How Many Natures are Needed to Make One Atonement?

Taken and adapted from, The Atonement   
Written by Francis Turretin, 


For our purposes, the person who makes the atonement is here to be considered…

As sin is to be viewed in the threefold light of;

1. debt,
2. enmity,
3. crime;

Therefore God must be seen in the threefold light of;

1. creditor,
2. party offended,
3. judge;

Also Christ must put on a threefold relation corresponding to all these.

1. He must sustain the character of a Surety, for the payment of the debt.
2. He must be a Mediator, a peace-maker, to take away the enmity of the parties and reconcile us to God.
3. He must be a Priest and victim, to substitute himself in our room, and make atonement, by enduring the penal sanction of the law.

Again: that such an atonement may be made, two things are requisite: 

1. That the same nature which sins shall make restitution.
2. That the consideration given must possess infinite value, in order to the removal of the infinite demerit of sin.

In Christ, two natures were necessary for the making of an atonement:

1. a human nature, to suffer,
2. a divine nature, to give the requisite value to his sufferings.

Moreover, we must demonstrate how it is possible, in consistency with justice, to substitute an innocent person, as Christ was. in our room; because such a substitution, at first view, appears to be not only unusual, but also unjust. Though a substitution, which is common in a pecuniary debt, rarely occurs in penal transactions — nay, is sometimes prohibited, as was the case among the Romans, because no one is master of his own life, and because the commonwealth would suffer loss in such cases — yet it was not ‘unknown among the heathen. We have an example of it in Damon and Pythias; two intimate friends, one of whom voluntarily entered himself bail for the other to Dionysius in a capital cause. Curtius, Codrus, and Brutus devoted themselves for their country. The right of punishing hostages, when princes fail in their promises, has been recognized by all nations. Hence hostages are called anti-psukoi substitutes. To this Paul alludes, when he says, (Rom. 5:7) “For a good man some would even dare to die.” The Holy Scriptures often give it support, not only from the imputation of sin, by which one bears the punishment due to another, but from the public use of sacrifices, in which the victim was substituted in the place of the sinner and suffered death in his stead. Hence the imposition of hands, and the confession of sins over the head of the victims.

But, that such a substitution may be made without the slightest appearance of injustice, various conditions are requisite in the substitute or surety, all which are found in Christ.

1. A common nature, that sin may be punished in the same nature which is guilty, (Heb. 2:14).
2. The consent of the will, that he should voluntarily take the burden upon himself, (Heb. 10:9) — “Lo, I come to do thy will.”
3. Power over his own life, so that he may rightfully determine respecting it, (John, 10:18) — “No one taketh away my life, but I lay it down of myself, for I have power to lay it down, and take it up again.”
4. The power of bearing the punishment due to us, and of freeing both himself and us from the power of death; because, if he himself could be holden of death, he could free no one from its dominion. That Christ possesses this power, no one doubts.
5. Holiness and immaculate purity, that, being polluted by no sin, he might not have to offer sacrifice for himself, but for us only, (Heb. 7:26-27.)

Under these conditions, it was not unjust for Christ to substitute himself in our room, while lie is righteous and we unrighteous. By this act no injury is done to any one. Not to Christ, for he voluntarily took the punishment upon himself, and had the right to decide concerning his own life and death, and also power to raise himself from the dead. Not to God the judge, for he willed and commanded it; nor to his natural justice, for the Surety satisfied this by suffering the punishment which demanded it. Not to the empire of the universe, by depriving an innocent person of life, for Christ, freed from death, lives for evermore; or by the life of the surviving sinner injuring the kingdom of God, for he is converted and made holy by Christ. Not to the divine law, for its honour has been maintained by the perfect fulfillment of all its demands, through the righteousness of the Mediator; and, by our legal and mystical union, he becomes one with us, and we one with him. Hence he may justly take upon him our sin and sorrows, and impart to us his righteousness and blessings. So there is no abrogation of the law, no derogation from its claims; as what we owed is transferred to the account of Christ, to be paid by him.

