Of the Scriptures

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).

Regarding Worship

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).

Genuine Prayer

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).

Scripture

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).

Living Hope

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).

Contra Rome & Pius IX

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).

Meditation

Meditation makes the Word preached to profit; it works it upon the consciences. As the bee sucks the flower, so by meditation we suck the sweetness of a truth (Thomas Watson, The Christian Soldier, or Heaven Taken By Storm, 52-53).

Human Destiny in Community

The doctrine of the covenant of works, finally, contains a third idea, an idea of the richest religious and ethical significance. Adam was not created alone. As a man and by himself he was incomplete. He lacked something that no lower creature could make up (Gen. 2:20). As a man by himself, accordingly, neither was he yet the fully unfolded image of God. The creation of humankind in God’s image was only completed on the sixth day, when God created both man and woman in union with each other (cf. Gen. 1:27), in his image. Still, even this creation in God’s image of man and woman in conjunction is not the end but the beginning of God’s journey with mankind. It is not good that man should be alone (Gen. 2:18); nor is it good that the man and the woman should be alone. Upon the two of them God immediately pronounced the blessing of multiplication (Gen. 1:28). Not the man alone, nor the man and woman together, but only the whole of humanity is the fully developed image of God, his children, his offspring. The image of God is much too rich for it to be fully realize din a single human being, however, richly gifted that human being may be. It can only be somewhat unfolded in its depth and riches in a humanity counting billions of members. Just as the traces of God (vestigia Dei) are spread over many, many works, in both space and time, so also the image of God can only be displayed din all its dimensions and characteristic features in a humanity whose members exist both successively one after the other and contemporaneously side by side. But just as the cosmos is a unity and receives its head and master in humankind; and just as the traces of God (vestigia Dei) scattered throughout the entire world are bundled and raised up into the image of God of humankind; so also that humanity in turn is to be conceived as an organism that, precisely as such, is finally the only fully developed image of God. Not as a heap of souls on a tract of land, not as a loose aggregate of individuals, but as having been created out of one blood; as one household and one family, humanity is the image of and likeness of God. Belonging to that humanity is also its development, its history, its ever expanding dominion over the earth, its progress in science and art, its subjugation of all creatures. All these things as well constitute the unfolding of the image and likeness of God in keeping with which humanity was created. Just as God did not reveal himself all at once at the creation, but continues and expands that revelation form day to day and form age to age, so also the image of God is not a static entity but extends and unfolds itself in the forms of space and time. It is both a gift (Gabe) and a mandate (Aufgabe). It is an undeserved gift of grace that was given to the first human being immediately at the creation but at the same time is the grounding principle and germ of an altogether rich rand glorious development. Only humanity in its entirety–as one complete organism, summed up under a single head, spread out over the whole earth, as prophet proclaiming the truth of God, as priest dedicating itself to God, as ruler controlling the earth and the whole of creation–only it is the fully finished image, the most telling and striking likeness of God (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, 576-577).

Concerning Prayer

For prayer is the true sacrifice of praise: by which one gives honor and glory to God, to Him alone we have cried for help (Ps. 50:14-15). And yet He wishes to be honored by this honor, and does not want it to be given to another (Isa. 42:8): as it appears by His first commandment. It is then great idolatry and very displeasing to God if one resorts to another than to Him (William Farel’s Summary (1529) in 16th & 17th Century Reformed Confessions, Vol. 1, 75).