.” Upon the anniversary of our local church, Grace Haven Reformed Brethren, I find the impossible task before me of endeavouring to explaining something of that “Great Secret… concerning Christ, and concerning the Church.” I find myself a blind man speaking to blind men of the beauty of Christ’s bride. But I know that when Christ comes for his bride and removes the scales from my eyes, the veil from our face, we too shall cry dear brother and sister, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!” And yet it is still my duty today to assist us in in just that, imagining the beauty of Christ and the glory of his bride. I want William’s exclamation to be the cry of our own hearts today.

THE VISIBLE CHURCH

The first and natural inquiry should be what is the church? Is it a social club? An association? Society of individuals? A cultural convention? Ultimately we know from Scripture that the church is the bride of Christ. This means she is the whole number of God’s elect, the entire assembly of saints throughout all ages and all territories under the headship of Christ. As Hebrews nobly states she is, “The assembly and congregation of the first born, which are written in heaven.” This is the church spiritual and invisible, the church only now as God sees it. Wayne Grudem defines, “The church is the community of all true believers for all time.” However the church as we see it is commonly termed as the “Church visible.” That is the professors of true religion under the Gospel, believers of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ and professing members of the family of God. The church is thusly both universal (Catholic) and local. What then are the true distinguishing marks of the local, visible church. Can two Christians meeting at Tim Hortons reading the Bible be rightly identified as a local “church” or is there something more to the institution? The great puritan John Owen defined the characteristics of the professing visible church as follows. “I intend such a church in general as avowing authority from Christ (1.) For the ministerial preaching of the word; (2.) Administration of the sacraments; (3.) For the exercise of evangelical discipline; and (4.) To give a public testimony against the devil and the world, not contradicting their profession with any corrupt principles or practices inconsistent with it.” Summarily, the purity of Grace Haven as a local, visible church is measured by her Scriptural teaching, her right exercise of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord Supper, her true practice of church discipline, together with Grace Haven’s militant and holy evangelical witness in the world. The more pure she be in these four areas the more “visible” Grace Haven will be as a church. Owen’s fourth point is the most easily missed in circles such as our own and can diminish our sight of her “visibility.” We may have doctrinally pure, faithfully expositional, hermeneutically accurate preaching but not be a pure church. We may faithfully and repeatedly administer the Eucharist and Baptism but still remain a false church. We may even practice church discipline and yet all the while Grace Haven may not be a “visible” church. We may rehearse all of these church principles and practices and yet if we do not give a public testimony and if we do not confront the world we are not a true, visible church. In this sense, there is no such thing as an “invisible” “visible” church. Owen continues, “For the church, as visible, is a society gathered and erected to express and declare the holiness of Christ, and the power of his grace in his person and doctrine; and where this is not done, no church is of any advantage unto the interests of his glory in this world. The preservation, therefore, of holiness in them, whereof the discipline mentioned is an effectual means, is as necessary and of the same importance with the preservation of their being.” The visible church is visible in her proclamation. She is visible in her profession. She is visible in her practice. So we must ask ourselves “Are we ministering from the Word?” “Is Grace Haven administering the sacraments?” “Are we exercising church discipline?” And especially, “How are we, as a church, confronting culture around us with our uniformity of right doctrine preached and duties practiced?” The visible church must be just that “visible”, noticeable, and salient. We become more visible, noticeable, and salient as we cultivate purity and holiness in these four regards.

PRIVILEGE OF CHRIST’S SPECIAL CARE

Do you have a high view of Grace Haven? Dear Christian, what is your comprehension of how special Christ’s care for us is and what a privilege we have? John Calvin wrote, “If we do not prefer the church toward all other objects of our interest we are unworthy of being counted among her members.” Why should we so highly esteem and regard the church? Perhaps the best view in Scripture of the privilege of Christ’s special care and protection is seen in Matthew 16:18. “Upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” Why love the church? Because Christ says it is “My church”! Grace Haven is a personal possession belonging to Christ and this is what establishes her value. It is not my church, nor is it our church, it is not even the prime minister’s church, it is Christ the King’s church! He is her head. Surgeon wrote of this special love, “Christ loves His church specially… something special and particular – and it stands quite alone and all by itself. Having chosen because of His love, He loves because of His choice, and that love is a peculiar, special, remarkable, pre-eminent love such as He bestows upon no one else of all the human race!” We are to love the church like nothing else, because Christ loves Grace Haven like nothing else. Furthermore, it is His church because God gifted her to Christ as we read in Christ’s prayer from the Last Supper, “I have declared thy Name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word. Now they know that all things whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee.” It is His church because she was promised to Christ. “For I am jealous over you, with godly jealousy: for I have prepared you for one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” We are his betrothed. It is His church because she was purchased by him. The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was the dowry price for her. “Knowing that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from you vain conversation, received by the traditions of the fathers, But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb undefiled, and without spot.”

FAMILY IDOLATRY

Again, how are your affections toward the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? But not just do you lover her, but do you love her enough? Scott Brown acutely observes, “We have trained our affections to love other things greatly and love the essential things lightly.” These misplaced affections lead to idolatry. Idolatry is where we forsake what God has commanded us to do because our affections are toward that which God has not commanded us to do. In a community such as ours, family integration can lead to family idolatry. Joel Beeke correctly states, “As precious and intimate our own personal immediate family is, it is only but an interm arrangement. But our Church family life however is for all eternity.” Family integration does not mean that the church is made or done or subservient to the family. Jeff Pollard provides us with examples of such family idolatry.

  1. Family members we have not seen for a long time come for a visit on the Lord’s Day. So rather than worshiping God on the Lord’s Day with the brethren, which God has commanded us to do, we stay home to visit, which the Lord has not commanded us to do.
  2. Our children have a gift for music, sports, or some other academic pursuit. A public event takes place in line with that gift and we come back so late from that event, which God has not commanded us to do,  that we are tired and do not attend the Church on the Sabbath, which God has commanded us to do.
  3. A new family arrives at Church but we regard ourselves as not outgoing, introspective, or introverted and so we don’t open our home to hospitality, which God has commanded us to do, in order that we may preserve our family comfort zone, which God has not commanded us to do.
  4. We have a busy week ahead or behind us and we feel need to rest and instead of gathering with the Saints, which God has commanded us to do, we take the day off from religious observance, which God has not commanded us to do.
  5. We see another church body which can meet some of our personal wants that we do not feel are being met at our local church. So we at times reserve  contributing to the fellowship of the brethren at our local church, which God has commanded us to do, to entertain ourselves by consuming the fruits of another assembly thereby robbing both, which God has not commanded us to do.

John Owen emphasizes, “The celebration of the ordinances of sacred worship appointed by Christ, and the participation of his institutions for their edification, is not a matter of accident… but is to be an act in them of choice and voluntary obedience unto the commands of Christ. By some this duty is more expressly attended unto than by others, and by some it is totally neglected; for neither… do they consider what is their duty unto the Lord Christ therein, nor what is most meet for their own edification. They go on in these things with others, according to the customs of the times and places wherein they live, confounding their civil and spiritual relations. And these we cannot but judge to walk irregularly, through ignorance, mistakes, or prejudices. Neither will they in their least secular concernments behave themselves with so much regardlessness or negligence…But a liberty of this nature, regulated by the gospel, to be exercised in and about the great concernments of men’s souls, is by many denied and by most neglected.” If Owen warned this in the height of the Puritan era how much more ought it concern us in ours? Now these situations instanced outside of Church are not necessarily evil, and do not mistake this for there never being a situation that permits missing Church. We need only to strongly and critically re-evaluate when it is lawful and necessary to do so. In view of Christ’s supreme love for his bride ought not we also have a supreme love for her? Do we love her lightly and love other things greatly? What do you greatly love more than the church? What do you greatly love more than Grace Haven? It had better not be your programs, events, conferences, work, leisure, or even your family. “My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” A family integrated church does not mean a church that is integrated around the family, but rather families that are integrated around the church. Anything less is not family integration,  but family idolatry. I say this not to abandon our programs, events, conferences, work, leisure, or family but to place them rightly in relation to the bride of Christ. When we commit family idolatry don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you only defraud yourself, but also your family and our brethren, and Christ. When Saul was persecuting the church the Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” Christ didn’t say “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou the church” but “Why persecutes thou me?”! Because Christ so closely and personally identifies himself with the church, when we persecute the church, Christ regards it as persecuting Himself. So may the Lord not have just cause to say to me or any of us by name “Josiah, Josiah why neglectest thou me?” Or “Josiah, Josiah why criticizest thou me?” Or “Josiah, Josiah why skippest thou me?” Or “Josiah, Josiah why fault-findest thou me?” Weariness with the Lord’s day is weariness with the Lord. Weariness with the church is weariness with Christ. John Calvin states, “He cannot have God for his Father who refuses to have the Church for his mother.”