These preliminary remarks we have thought necessary, in order to the lucid discussion of the question concerning the necessity of the atonement. We now proceed to inquire whether it was necessary that Christ should satisfy for us, as well absolutely, in relation to the divine justice, as hypothetically, on the ground of a divine decree: whether it was absolutely necessary, in order to our salvation, that an atonement should be made, God not having the power to pardon our sins without a satisfaction, or whether it was rendered necessary only by the divine decree? The Socinians, indeed, admit no kind of necessity. Some of the old divines, and some members of the Reformed Church, contend for a hypothetical necessity only. They think it sufficient for the refutation of the heretic.

But we, with the great body of the orthodox, contend for both. We do not urge a necessity simply natural, such as that of fire to burn, which is in-voluntary, and admits of no modification in its exercise. It is a moral and rational necessity for which we plead; one which, as it flows from the holiness and justice of God, and cannot be exercised any other way than freely and voluntarily, admits of various modifications, provided there is no infringement of the natural rights of Deity. That there is such a necessity, is evinced by many arguments.

FALSE RELIGIONS AND THE TRUE: Paul’s Thoughts behind the Worshiping of the “Not-Known” God, and its Context in Today’s Post-Modern, Seeker-Friendly, Church Culture.

Taken and adapted from, “FALSE RELIGIONS AND THE TRUE: Paul’s Thoughts behind the Worshiping of the “Not-Known” God, and its Context in Today’s Post-Modern, Seeker-Friendly, Church Culture.”
Written by, B. B. Warfield.


“What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this set I forth unto you.”

– Acts 17: 23. (R. V.)

THESE words give the gist of Paul’s justly famous address at Athens before the court of the Areopagus.

The substance of that address was, to be sure, just what the substance of all his primary proclamations to Gentile hearers was, namely, God and the judgment. The necessities of the case compelled him to approach the heathen along the avenue of an awakened conscience. They had not been prepared for the preaching of Jesus by a training under the old covenant, and no appeals to prophecy and its fulfillment could be made to them. God and the judgment necessarily constituted, therefore, the staple of his proclamation to them; and so typical an instance as this address to the Areopagus could not fail to exhibit the characteristics of its class with especial purity.

Nevertheless, the peculiar circumstances in which it was delivered have imprinted on this address also a particular character of its own. Paul spoke it under a specially poignant sense of the depths of heathen ignorance and of the greatness of heathen need. The whole address palpitates with his profound feeling of the darkness in which the heathen world is immersed, and his eager longing to communicate to it the light intrusted to his care. All that goes before the words selected for the text and all that comes after serve but to enhance their great declaration – build for it, as it were, but a lofty platform upon which it is raised to fix the gaze of men. Out of it all Paul fairly shouts this one essential message to the whole unbelieving world: “What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this set I forth unto you.”

Let us consider for a little while the circumstances in which the address was delivered. Summoned by a supernatural vision, Paul had crossed the sea and brought the gospel into Europe. Landing in Macedonia, he had preached in its chief cities, meeting on the one hand with great acceptance, and arousing on the other the intensest opposition. He had been driven from city to city until the brethren had at last fled with him to the sea and, hurrying him upon a ship, had conveyed him far to the south and, at last, landed him at Athens. There they left him – alone but in safety – and returned to Macedonia to send his companions to him.

Meanwhile Paul awaited their coming at Athens. Athens! Mother of wisdom, mistress of art; but famous, perhaps, above all its wisdom and above all its art for the intensity of its devotion to the gods. Paul had had a missionary’s experience with idolatry, in its grosser and more refined forms alike; he had been forced into contact with it throughout his Asian work. Even so, Athens seems to have been a revelation to him – a revelation which brought him nothing less than a shock. Here he was literally in the thick of it. No other nation was so given over to idolatry as the Athenians. One writer tells us that it was easier to find a god in populous Athens than a man; another, scarcely exaggerating, declares that the whole city was one great altar, one great sacrifice, one great votive offering. The place seemed to Paul studded with idols, and the sight of it all brought him a paroxysm of grief and concern.

