After his always strikingly appropriate opening prayer had been offered, and we had been settled back into our seats, he would open his well thumbed Greek Testament–on which it was plain that there was not a single marginal note–look at the passage for a second, and then throwing his head back, and closing his eyes, begin his exposition. He scarcely again glanced at the Testament during the hour, the text was evidently before his mind, verbally, and the matter of his exposition thoroughly at his command. In an unbroken stream it flowed from subject to subject, simple, clear, cogent, unfailingly reverent. Now and then he would pause a moment to insert an illustrative anecdote–now and then lean forward suddenly with tearful, wide-open eyes, to press home a quick-risen inference of the love of God to lost sinners. But the web of his discourse–for a discourse it really was–was calm, critical and argumentative [source].
In His sovereignty God has bound Himself to impart His grace not on account of our use of the means, but along the route of the means that He has prescribed for us (Herman Bavinck, Saved By Grace, 102).
Nature and grace are distinct, yet they do not stand detached from one another. The same God who regenerates His elect in Christ through the Holy Spirit is the one who, as Creator and Sustainer, cares for them and leads them also to the moment when He visits them with His grace. Therefore the means of grace are not superfluous; and how we make use of them is not an insignificant matter. . . . For grace is imparted by means of warnings; and to the degree that we perform our obligation readily, to that degree will the benefit of God who works in us be the more excellent (154).
The Christians’ moral life has faith as its root, the law as its rule, and the honor of God as its goal (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3., 528).
By Scripture is understood the sacred Book of God. It is given by divine inspiration; that is, the Scripture is not the contrivance of man’s brain, but is divine in its origin. . . . The two Testaments are the two lips by which God has spoken to us (Thomas Watson, A Complete Body of Divinity, 18).
The advocates of human traditions paint them in fair and gaudy colors; and Paul certainly admits that they carry with them a show of wisdom; but as God values obedience more than all sacrifices, it ought to be sufficient for the rejection of any mode of worship, that it wants the sanction of a divine command (John Calvin, On the Necessity of Reforming the Church, 23).
In genuine prayer, something more is required than mere entreaty. The suppliant must feel assured that God is the only being to whom he ought to flee, both because He only can succor him in necessity; and also, because He has actually engaged to do it. But no man can have this conviction unless he pray regard both to the command by which God calls us to himself, and to the promise of listening to our prayers which is annexed to the command” [Note: the promise is founded entirely on the intercession of Christ.] (John Calvin, On the Necessity of Reforming the Church, 19).
Yet that they highest and most influential faith in the truth and authority of the Scriptures is the direct work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. The Scriptures to the unregenerate man are like light to the blind. They may be felt as the rays of the sun are felt by the blind, but they cannot be fully seen. The Holy Spirit opens the blinded eyes and gives due sensibility to the diseased heart; and thus assurance comes with the evidence of spiritual experience. When first regenerated, he begins to set the Scriptures to the test of experience; and the more he advances, the more he proves them true, and the more he discovers of their limitless breadth and fulness, and their evidently designed adaptation to all human wants under all possible conditions (A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith, 36-37).
Not long ago I was on the Syrian border where Christians run a little clinic, providing medical services along with the gospel to Bedouin tribes. A British nurse named Claire told me that radical Muslims have threatened to kill them and burn the hospital down. She also told me they had not reported these threats because the government would close the clinic for the safety of the staff. She said matter-of-factly, “Whether it’s the bad man with the gun or the nice man with the tie, the result is the same — the clinic will be closed. We have no reason to stop now. They have stolen our vehicles and threatened to kill us, but they have not harmed us yet and cannot unless God permits it — and even then, it will be OK because we will be with the Lord.” Even though she had faced armed robbers and lethal force, Claire’s voice was steady as her faith. Claire doesn’t have a death wish; she has a living hope. She knows Christ is powerful to save her — and to save all who come to him (Tim Keesee, Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places, 20).
There is no exception to the universal rule of sin except for our Lord Jesus Christ. “In Adam the person corrupts the [human] nature; in other humans the [human] nature corrupts the person” (Aquinas). Scripture gives no warrant to the Roman Catholic dogmas of Mary’s immaculate conception and bodily assumption. The grounds given for Rome’s declaration by Pius IX in the bull Ineffabilis Deus of December 8, 1854, “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin in the first instant of her Conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race,” are quite unconvincing. Appeal is made to the strangest texts and typologies: Genesis 3:15; Psalm 45:11f.; Song of Solomon 1:8-16; 2:2; 3:6; 4:1f.; 6:9; Wisdom 1:4; Luke 1:28, 41, 48; Revelation 12; and typologies such as Noah’s ark, the dove with the olive branch, the burning bush, and so on. These stretches reveal the dearth of arguments and require no further refutation. Scripture decisively teaches, rather, that all humans, Christ alone excepted, are sinners. No exception is ever made for Mary, who, though no specific sinful words or deeds are recorded of her (not in Mark 3:21; John 2:3-4 either), still rejoices in God her Savior (Luke 1:47) and is called blessed because of her motherhood of Christ but never because she is sinless (Luke 1:28, 48). Rome does not imply that Mary was not comprehended and fallen in Adam but only that she was preserved from all stain of original sin only by a special grace of God in consideration of the merits of Christ. Accordingly, she was preserved from original sin in the very first instant of her conception. There is, however, not the slightest ground for this dogma in Scripture, as Aquinas frankly admits: “nothing is handed down in the canonical Scriptures concerning the sanctification of the Blessed Mary as to her being sanctified in the womb.” Here is the only ground: Simply, like Mary’s assumption, it is an inference from the mediatorship the Roman church gradually attributed to her. It is not fitting (conveniens) that Mary should be conceived in sin, should have committed sin, and died. She has to be sinless; therefore she is sinless, even though neither Scripture nor tradition teaches this. (Herman Bavinck, Abridged Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, 365).