CARE & GOVERNMENT

“Upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” Both the head and the foundation of the church is Christ. The pure church expresses this foundation in its confession of faith as the Apostles did a few verses prior to Christ’s pronouncement to Peter. “Thou art that Christ, the son of the living God.” This confession of faith is the cornerstone of the church, the objective reality  upon which we rest, and the foundation upon which Christ privileges us with special care and government of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies. Take note of it. “I will build.” “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners: but citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. In whom all the building coupled together, groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are built together to be the habitation of God by the Spirit.” Grace Haven as the local, visible expression of the invisible church, is Christ’s workmanship. Firstly, Christ’s workmanship promises the triumph of his bride. “And the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” Hell cannot resist the faith of the church. Calvin observes, “Against all the powers of Satan the firmness of the church will prove to be invincible, because the truth of God, on which the faith of the Church rests, will ever remain unshaken.” 1 John 5:4, “This is that victory that hath overcome this world even our faith.” Contrary to popular illustration, the picture given in Matthew 16 is not Hell attacking the refuge of the church, but rather the church storming the gates of Hell. Gates by nature are not offensive instruments of war, they are defensive. Gates cannot attack, but only be attacked. Furthermore in Scripture the term “Gate” commonly notes place or jurisdiction of power, authority, counsels, and social designs. Additionally, one can observe the plurality of the term “Gates” here in Matthew 16. Summarily, what is being declared is that all the powers of hell, the many counsels of hell, and the multiple social designs of Satan cannot resist the onslaught of Christ’s one militant church. Secondly, Christ’s workmanship promises the eternal establishment of his bride. “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed of men, but chosen of God and precious. Ye also as lively stones, be made a spiritual house, an holy Priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Christ hewed us as living stones from the very quarries of hell, redeemed us into his kingdom, and there is refining and shaping us into the edifice of his bride. Thirdly, Christ’s workmanship promises the reward for his bride. “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.” Surgeon praises, “He loved her, not so much for what she is, but what He makes her as the object of His love. He loves her not for what comes to Him from her, or with her, but for what He is able to bestow upon her! His is the strongest love that ever was, for He has loved unseemliness till He has changed it into beauty! He has loved the sinner till He has made him a saint. He has loved the foul and filthy till He has washed them with water by the Word of God and presented them to Himself without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. We love because of loveliness apprehended and perceived, but Christ loved because He would impart His own loveliness to the object of His choice.” This is the tender care and sovereign government of Christ over his bride, over us, over Grace Haven.

COMMUNION OF SAINTS

Do you enjoy the communion of saints which you have here? Samuel Rutherford said this of his local church, “The great Master Gardener planted me here whereby his grace in this part of the vineyard I grow and here I will abide until the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me.” If there were to be a theme verse for our assembly for me it would be 1 Peter 4:9. “Be ye harbours one to another.” The term “harbour” or “haven”, as it is in our name, denotes a wondrous picture of the communion of saints. Just as a haven is defined by its easy, strategic, accessibility so too the church is to be open to all they whom have need of her. We say with Christ, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and laden, and I will ease you.” Just as the quality of the harbour can be identified from ships at sea by the stillness of its waters, so too the world can identify a church by the fervent love harboured within her. Just as a suitable harbour is as wide as it is deep, allowing sundry and diverse ships to drive themselves deeply into her refuge so too the church is sufficient to all sorts and sizes of individuals who come to her. “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me: and him that cometh to me, I cast not away.” A harbour is also a temporary, albeit habitual, resting point. She is large enough to rest a ship from its work, but too small for the ships work to be done. A ship cannot successfully fulfill its mandate by remaining anchored at the harbour, and it must venture out into the perils of the sea. However, a ship also cannot successfully fulfill its mandate by venturing in the perils of the sea without taking repeated refuge in a haven. The haven will help the ship to do its work, but will not do the work of the ship. So too the church is to be a habitual anchorage point, “Not forsaking the fellowship that we have among ourselves.” Furthermore the church also is sufficient to hep the Christian for his needs. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bossom, and shall guide them with the young.” So too do Christians venture out from the church in the the perils of the world, “As thou didst send me into the world, so have I sent them into the world.”  The final characteristic of a haven as a caricature the church would be the strategic importance of her. A harbour is not just a place of dockage, but also that of trade, making it of economic and national importance. However enemy ships can just as easily enter the haven to take her as the trade ships which do so routinely. Hence it is that the Apostle Peter immediately exhorts, “Be ye harbours one to another, without grudging.” Grudging literally means, “To hold or harbour with malicious disposition.” The church can either harbour “fervent love among you” or she can harbour a malicious disposition. John Owen therefore exhorts, “Unto this catholic church we owe all Christian love, and are obliged to exercise all the effects of it, both towards the whole and every particular member, as we have advantage and occasion. And not only so, but it is our duty to live in constant communion with it.” 

OFFERS OF GRACE

“As good disposers of the manifold grace of God.” Offers of grace are made by Christ. “The conjunctions of all the members into one body, their mutual usefulness unto one another, the edification of the whole, with its increase, the due exercise of love (which things contain the whole nature and the utmost ends of all church-communion), do depend merely and solely upon, and flow from, the relation that the members have to the Head, and their union with him.” John Owen. We can only dispose the manifold grace of God to others as we have received the nourishment of that grace from our union with the Head. Grace Haven will only be as graceful as you or I are full of grace. Grace Haven is holy only as her members are holy. Remember the haven is a place of trade as well as dockage and shelter. A harbour will be esteemed only by both safe waters and safe business in mutual commerce. So too do Christians in the haven of the church increase their grace by “ministering the same one to another, as good disposers of the manifold grace of God.” Hear Spurgeon’s words, “You are a steward and if a steward should receive his lord’s goods, and keep them for himself he would be an unfaithful steward. Child of God, see to it that you faithfully discharge your responsibility as one of the “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Heed the directives of the Apostle Peter to do so. “If any man speak, let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God ministereth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is praise and dominion forever, and ever, Amen.” First it is optional, “If any man speak”, “If any man minister.” Second it is invitational, “let him speak” “let him do it.” Third it is directive, “Let him speak as the words of God.” Fourth it is unconditional, “Let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.” Fifth it is purposeful, “That God in all things may be glorified.” So old and young men, I with the Apostle Peter encourage you in the spirit of harbouring fervent love to choose the option, receive the invitation, take the direction, be ok that it is unconditional and rejoice in the purpose. As you love Grace Haven, you will be a good disposer to her. Can you say with William, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!”?

The Lord’s Day

Sabbath Rest

To begin with a puritan prayer on the Lord’s Day.

“This is thy day,

the heavenly ordinance of rest,

the open door of worship,

the record of Jesus’ resurrection,

the seal of the sabbath to come,

the day when saints militant and triumphant unite in endless song.

I bless thee for the throne of grace,

that here free favour reigns;

that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus;

that the veil is torn aside and I can enter the holiest

and find thee ready to hear,

waiting to be gracious,

inviting me to pour out my needs,

encouraging my desires,

promising to give more than I ask or think.

But while I bless thee, shame and confusion are mine:

I remember my past misuse of sacred things,

my irreverent worship,

my base ingratitude,

my cold, dull praise.

Sprinkle all my past sabbaths with the cleansing blood of Jesus,

and may this day witness deep improvement in me.