He was in Athens, as it were, in hiding. But he could not keep silence. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and there preached to the Jews and those devout inquirers who were accustomed to visit the synagogues of the Jews in every city. But this did not satisfy his aroused zeal. He went also to the market place – that agora which the public teachers of the city had been wont to frequent for the propagation of their views – and there, like them, every day, he argued with all whom he chanced to meet. Among these he very naturally encountered certain adherents of the types of philosophy then dominant – the Epicurean and Stoic – and in conflict with them he began to attract attention.

He was preaching, as was his custom, “Jesus” and the “resurrection” – doubtless much as he preached them in his recorded address, to which all this led up. Some turned with light contempt away from him and called him a mere smatterer; others, with perhaps no less contempt, nevertheless took him more seriously and anxiously asked if he were not “a proclaimer of alien divinities.” This was an offense in Athens; and so they brought him to the Areopagus. He was not formally arraigned for trial – there was only set on foot something like a preliminary official inquiry; and the question put to him is oddly compounded of courteous suggestion and authoritative demand. They said: “May we be allowed to know what this new teaching is that is talked of by thee? For thou dost bring certain strange things to our ears; and it is our wish to know what these things may be.” The hand is gloved, but you see the iron showing through. It was to Paul, however, only another opportunity; and in the conscious authority of his great mission he stood forth in the midst of the court and began to speak.

We must bear in mind that Paul was put to the question on the general charge that he was “a proclaimer of strange deities.” He had no intention whatever of denying this general allegation. He was rather firmly determined to seize this opportunity yet once more to proclaim a Deity evidently unknown to the Athenians. And this, in fact, he proceeded at once to do. But he did it after a fashion which disarmed the complaint; which enlisted the Athenians themselves as unwilling indeed, but nevertheless real, worshipers of the God he proclaimed; and which powerfully pried at their consciences as well as appealed to their intelligences and even their national pride to give wings to his proclamation.

The hinge on which the whole speech turns is obviously Paul’s deep sense of the darkness of heathen ignorance. As our Saviour said to the Samaritan woman, so Paul, in effect, says to the Athenian jurists and philosophers, “You worship you know not what.” The altar at Athens which he signalizes as especially significant of heathen worship is precisely the altar inscribed “To a Not known God.” The whole course of their heathen development he characterizes as a seeking of God, if by any chance – “in the possible hope at least that” – they may touch Him as a blind man touches with his hands fumblingly what he cannot see – and so doubtfully find Him; nay, shortly and crisply, as ” times of ignorance.” The very purpose of his proclamation of his gospel among them is to bring light into this darkness, to make them to know the true nature and the real modes of working, the all-inclusive plan and the decisive purpose of the one true God. Therefore it is simply true to say that the hinge on which the whole speech turns is the declaration that the heathen are steeped in ignorance and require, above all things, the light of divine instruction.

But when we have said this we have not said all. After all, it is not quite a blank ignorance that Paul ascribes to the Athenians. He institutes a certain connection between what they worship and the God he was commending to them. He does not wholly scoff at their religion, though he certainly sharply reprobates and deeply despises the modes in which it expresses itself. He does not entirely condemn their worship even of a not-known god; he rather makes it a point of attachment for proclaiming the higher worship of the known God of heaven and earth which he is recommending to them. There is, in a word, a certain amount of recognition accorded by him to their religious feelings and aspirations.