Give me in rich abundance the blessings the Lord’s Day was designed to impart;

May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;

Flood my mind with peace

beyond understanding;

may my meditations be sweet,

my acts of worship life, liberty, joy, 

my drink the streams that flow

from thy throne, 

my food the precious Word,

my defence the shield of faith,

and may my heart be more knit to Jesus.


I being with that great puritan Jonathan Edwards, “Let us be thankful for the institution of the Christian Sabbath.”

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within they gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11.

The Sabbath is a pattern of one day in seven as a holy rest oriented to God. The Sabbath provides us with meaningful work and meaningful rest. David Palison stated, “To get hard work and sweet pleasure right is to image forth the One who made you. To get hard work and sweet pleasure right is to image for the One who saved you.” The Sabbath is the principle of freedom under God and of liberty under law, in that it summons us to obedience to the ordinance of rest. Rest, which delivers us from ourselves and from our work. The Lord of the Sabbath’s accomplishment of our redemption binds and enjoins us to the observance of the weekly Sabbath which prefigures our eternal Sabbath. Our rest  is witness to our confidence in the redemption of Christ through faith alone and not by works.

THE DECALOGUE

The Sabbath Rest is not only a creation ordinance but is also to be found in the Fourth Commandment as the culmination of the previous three commandments. Morecraft observes, “The Sabbath is a day of rest and delight in the Lord, corresponding to the first commandment. It is a day consecrated to the worship of God according to His Word, corresponding to the second commandment. And it is to be filled with works of worship, necessity and mercy in the name of Christ to the glory of God, corresponding to the third commandment.” In addition to being the consummation of the right exercise of the previous three commandments it also aids the Christian in keeping the remainder of the Commandments. Hence, the Fourth Commandment is “found in the bosom of the ten commandments, which are supreme, life-embracing, verbal foundational principles of God’s revealed will for the human race.” The significance of Sabbath Rest to the Christian lies not only in its commandment but its example by God. Divine example is as valid and instructive a guide to duty as express Divine command. As Morecraft writes, “We keep the Sabbath on the first day of the week for the same reason Adam kept the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week: the example of God.” To clarify the previous statement, the morality of the Sabbath is not affected by changing the day from the Adamic and Mosaic practice of Saturday to the Christian practice of Sunday. Robert Shaw observes, “The morality of the Sabbath is not affected by the change of the day. The substance of the institution consists in the separation of the seventh portion of our time to the immediate worship of God… It is not said, ‘Remembert the seventh day;’ but ‘Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy.’ Neither is it said, ‘God blessed the seventh day;’ but ‘God blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.” So dear Christian, know that this is a personal command of God to each of us individually. “Thou” not “ye.” “Let it be considered” reminds Edwards, “… when God challenges of us one day in seven, he challenges his own. He doth not exceed his right.” Our Lord commands and commends it to his own children in Christ. Furthermore he has bestowed it as a personal gift. “Moreover, I gave them also my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them.” It is a duty, but not a burdensome one, no more than it is a duty to nourish bodies with mammon, how much more our souls with Christ? Christian we may be assured that God observes his own institutions. He will not permit them to be attended without blessing as they are a means of grace to the believer. God has given to us a hallowed day to pursue His blessings, which most assuredly will be found in abundance by those who are diligent towards the observation of it. God’s blessing is never an empty one, and He has both blessed and hallowed this day, how much more ought we?

MAN’S REST VS GOD’S REST

History has record of the men who have sought this same rest, but sought it outside God, such as Stalin. According to Stalin, “If God exists, He must have ordained slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. He must want humanity to suffer, as the monks were always telling me. Then there would be no hope for the toiling masses to free themselves from their oppressors. But when I learned that there is no God, I knew that humanity could fight its way to freedom.” Consequentially, in the course of Stalin’s quest for the true sabbath, man’s true rest, he enslaved more men than any other tyrant in all history and had more men killed than any other man in all history. Stalin, like all men who attempt to enter heaven on their own terms, placed himself instead in hell. Contrary to a puritanical priggishness, the Sabbath is not a day of inactivity or idleness for man, because it certainly was not so for God. When God rested on the seventh day of the creation week, yes, he ceased from the work of creation, but began the works of providence and redemption. The work of the Sabbath is contrasted to the work of the prior six days labour. It must have a specific character of rest in worship. Men, how clearly is the sort of character being produced in your homes? The Sabbath is to be engaged and filled with works of worship. The Westminster Longer Catechism states, “The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.” Do you make the Sabbath your delight? Jonathan Edwards praised, “The Christian Sabbath is one of the most previous enjoyments of the visible church. Christ showed his love to his church in instituting it; and it become s the chistian church to be thankful to her Lord for it. The very name of this day, the Lord’s day, or Jesus’ day, should endear it to Christians, as it intimates the special relation it has to Christ, and also the design of it, which is the commemoration of our dear Saviour, and his love to his church in redeeming it.” While the New Testament clearly practices and urges the pattern of weekly worship, the sabbath is fundamentally a day of rest, (Not exclusively a day of worship.) This rest is a soteriological reality and symbol. Sabbath rest is a salvific reality of our redemption, liberation, and wholeness of life in God’s work. Sabbath rest is also a salvific symbol of our total confidence in God as our redeemer as we cease from our own labors. Calvin gave it beautifully when he wrote in his “Catechism of the Churches of Geneva”, “We keep holiday from our own works, that God may perform his own work in us.” Summarily, the essence of the sabbath is our rest in Christ, and our growth in the knowledge of that salvation by His grace. “There remainieth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, hath also ceased form his own works, as God did from his. Let us study therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the example of disobedience.” It is well worth our while to improve this day and enter into this rest. Edwards exhorts, “This should be a powerful motive with us to the observation of the Sabbath. It should be our study above all things to honour and glorify God. It should be the great thing with all that bear the name of Christians, to honour their great God and King… If it be your inquiry, if it be your desire, to honour God; by this subject you are directed to one way whereby you may do much in that way, by honouring the Sabbath, and showing a careful and strict observance of it.”

SABBATH WORK

It would be a terrible mistake to confuse the Sabbath rest with idleness. The former brings God’s blessing and the latter his curse. The Sabbath rest is a picture of our eternal one in heaven, where we may be sure to be employed in spiritual and heavenly exercises. Isaiah 58:13-14 clearly lays out the duties of the Christian towards the Sabbath. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy will on mine Holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight to consecrate it, as glorious to the Lord, and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor seeking thine own will, nor speaking a vain word, Then shall thou delight in the Lord, and I will cause thee to mount upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Edward J. Young interpreted the fourth commandment positively in this way, “Thou shalt take exquisite delight, not just in the Sabbath but in the Lord of the Sabbath.” How well we delight in the Sabbath is a powerful barometer of our real delight in the actual Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath keepers are covenant keepers that will enjoy the benefits of the covenant of God. “Feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father” is covenantal language and the metaphor is clear: to eat the heritage of our spiritual fathers realized and administered to us by Christ is to receive and enjoy the nourishment, strength, and vitality within.  Do you find your Sabbath’s to be nourishing? Are you especially promoting the exercise of religion not only in yourself but also in others; to be assisting them for their spiritual good? Are you partaking in the benefits of the Covenant of Grace? In the right exercise of the Sabbath we find delight and our subsistence that we may truly live. When we rightly exercise the Sabbath we draw from the Divine Rest, the glory of God revealed in his special act of creation. We draw from the Covenantal Rest of the eternal bond believers have with God in Christ. We draw from the Redemptive Rest, being delivered from the bondage and slavery of sin by virtue of Christ’s atonement. We draw from that Spiritual Rest, which is our new life in Christ indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Finally, we partake in our Eternal Rest that will be consummated in our Lord’s second coming. “For the new heavens, and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name continue. And from month to month, and from Sabbath to Sabbath shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” Heaven is one massive, infinite, glorious Sabbath which we will partake of as believers in Christ. Yet here on earth we have an opportunity to experience something of that ineffable glory weekly. Will you pass it by?