It is accordingly not all a scoff when he tells them that he perceives that they are apparently “very religious.” The word he employs is no doubt sometimes used in a bad sense, and accordingly is frequently translated here by the ill-savored word “superstitious.” So our English version translates it: “I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious” or “somewhat superstitious,” as the Revised Version puts it. But it is scarcely possible to believe that Paul uses it in this evil sense here. It means in itself nothing but “divinity-fearing” – not exactly “God-fearing,” though generally equivalent to that, because it has a hint in it of the gods many and lords many of the heathen. It easily, therefore, lends itself to a bad sense, and is often, as we have seen, so used. But as often it is used in a perfectly good sense, as equivalent simply to “religious,” and surely it is so used here. Paul is not charging his hearers with superstition; he is recognising in them a religious disposition. He chooses a term, indeed, of somewhat non-committal character – which would not say too much – which might be taken perhaps as bearing a subtle implication of incomplete approval: but a word by which he expresses at least no active disapproval and even a certain measure of active approval. Paul, in fine, commends the religiousness of the Athenians.

The forms in which this religiousness expressed itself he does not commend. The sight of them, indeed, threw him into a paroxysm of distress, if not of indignation. He could not view without disgust and horror the degradation of their worship. In one sense we may say that it reached its lowest level in this altar, “To a Not-known God.” For what could be worse than the superstitious dread which, after cramming every corner of the city with altars to every conceivable divinity, was not yet satisfied, but must needs feel blindly out after still some other power of earth or air or sky to which to immolate victims or before which to cringe in unintelligent fear? But in another aspect it may even have seemed to Paul that in this altar might rather be seen the least degraded expression of the religious aspirations of the Athenians. Where every definite trait given to their conceptions of divinity was but a new degradation of the idea of the divine, there is a certain advantage attaching to vagueness. At least no distinctive foulness was attributed to a god confessedly unknown. Perhaps just because of its undifferentiation and indefiniteness it might therefore seem a purer symbol of that seeking after God for which God had destined all nations when He appointed to them the ordained times and limits of their habitation, if by any chance they might feel Him and so find Him. Surely the forms they gave to the gods they more definitely conceived, the characters they ascribed to them, the functions they assigned them, and the legendary stories of their activities which they wove around them, sufficiently evinced that in them the Athenians had not so much as fumblingly touched God, much less found Him. A worship offered to “an unknown god” was at least free from the horror of definitely conceiving God as corruptible men and birds and fourfooted beasts and creeping things.

In any event, behind the worship, however ill conceived, Paul sees and recognizes the working of that which he does not shame to call religion. Enshrined within his general condemnation of the heathenism of the Athenians there lies thus a recognition of something not to be condemned – something worthy of commendation rather – fit even on his lips to bear the name of “religion.” All this is implied in the words we have chosen as our text, and it is therefore that we have said of them that they give us the gist of the whole address. “What ye thus not knowing adore,” says Paul, “that it is that I am proclaiming to you.” It will repay us, probably, to probe the matter a little in the way of its wider applications.

First, then, we say there is given in the apostolic teaching a certain recognition to the religion of the heathen.

We do not say, mark you, that a recognition is given to the heathen religions. That is something very different. The heathen religions are uniformly treated as degrading to man and insulting to God. The language of a recent writer which declares that man’s “most unfortunate things” are his religions – nay, that man’s religions are “among his worst crimes” – is thoroughly justified by the apostolic attitude toward them. Read but the account given at the end of the first chapter of Romans of the origin of these religions in the progressive degradation of man’s thought of God, as man’s repeated withdrawals from God and God’s repeated judicial blindings of man interwork to the steady destruction of all religious insight and all moral perception alike, and from this observe how the writers of the New Testament conceived of the religions which men have in the procession of the ages formed for themselves.

Nor is it to be imagined that only the more degraded of the popular superstitions were in the apostle’s mind when he painted this dreadful picture of the fruits of human religious thinking. In an almost contemporary epistle he calmly passes his similar judgment on all the philosophies of the world. Not by all its wisdom, he tells us, has the world come to know God, but in these higher elaborations also, becoming vain in its imaginations, its foolish heart has only become darkened. In a somewhat later epistle he sums up his terrible estimate of the religious condition of the Gentiles in that dreadful declaration that “they walk in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart.”