SIX & ONE

“The sabbath presupposes work, work fulfilling God’s creation mandate and performed under God’s law, and the sabbath is the joyful rest from the exercise of this godly dominion. On the sabbath, a man rejoices that the earth is the Lords, and all the fulness thereof (Ps. 24:1). In that confidence man rests, and in that joy he surveys the work of his hands, knowing that his labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)” R.J. Rushdoony. As Meredith Kline wrote in his work, “Treaty of the Great King”, “The sabbatic cycle of covenant life symbolizes the consummation principle characteristic of divine action. God works, accomplishes his purpose and, rejoicing, rests.”  The human life is a copy of the Divine life, to work and to rest. Life finds purpose in the sabbath, in that the sabbath makes labor meaningful and purposive. It does so by annexing to work, joyful consummation. Our six days of labor finds its fulfillment in the day of rest, and similarly, our day of rest finds its meaning in the preceding six days of labor. The relationship between the sabbath and work is one which brings all things into harmonious relationship to God and in universal dedication to Him. Examine then, the quality of your work and rest and observe how it can be improved upon. Sabbath rest and your six days work are not strictly isolated or without consequence upon each other. “In keeping the Sabbath holy” remarks Morecraft, “we are rewarding the week by weekly enjoyment of God’s promises and the benefits of being in His love and covenant; and with victory after victory, dominion, revival and reformation over the earth, week by week as we move through history towards God’s final goal for us.” How well are you diligently administrating your duties in those six days of labour so you can rest on the Sabbath day?

FORSAKING FELLOWSHIP

“Not forsaking the fellowship that we have among ourselves, as the manner of some is: but let us exhort one another, and that so much the more, because ye see that the day draweth near.” The Christian assembly has priority for the Christian on the Sabbath. No better a preacher than Charles Spurgeon could impress this as commendably. “God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful… This should lead each separate believer to identify himself with the church of God; where the Lord reveals His love the most, there should each believer most delight to be found. Our own dwellings are very dear to us, but we must not prefer them to the assemblies of the saints.” Christians, we must not be weary of well doing in this. That which is the business of the Sabbath is the greatest business of our lives, that of religion. To be weary in Sabbath observance is to stay at home or worse, go to church so you can go home. It is to regard the public worship of God as boring, to be neglectful of its sanctity, to be indifferent or callously unconcerned to its remembrance, to abandon physically or emotionally the fellowship of the brethren. How can one, who claims the name of Christ, be weary of Him and His love? Morecraft cautions, “Weariness of the Lord’s day is weariness with the Lord; and this is a sign of the most dangerous of all conditions: hardness of heart.” “Take heed brethren, lest any time there be in any of you an evil heart, and unfaithful, to depart from the living God… And to whom swear he that they should not enter his rest, but unto them that obeyed not.?” Hebrews 3:12,18. Sabbath breakers are covenant breakers. We are covenant breakers when we heed the opposite of Isaiah’s words by “doing thy will on my Holy day, and call the Sabbath a bore to deconsecrate it, as miserable to the Lord, and shalt dishonour him, doing thine own ways, seeking thine own will, speaking a vain word.” “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the poor… Saying, When will the new month be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, and make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger.” There are consequences to being a covenant breaker beyond just depriving yourself of joy and rest in Christ. “Moreover I gave them also my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me… and my Sabbaths have they greatly polluted: then I thought to pour out mine indignation upon them… But I had respect to my name.” Ezekiel 20:12-14.

SPECIAL DUTY TOWARDS PARENTS

The Fourth Commandment is orientated towards parents. “Nor thy sons, nor thy daughters.” Patriarchs have a special duty before God to take great pains in seeing their family and children keep the Sabbath holy. Q. 118 in the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors? A.: The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own.” Convicting words towards parents. Do you hinder your own from delighting in the Sabbath because you are entangled in your own employments at the time? Do you children recognize the significance of the Sabbath rest and the gathering of believers in the local church? Do you example delighting in the Sabbath? Do you lead them into the true Sabbath rest?

CONCLUSION

“The pattern of the sabbath is in the past, from the sabbath of creation. The entrance into the sabbath is also in the past; for Israel, it was the redemption from Egypt; for the church, it is in the resurrection. The fulfillment of the sabbath is in the new creation. The sabbath is a present rest, based on past events, with a future reference and fulfillment.” R. J. Rushdoony. More craft gives 4 helpful exhortations toward rightly exercising the true Sabbath.

  1. Get a good grasp on the Sabbath laws and promises of the Bible. Delight in the Christian Sabbath, and keep it faithfully with all your heart, for many false teachers profess to teach the truth, with appealing systems (2 Tim. 4:3, 4), who would rob you of the glory and rest of the weekly Christian Sabbath.
  2. Train your children by word and example to delight in the Lord’s Day and in the Lord of the Sabbath all the days of their lives.
  3. Be sure that Satan will seek to make your observance of the Sabbath less consistent than your doctrine of the Sabbath. Resist him to the death and he will flee from you.
  4. Believe the glorious promises of Isaiah 66:22–44, Ezekiel 20:12 and Exodus 31:12–18. Live, work, witness, worship, pray, and rest in their light.

““For the new heavens, and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name continue. And from month to month, and from Sabbath to Sabbath shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.”

“Moreover, I gave them also my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them.”

Thou Shalt

Hue and Cry

[From message delivered to Grace Haven Reformed Brethren on 01/25/15]

Q. 67. Which is the sixth commandment?

  1. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?

  1. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Q. 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?

  1. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

INTRODUCTION

In light of recent events I am compelled to address the subject of the maintenance and preservation of godly life and order. Such life and order is being every increasingly assaulted upon in very real, physical ways. As Christians who practice Biblical marriage, family, children, education, and social life we each face evil and unfriendly foes. These foes are escalating in number, kind, position, and threat. We must not be found to be deprived of perception and judgment to such dangers. Have you been sufficiently watchful so as to identify the current or potential foes you face? Christians can often be as ignorant of their liberties as their duties to defend them. Lord William Blackstone, that great jurist of the English Common Law, caveated the danger of such heedlessness, “Liberties [are] more generally talked of, than thoroughly understood; and yet highly necessary to be perfectly known and considered by every man of rank and property, lest his ignorance of the points whereon it is founded should hurry him into faction and licentiousness on the one hand, or pusillanimous indifference and criminal submission on the other.” In other terms, our liberties are not just hip and cool slogans to be twaddled about, they are each of our inviolate birthright to be seriously considered. When we are negligent to enjoy entire our birthright of right and liberties we will live without restraint, being pernicious to ourselves or others. How many Christians do you know who understand their liberties and duties as Christian citizens? Furthermore, if we are derelict to vindicate our birthright in the face of tyranny or anarchy we will truckle like a caitiff to unjust restraints to our liberties from the merciless hands of the wicked. Are you free of ignorance as to your several duties to the defence and maintenance of your liberties?  What courses are available to the preservation of your birthright when it is being violated? What are the grounds for utilizing each of these courses? What are the restrictions and jurisdictions of these several administrations of defence? What is the application of just force? Summarily, when is it a sin for the Christian to turn the other cheek?

THE ‘THOU SHALT’ OF ‘THOU SHALT NOT’

The primary and foundational commandment in Scripture to direct the Christian as to the unjust and just resistance to evil may be found in the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Upon first observation we quite obviously notice the negative aspect of this commandment, that is, the “thou shalt not” facet of it. However, as with every commandment in Scripture there remains a positive expression. The reformer, John Calvin, acutely observed this positive detail. “God… prescribes that every one should study faithfully to defend the life of his neighbour, and practically to declare that it is dear to him… the words expressly set forth that our neighbours are to be loved. It is unquestionable, then, that of those whom God there commands to be loved, He here commends their lives to our care.” This is to say, it is not merely enough for one to simply not murder the life of their neighbour and thereby fulfill the sixth commandment. One must positively defend the life of their neighbour to accomplish the requirements of the sixth commandment. Calvin continues, “There are, consequently, two parts in the Commandment, first, that we should not vex, or oppress, or be at enmity with any; and, secondly, that we should not only live at peace with men, without exciting quarrels, but also should aid, as far as we can, the miserable who are unjustly oppressed, and should endeavour to resist the wicked, lest they should injure men as they list.” Churches in Canada have by and large missed this crucial secondary feature of the commandment. From the early methodists, quakers, mennonites, and other Christians who pioneered this nation the principle of nonresistance has long been sustained and touted from the chapel rostrum. Celebrating, on the basis of the sixth commandment not to mention, the good man as one who piously beats swords into  plowshares. Historian and theologian, R.J. Rushdoony remarked of such priggishness, “To limit obedience, and to test character, merely by the negative factor is dangerous.” Namely, when we abide by only the negative law and neglect the positive it leads too often to the belief that the good man is the coward who would not dare to even assail a child, “but who is incapable of any discharging of his duties. Too often the church has equated these cowards with righteous men and advanced cowardly snivelers, whose weapons are those of back-biting and tale-bearing, to positions of authority.” So on the other hand Calvin exhorts, “We are required faithfully to do what in us lies to defend the life of our neighbour; to promote whatever tends to his tranquility, to be vigilant in warding off harm, and, when danger comes, to assist in removing it.” True obedience to the sixth commandment is therefore not passive, but incredibly active. How are you actively exercising the requirements of the sixth commandment? If you neighbour is under the threat of unjust violence what do you do? What means are to be employed in vigilantly warding off harm and removing danger?

ACTIVE LOVE

The proper understanding of the sixth commandment in the English Common Law and the fathers of our constitution recognized the duties of every one with regards to the sixth commandment. Historically, this expressed itself in such civil laws as the famous Hue and Cry, and secondly in the police powers of private persons, commonly known as Citizen’s Arrest. Regarding the Common Law process of pursuing, when the victim or witness of a felony raised the Hue and Cry by horn or voice, both officers and private men were responsible to instantaneously seek and arrest the perpetrator upon pain of fine or imprisonment. As to citizen’s arrest, Lord Blackstone writes, “Any private person that is present when any felony is committed, is bound by the law to arrest the felon; on pain of fine and imprisonment, if he escapes through the negligence of the standers by.” These Common Law and Canadian Constitution practices were outworkings of a right understanding of the duties relating to the sixth commandment. Both the government and citizens of Canada have by and large forgotten the duties of the private citizen to sustain the public peace and defend the life of others. On the subject of citizen’s arrest the Canadian Department of Justice warns, “Unlike a police officer, private citizens are neither tasked with the duty to preserve and maintain public peace.”  As was mentioned in the beginning by Lord Blackstone, when the citizenry neglect the right exercise and enjoyment of their liberties they surrender those liberties to the determining of the offenders. Proverbs 29:2 “When the wicked rule the people groan.” How often have you heard authorities advise the citizenry to quietly acquiesce to the demands of criminals who confront them, to capitulate to their instructions, or to evade at all costs confronting them? These statements and advisements are a radical departure from the historical principles which governed the practice of justice and peace. Proverbs 24:11-12 reads, “Deliver them that are drawn to death, and wilt thou not preserve them that are led to be slain? If thou say, Behold, we knew not of it: he that pondereth the hearts, doth not he understand it? and he that kept thy soul, knoweth he it not? will he not also recompense every man according to his works?” God therefore always holds he innocent bystander as an accomplice to the crime if he does not stand up or intercede in the ways that he needs to. Geoffrey Botkin writes, “The greatest commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves. This love is active and not passive. We may be sinning if we do not actively rise up and love our neighbour. However we often think ‘we are not going to get involved.’” Christians are charged, they are tasked, to discipleship and confrontation. “They that forsake the Law, praise the wicked: but they that keep the Law, set themselves against them.” As such, we confront evil and the wicked every day of our lives and disciple people away from it. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” How are you setting yourself and your families against the wicked? Is righteousness in authority in your home? Do you see rejoicing in your family from the authority of righteousness or hear groaning from the rule of wickedness?

JURISTICTION OF CONFRONTATION

Now, the Hue and Cry and Citizen’s arrest are obviously not to be confused with vigilantism. It is not to be denied that the citizen’s powers and jurisdictions with regards to preserving and maintaining public peace are indeed greatly limited. When the Christian citizen intervenes to the defence of the life of his neighbour he is still bound as a citizen, not a vigilante. Blackstone clarifies, “No man should take up arms, but with a view to defend his country and its laws: he puts not off the citizen when he enters the camp [army]; but it is because he is a citizen, and would wish to continue so, that he makes himself for a while a soldier.” So you too, dear Christian, when you would be vigilant in warding off harm and removing danger from you neighbour, you are not given carte blanche, for you are still bound as a Christian and as a Christian citizen. Reversely, you do not enter the conflict because you wish to be a vigilante, but rather because you are a Christian and a Christian citizen and you wish to remain so and for your neighbour also. So, when rightly exercised, the Christian citizen’s responsibility towards defence and arrest is limited but not absolved in its entirely. Contrarily, the impression in the citizen of their personal exemption from defence and arrest have had grievous results in society. Many a crime, both great and small, could have been alleviated in some part by the citizen rightly exercising their rights within their limited sphere of jurisdiction. So as Chris Kyle said, “Despite what your mamma told you, violence does solve problems.” But the Christian is concerned with solving problems even beyond grave circumstances of felony which they might face. Rushdoony writes, “The police power and the duty of the person involves a common defence of godly order. Law and order are the responsibilities of all good men without exception. Injuries to our fellow men, or to our enemies, which are not subject to civil or criminal action, are still our responsibilities. Our police power involves action against back-biting and tale-bearing. It also requires that we, in love of our neighbour, have regard for his property as well as his reputation, to avoid injury to it.” From the outset, do you teach your children their police power and the duties of the Hue and Cry? “We desire you, brethren, admonish them that are out of order: comfort the feebleminded: bear with the weak: be patient toward all men.” To be watchful of injustice and attentive to the appeals of those in unjust oppression? “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all the children of destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and judge the afflicted, and the poor.” How will you defend your neighbour and society? Rushdoony writes, “If it is a crime to alter property landmarks and to defraud a neighbour of his land, how much greater a crime to alter social landmarks, the Biblical foundations of law and society, and thereby bring about the death of that social order? If it is a crime to rob banks, then surely it is a crime to rob and murder a social order.”

THE OPPRESSED

Are you aware of those who are being oppressed? Is your family practicing John Calvin’s admonition and studying faithfully how to defend the life of the oppressed? Has your family worked out how you can practically declare that they are dear to you? Pastor, Joe Morecraft, compiled a brief list from Scripture which can help us identify those which are in need of such attention from our lives and homes.

  1. Covenant people should not oppress each other. “Oppress not ye therefore any man his neighbour, but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord you God.” Lev 25:17 Do you teach your children to not oppress one another? Have you examined how you can promote unity in the local church?
  2. Covenant people should not oppress labourers. “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is needy and poor, neither of thy brethren nor the stranger that is in thy land within thy gates.” How diligent are you in the workplace to assist the spiritual or physical needs therein?
  3. Covenant people should vindicate the oppressed. What does Psalm 10:18 look like in your home? “To judge the fatherless and poor, the earthly man cause to fear no more.”
  4. Are you a covenant family that prays for deliverance from oppression? “From the wicked that oppress me, from mine enemies, which compass me round about for my soul.”
  5. Covenant people should not oppress the afflicted. “Rob not the poor, because he is poor, neither oppress the afflicted in judgment.” How do your children handle responsibility and authority over others?
  6. God condemns merchants that oppress. Hoseah 12:7. How do your children treat money?
  7. Covenant people do not oppress widows or the fatherless. “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor, and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”

In summary, how are you actively defending the life of widows and orphans, neighbours, strangers, the needy and defenceless, employees, the aged, and the afflicted?

THE OPPRESSORS

Upon reviewing those that are oppressed, we now turn our consideration to those that oppress. I believe today the two forces of evil which resist us are tyranny and anarchy. Tyranny, as Botkin defines, “Is the cruel and oppressive rule of government.” Anarchy on the other hand is a greater sin, the “state of disorder due to the absence or non recognition of authority.” Anarchy in the homes will only produce anarchy in society. It has been said, “Every generation is a new flood of barbarians to be civilized.” How well is your family doing at this? Rushdoony observes the rise of anarchy and crime with the following, “Judges are often too lenient and juries also. But the problem is much greater than that. All we have to do is look at most families and their treatment of their children. Their laxity, their inability to enforce discipline and you have a key to the dimensions of the problem. Parents who are lax with their children create a society which is generally lax in coping with problems. The problem in other words begins with us.” So who are some of the enemies that you are facing now or will face in the future. Geoffrey Botkin provides us with a much relevant catalog.

  1. Personal enemies: As was stated, you as Christians are called not to engage culture, but to confront it. You will make enemies doing this and may face possible persecution from them. Are you attentive to this danger? Are you being “Wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.”? Most importantly are you willing and ready to overcome their evil with good? There is however another grievous danger in this. Christians can begin to reckon the degree of their honour and piety based upon a personal tally of how many personal enemies and people they proverbially tick-off by their righteousness. In the vanity of their minds they pride themselves by how oft they are ridiculed and elevate the consideration of themselves with each rejection they experience. They begin to scorn the sinner as much as the sinner scorns them in return. What goodness is there in this? Paul exhorts us to “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with goodness.” How is only returning scorn for scorn, pride for pride, rejection for rejection, overcoming evil with goodness? Receive rejection with a sober mind, study to discern any impediments you may be contributing to the sinner’s peace and joy in Christ, examine whether or not your message is received as the good news it actually is. Discover whether or not you are overcoming evil with goodness.
  2. Bullies: Both young and old will confront bullies in life. What will be your policy and practice when you come face to face with a bully? How will you adjudicate the power and authority of Christ in you?
  3. Bureaucrats: As families who practice Biblical marriage, caring for orphans, babies, and education you will at some point be confronted by the tyranny of the state. Have you prepared yourself for such confrontation? Will you refuse to truckle to their demands? Will you come to the aid of a fellow family who encounters this type of enemy? How will you use the laws and constitution?
  4. Thieves & Criminals: In Canada our justice system has abandoned the Biblical principles of restitution for the humanist practice of penitentiary and probationary rehabilitation. This humanist system is very diligent to protect the rights of the individual… so long as the individual has committed a crime. As such crime is a profitable and growing enterprise. Are you prepared to raise or respond to a Hue and Cry. Will you intervene in your capacity as a Christian Citizen to uphold peace and justice? If you were one of the over a dozen innocent bystanders who fled from the unimpeded attack of the recent Parliamentry shooter what would you have done?
  5. Gangs & Mobs. Will you truckle to them? Have you considered that those who have followed the erroneous, non-Biblical policy of surrendering without resistance to such oppressors have only surrendered their lives. Such individuals by their appalling ineptitude and inability virtually assist in their own murders and enable murderers to continue a lifestyle of murder. Are you of nonresistance or resistance?
  6. Tyrannical magistrates. How will you face those what would by compulsive tyranny and oppression act in opposition to your free enjoyment of personal security, liberty, and property? Have you studied your duties to defend your birthright? Have you charted the free course of constitution, administration, offices, and courts to preserve them from violation? Are you even aware of what policies are being introduced to potentially conspire and coerce against you?
  7. Islam & ISIS. Will you confront this abomination? The question isn’t is Islam the most violent religion in the world, but how is Islam the most violent religion in the world. Have you considered that the Islamic State has commanded the over 1,053,945 muslims in Canada, the fastest growing religion in Canada, the religion that is expected to triple over the next 20 years, to literally and brutally kill you? National Post commentator Rex Murphy commentated, “When will the world take the jihadists at their word? Is there any doubt whatsoever that ISIS – which is currently slaughtering Christians, beheading its opponents, purging ‘non-believers’ and storming about Iraq and Syria with the cry ‘Convert or Die’ – is not fanatically, ruthlessly and irredeemably rooted in religious extremism? What, in any god’s name, does the first “I” in ISIS stand for.” How will you confront Muslims in Regina who by and large do not want to do or think anything serious about the death-culture that incubates them. How will you correct western culture’s perception of them?

CONCLUSION

Ultimately will you truckle to any of these enemies. John Calvin writes of those leaders and men who have. “Those that have been in reputation of wisdom and honour and fall form their excellency, this troubles the fountains by grieving some and corrupts the springs by infecting others and emboldening them to do likewise. For the righteous to be oppressed, pressed down upon by the violence or subtlety of evil men, to be displaced and thrust into obscurity, this is the troubling of the fountains and corruption of the very foundations of government. For the righteous to be cowardly to truckle to the wicked to be afraid of opposing his wickedness and basely to yield to him, this is a reflection upon religion and discouragement to good men and strengthening to  the hands of sinners and their sins and sows like a troubled fountain and a corrupt spring.” As Geoffrey Botkin states, we rather need Christians who wake up every day with this thought, “Today is the day that I advance the Lord’s Kingdom. And today may be the day that I have to defend the innocent from terrible risk and dangers and threats.” Does your family think in this regard? Are you training your children who will in all probability face these enemies in the future under even more complex moral situations than you do now? So parents, teach the law as service to God. Teach what God says about the oppressed, justice, resistance, thieves, bureaucrats, tyranny, anarchy, jihadists, bullies, and law. Model self-control under law by continually defaulting to what is lawful. It is our Christian citizenry that compels us to act and limits our actions, not vigilanteism. Restrain your hand and extend the sword of justice when it is within your power and jurisdiction to do so. Recognize that in most every instance it is the responsibility of the civil magistrate. Maintain peace with the application of just violence with the sword of justice. To Conclude with the Westminster Larger Catechism, “The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in the case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life… The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavours, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.”

The Covenant of Life

Dominion ManQ. 20 (Q. 12 in the Shorter Catechism): What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created? 

A.: The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death. 

INTRODUCTION

It is my impossible task today to give complete justice to and glorification of God’s providence. Despite my utter inability to fulfill such demands, I hope give at least some inspiration today with the Words of God on his most holy, wise, and powerful special acts of providence towards us. Providence, as I concluded with my last message, should imbue us with an awareness of our independent worth in the eyes of God. True understanding of Providence, an understanding which bridges the gap of the acknowledgments of our mind with the affections of our heart, will demystify and clarify the purposes God has summoned us toward. Providence will both encourage and edify the disposition of our mind and the deportment of our actions in the Christian life. The Christian therefore ought to always recall God’s providential acts, that they might preserve themselves from the grumbling and murmuring spirit we read of in Exodus of the forgetful nation of Israel. Providence gives us mastery over that melancholic angst which, if not fought, would otherwise keep us laid up in the slough of despond. So today we review the first and a foremost special act of God’s providence, The Covenant of Life. God gloriously revealed this gracious act with our first father and representative, Adam in Genesis 2. Within this first covenant, God establishes five institutions which are central to the development of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

INSTITUTION OF PROPERTY

The first institution established by God was that of private-property. “Placing him in paradise… putting the creatures under his domain.” Christians today, influenced by neoplatonic dualism, have often mistakenly disowned the material as a “fleshly” form of bondage to the spiritual man. This is far from the original intent of God who by his exclusive and active role in creating all things physical imbued within them His signature of worth, beauty, and significance. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that therein is; the world and they that dwell therein.” God’s first special act of providence was to establish physical property, together with its commodities, provisions and fruits, flora and fauna, as the instrument man would utilize to fulfill the Covenant of Life. Property was given as the infrastructure of Christendom, the implement of dominion, and the milieu for the accomplishment of the Covenant. “Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” “Let us make man in our image according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the beasts, and over all the earth, and over everything that crept and moveth on the earth.” We read also “The heavens, even the heavens are the Lord’s: but he hath given the earth to the sons of men.” Ps. 115:16.

INSTITUTION OF WORK

The second institution of God by his decree and example in the Covenant of Life was work.   “Appointing him to dress it.” Work in a much neglected sense, is God-like. Because God directed this precedent by His own working in the acts of creation and providence. Furthermore distinguished by his subsequent rest from work. In addition to being instituted by way of precedent, it is also established by way of command to, “dress it, and keep it.” In this sense we must be earthly minded to be of any heavenly good. We were created as stewards of creation, trustee’s of God’s property, representative servants of our master. Contrary to popular opinion, work, specifically physical labour, is a blessing instituted in the pre-fall garden and not a curse of the post-fall. We deceive ourselves when we consider the mundane, physical labor of a “blue-collar” job to be far beneath the grand and glorious enterprise of the dominion mandate. Contrarily, the dominion mandate, the garden of Eden, and the Covenant of Life, ascribe nobility and dignity to the accomplishments of the manual labourer, the blue-collar worker, and the average layman. There is no greater substantiation to the principle of the dignity of manual work than in God’s own selection for Adam’s vocation, namely, agriculture. Of all the vocations, callings, tasks, and accomplishments which God could easily ask of Adam, the prevailing, pertinent, and positive venture He required was that which is the most elementary, laborious, and average to our human experience. Consider just for a moment the unbelievable precedent the Creator of the Universe established in appointing the representative of humanity to the position of field labourer. Consider for a moment the incalculable worth and preeminence that manual labor has been endowed with by such a decree. Then rejoice and look at your own callous hands, and reconsider just how much pride and joy you have every right to claim in your glorious vocation. The whole tenor of Scripture, with its examples, its hero’s, and its exhortations are not given to the aristocratic, the fortuned, the noble, the mighty, but given to the lunchpail worker. God has and does build economies, nations, Christ’s own family line, Christ’s own vocation, and societies from that same manly labor, that intelligent labor, and that independent labor of our forefather Adam. Manual work is dominion work. E.C. Wines notes the effect of the centrality of manual, agricultural labour in Hebrew society, “It is the nurse of the human rase… It is the nurse of health, industry, temperance, cheerfulness and frugality; of simple manners and pure morals; of patriotism and domestic virtues; and, above all, of that sturdy independence, without which a man is not a man, but a mere slave… In a word, this great business, the cultivation of the earth, lies, so far as any branch of human industry can be said to lie, at the foundation of all that is important and valuable in civil society.” Thus it is by work, productivity, procreativity, and dominion that the totality of a man’s life reflects the likeness of God’s ultimate work, creation, and sovereignty.

INSTITUTION OF PATRIARCHY

“Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” The institution of dominion work was inherited by the institution of the godly patriarch to which all the men here today are a part of, and at some point us sons as well. We have received, or will receive, a noble and high calling. By nature we all have this dominion passion, this dominion orientation. But if you are as myself, you wonder how being just an average layman in the church and a lunchpail worker in society can amount to anything in the scope of the dominion mandate. This doubt is only reinforced when we hear of great, historic men in the church and in nations who changed the course of history for the glory of God and are are only left with a profound sense of smallness, maybe emptiness or even futility in our own lives. Unfortunately, men have been confused about the inherent worth of their calling in life by the Roman Catholic influence of dualism. Where the sacred and the secular are placed in opposition one to another and you are left either with selecting a sacred vocation in life or a secular vocation in life. Furthermore we are wrongly informed that in order to be a part of the dominion work our professions have to be validated by the appropriate authorities. We have to be validated by the church bishopric if we are to pursue a sacred vocation. Or we have to be validated by the government bureaucracy of schooling institutions to rightly pursue a secular calling. This marginalizes a vast majority of Christian men with neither church or state validation and who know not whether to pursue a secular or sacred calling. Who are now discouraged from labouring in the church and in the nation due to this artificial distinction. The great doctrine from the Reformation of the priesthood of all believers shattered these myths. We can now boldly declare because of the priesthood of all believers that all men, noble or peasantry, are peers in Christ. All men can join the dominion work and serve God and serve him honourably in their professions. The success of the institution of patriarchal manhood pivots upon the right understanding of the institution of dominion work. Dominion men conduct dominion work in primarily four areas as Geoffrey Botkin acutely observes. Firstly, dominion men are family men. They are managers either their inherited or personally pioneered family estates of physical and spiritual capital for their future multi-generational succession to enlarge upon. Dominion men are also churchmen of militant, Kingdom oriented local churches. None are devoid of responsibility within the church as they are either to be officers in it or bold supporters of her officers through prayer and active service. Dominion men are thirdly statesmen who start in their community. They are nation builders who reconstruct godly order in their communities starting in the home, to the church, to the community, to the community of nations. Dominion men, lastly, are businessmen. Stewarding and enlarging every physical and spiritual asset which makes the dominion work possible. They are business resource developers and service providers to a free economy. The average man who seeks first the Kingdom simultaneously in these four areas will advance the dominion of Christ. These spheres are small and limited but they are monumental in transforming nations. Greatness does not constitute a dominion man, rather a dominion man is what constitutes true greatness.

INSTITUTION OF THE MULTI-GENERATIONAL FAMILY

The centrality of the patriarchal, multi-generational family within the dominion work is a theological fact with an eschatological framework. “Be fruitful and multiply.” In God’s Kingdom the first shall be last and the last shall be first. First in God’s dream-job list, and last in human consideration, is manual labour. Similarly, first in God’s government authority, and last in human tendency, is the family unit. Church, state, and self-government are indeed additional establishments in Scripture, but none so central as the basic family unit. God bestowed the high calling of the dominion mandate and bequeathed property with its social power and material provision to Adam and his family. By way of precedent, God has thus established the family and its future succeeding generations, not the church or state, as the primary institution responsible for the work of dominion. This established the family in two areas. Firstly it established the family, not individuals or social classes, as the basic unit of social government. As dominion labouring families our first and foremost mandate is a family government of holiness. Without holiness we cannot accomplish our covenant job. Similarly, without pursuing our covenant job, holiness cannot be fulfilled in our families. Dominion thus means holiness, and holiness in return means dominion. The dominion family is a holy family, you cannot have one without the other. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be ministered unto you.”  Secondly, the family was also not only established as the centre of government, but as the centre of industry, the basic economic unit. Family estate provided the family with power to govern society in holiness and provided the family with material provisions to invest in dominion. Wealth and gain were to be cultivated from the land and retained in the family estate and improved upon by succeeding family generations. This God designed centralization of power and property in the family is the highest safeguard to tyranny and the greatest asset to the dominion work. The average family who is seeking first the Kingdom in the areas of family holiness and family estate and family enterprise can and will extend the crown rights of King Jesus. Godly families command the future as they command the children, estate, enterprises, inheritance, welfare, and education in their homes. Our families may be little things but they are colossal in transforming nations. It was not to aristocratic associations, nor to political societies, nor to corporate boards, nor even to church elders that was given the trusteeship of God’s earthly property or the responsibility of building a godly society on earth, it was the family. We will lead empty houses and abandoned estates and dwindling generations if we fail to recapture this responsibility. It will require us critically rethinking all areas of life and thought from this perspective. Geoffrey Botkin so beautifully stated, “The home is the incubator of Christendom, the engine of renewal and reformation, the centre of dominion and warfare, a powerhouse of discipleship, ministry, and evangelism.”  When parents are shortsighted in this, and forget the centrality of the family in God’s society, the duties of the family in godly work and generational fruitfulness, and the future of the family in rebuilding culture we rob our children of purpose, our communities from blessing, ourselves from joy, and God from glory.

INSTITUTION OF FEMININITY & MARRIAGE

“And ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself.” Another institution of God’s special providence is the marriage between the patriarch and his help-meet. “It is not good that the man should be himself alone: I will make him an help meet for him.” The very reason for the establishment of this institution and the foremost quality of it has been forgotten in the main. Marriage and femininity were founded upon the exact same objective as patriarchy and that is namely, work. Marriage was created for work. Femininity was designed for work. As much as Adam, our representative patriarch, received the noble calling of dominion labor, so too was Eve’s high calling to help assist him to this very end. Contrary to our Jane-Austen-like perception of femininity, Eve was not created just as a decorative ornament of beauty in the garden, nor as an idle accessory to Adam’s lifestyle, nor as an adornment of life accomplishment for Adam. In our day where the greatness of femininity is evaluated based upon how greatly removed a woman is from manual labour it is difficult to recognize that God’s design for femininity was the very manual labour which it so despises today. Inour culture, depictions of the great-age-of-femininity during the Victorian period in shows such as Road to Avonlea, Pride & Prejudice,  Mr. Selfridge, or Dowton Abbey present to us a state of womanhood that was characterized by being objects of delicacy, household ornaments of daintiness, practically useless, economically burdensome, and humorously unhelpful to a man’s work. Sure, we celebrate the notion that they were stay-at-home mothers and daughters but we are completely oblivious to their absolutely deplorable way of living, or better stated lack of living, in the home. Historian Frank Dawes writes of femininity in the Victorian era, “Women of the Victorian and Edwardian middle classes regarded a life of complete idleness as being essential to maintaining their position in life. If they put a piece of coal on the fire, lifted a duster or answered a doorbell, they were ‘letting their husbands down.’ Or worse, depriving a needy person of employment. So, during the Great Age of Servants, a whole class of women was reared that was incapable of performing even the simplest domestic services for itself. These gentle mistresses never had to make a pot of tea, wash a cup, darn a sock, post a letter, or even brush their own hair.” Obviously we do not live to such a extreme degree, but nonetheless we can have a misguided tendency to be attracted and even aspire to such an idealized feminine deportment. We may even begin to despise or devalue our own manual work in the family, home, and estate. We may begin to instead hold our past-times as more woman-like than our times of productivity. In the Biblical Hebrew society where femininity was defined by its industriousness and gain, fathers received monetary payment for their daughter’s hands in marriage from the suitor. This was a fair and understandable recognition of a daughter’s economic profitability in the family unit and just compensation for taking her away. This Biblical principle was foisted on its petard during the Victorian era where fathers now had to pay suitors to take their daughter’s hands in marriage. The moral of the story is this, when women are of no economic value because they do not participate in the dominion work of the family you can’t even give them away, literally. In Biblical femininity there is no distinction between stay-at-home and work or between the home and the workplace. Because in the family economy work and the workplace is within the home. By home I mean more than the walls of a residence, I mean within the family enterprise whenever that work may be conducted geographically. As you may begin to see, all of these institutions created as a special act of God’s providence are homogeneously tied together. The institution of marriage and femininity was created as an integral advantage to the institution of patriarchy, the fruit of which is the institution of the multi-generational family to whom was given the institution of property that the institution of dominion work could be fulfilled. If femininity is segregated or isolated from the institution of work or the institution of the family or any of the other institutions, or vice versa, the covenant falls apart and these institutions are destroyed.

PRESENT STATUS OF THE COVENANT OF LIFE

While a covenant by nature is eternal, there are elements obviously of this covenant which have changed as we are all well aware of. Firstly, the human race is no longer on probation. Our  first father and representative Adam broke the “Condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge” by   eating “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.” However there are elements an institutions of this covenant which remain and our binding upon us today. Obviously marriage, patriarchy, property, family, and dominion work were not abrogated by the fall. Furthermore that intimate communion with God which our forefather Adam experienced still remains for those who live in terms of the Covenant of Life. As a matter of fact the terms of the Covenant of Life are still in existence to this day of “personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.” The pledge of this covenant, the tree of life, also still exists awaiting the covenant keepers. But as we are all painfully aware, we broke the covenant and destroyed the institutions in Adam. While the pledge, the blessings, and the benefits of the covenant remain we cannot attain to them for our transgressions and the transgressions of our First Adam. However, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by that obedience of that one, shall many also be made righteous.” God executed yet another special act of providence in the representative, mediator of Jesus Christ to restore us from the position of covenant-breakers to covenant-keepers. Once again we are re-established in the work of godly dominion. Once again we have the responsibility to resume the mandate given to Adam to subdue the earth to the glory of God. At the Lord’s Table today let us remember our restoration to covenant keeping, our receiving the benefits of the covenant, our duty to restore the institutions of the covenant, and how Christ has won this for us to His glory.

To be Roman

Romance

Romance is a misapplied notion, but one society holds dear. We evaluate our lives, relationships, and even dining-out based upon how romantic they are. Put in summary, a good book, a true relationship, a fulfilled life is one that is a truly romantic. I have heard it said that the term romance literally and historically means, “To be Roman.” Considering what it means to be Roman we visualize a gallant soldier crowned with glory riding back from a victorious battle and swooping up a fair lady to his side while at full gallop. Much similar to medieval tales of heroic nights in shining armour, which is the common substance of our Disney fairy tales after all. Thus, romance could be summarized as a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with the exceptional actions and identity of another.

Naturally, the actions and identity of which we speak are no ordinary actions or identity, they are Roman! They are awe-some, they are out-standing, they are extra-ordinary, they are wonder-full in relative comparison to our own menial, quotidian lives. To perform such actions, to own such an identity in life is romanish, it is literally, romantic. Now you see the truth of the matter. To be Roman, to be romanish, to be romantic is to execute great feats toward the accomplishment of a great end. It is to live almost surreal, almost a fictional life. But that is just the point, it is fictional. Fictional in the sense of what we believe true greatness to be.

Don’t mistake me, we are to celebrate and be attracted to great actions, great identities, and great ends. Our mistake is in construing what true greatness actually is. True greatness is not the romanish of a Roman, but the Christlikeness of Christ reflected in a man or woman, or portrayed in a book, or our exemplified in life. This is a radical difference. It requires a radical change in our expectations and desires. I admit it is easy to be attracted to the romanish, the romantic. It is exciting and exceptional. It makes for unforgettable tales and stories. But, it is a much more difficult thing to be attracted to the Christlikeness of Christ.

The acts of Christ and in some sense the end of Christ is no glamorous thing. To many it is boring, average, and ordinary. It is a daily,  quite, routine life of humility, meekness, mourning, and unenviable service moment by moment. Make no mistake, the Kingdom of Christ is far removed from what you will find in the Kingdom of Rome. Christ’s Kingdom is for the meek. Rome’s kingdom is for the proud. Christ’s Kingdom is to serve. Rome’s kingdom is to be served. Christ’s Kingdom is dominion. Rome’s kingdom is domination. Christ’s Kingdom is for the last. Rome’s kingdom is for the first. Christ’s Kingdom is God’s glory. Rome’s kingdom is man’s glory.

Christians have fostered a misplaced adoration for the romanish that is found in the kingdom of Rome, because they view their lives in the kingdom of Christ as somewhat boring and want to escape into that particularly heightened quality of feeling that arises within them over the exceptional actions and identity of the romanish, or the romantic. But the Christian life is not boring, it is challenging. It is far more challenging to execute the acts of Christ because Christ’s great end is a hundred times more difficult, a thousand times more strenuous than what we read and see in the romanish romance.

Why do we do this idolatrous escapism? We all know that Christ’s kingdom is truly great so why are we instead overly attracted to the kingdom of Rome? Because we are following our feelings. Remember once more the definition, a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with he exceptional actions and identity of another. We all want that emotional high, whether it be from a relationship, book, meal, or personal endeavour. Yet it is hard to get excited about seeing Christ presented in any of those things. It is easier to be attracted to some romanish qualities in another person or thing over and above their Christlike attributes.

So the answer to the romantic conditioning of Walt Disney, and pagan fairy tales, and medieval folklore is no. No, I will not follow my heart inconsequently. No, I will not follow my feelings unconditionally. No I will not be a romanish romantic but Christlike as Christ. Rather I will treasure, adore, and consider first and foremost that which is Christ. Then you will notice the particular Christlikeness in another and then your heart will follow and your feeling in turn. For instance, we as Christians establish the greatness of actions by how they reflect God’s glory, not man’s. “And have your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that they which speak evil of you as evil doers, may by your good works which they shall see, glorify God in the day visitation.” We as Christians establish our affections not on the romanish but, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are worthy love, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, think on these things.” We as Christians establish even our greatest earthly attraction towards another in marriage on the same grounds that Christ has established his attraction towards his Church! “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.” 

The Christian’s calling to “lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness, and honesty.” To live righteously, to love their wives, to honour their parents, to disciple their children, to shepherd their churches, to confront culture is no piddly-piffle. It is God’s chosen means to multi-generational faithfulness, cultural reconstruction, church edification, nation building, and Christ glorifying. These average men and women, boys and girls, are God’s greatest assets in bringing about his greatest work, which is, the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Do not escape to the romanish of the Kingdom of Rome, but seek first the Christlikeness of the Kingdom of God with pluck and aplomb. Go forth and serve your King.