This is what the apostle thought - not of some heathen, but of heathen as such, in their religious life – not of the degraded bushmen of Australia or Africa or New Guinea, but of the philosophic minds of Greece and Rome in the palmiest days of their intellectual development and ethical and aesthetic culture; of the Socrateses and Platos and Aristotles and Epictetuses and Marcus Aureliuses of that ancient world, which some would have us look upon as so fully to have found God as veritably to have taken heaven by storm and to have entered it by force of its own attainments. To him it was, on the contrary, in his briefest phrase, “without hope and without God.”

Nevertheless, alongside of and in the very midst of this sweeping and unmitigated condemnation of the total religious manifestation of heathendom there exists an equally constant and distinct recognition of the reality and value of religion even among the heathen.

It does not seem ever to have occurred to the writers of the New Testament to doubt that religion is as universal as intelligence itself; or to question the reality or value of this universal religiousness. To them man, as such, appears to be esteemed no more a reasonable creature than a religious animal; and they appeal to his religious instinct and build upon it expectations of a response to their appeal, with the same confidence which they show when they make their appeal to his logical faculty. They apparently no more expect to find a man without religion than they expect to find a man without understanding, and they seem to attach the same fundamental value to his inherent religiousness as to his inherent rationality.

In this the passage that is more particularly before us to-day is thoroughly representative of the whole New Testament. Paul, it is seen at once, does not here in any way question the fact that the Athenians are religious, any more than he questions that they are human beings. He notes, rather, with satisfaction that they are very especially religious. “I perceive that ye are in all things exceedingly divinity-fearing.” There is a note of commendation in that which is unmistakable. Nor does he betray any impulse to denounce their religious sentiment as intrinsically evil. On the contrary, he takes it frankly as the basis of his appeal to them. In effect, he essays merely to direct and guide its functioning, and in so doing recognizes it as the foundation of all the religious life which he would, as the teacher of Christianity to them, fain see developed in and by them. In the same spirit he always deals with what we may call the inherent religiousness of humanity. Man, as such, in his view is truly and fundamentally religious.

Now this frank recognition, or, we might better say, this emphatic assertion of the inherent religiousness of humanity, constitutes a fact of the first importance in the biblical revelation. It puts the seal of divine revelation on the great fundamental doctrine that there exists in man a notitia Dei insita – a natural knowledge of God, which man can no more escape than he can escape from his own humanity. Endowed with an ineradicable sense of dependence and of responsibility, man knows that Other on which he depends and to whom he is responsible in the very same act by which he knows himself. As he can never know himself save as dependent and responsible, he can never know himself without a consciousness of that Other Not-self, on whom he is dependent and to whom he is responsible; and in this co-knowledge of self and Over-not-self is rooted the whole body of his religious conceptions, religious feelings, and religious actions-which are just as inevitable functionings of his intellect, sensibility, and will as any actions of those faculties, the most intimate and immediate we can conceive of. Thus man cannot help being religious; God is implicated in his very first act of self-consciousness, and he can avoid thinking of God, feeling toward Him, acting with respect to Him, only by avoiding thinking, feeling, and acting with respect to self.

How he shall conceive God – what notion he shall form, that is, of that Over-not-self in contrast with which he is conscious of dependence and responsibility; how he shall feel toward God – that is, toward that Over-not-self, conceived after this fashion or that; how he shall comport himself toward God – that is, over against that Over-not-self, so and not otherwise conceived, and so and not otherwise felt toward: these questions, it is obvious, raise additional problems, the solution of which must wait upon accurate knowledge of the whole body of conditions and circumstances in which the faculties of intellect, feeling, and will function in each given case. But that in his very first act of consciousness of self as a dependent and responsible and not as a self-centered and self-sufficient being, man is brought into contact with the Over-not-self on which he is dependent and to which he is responsible; and must therefore form some conception of it, feel in some way toward it, and act in some manner with respect to it, is as certain as that he will think and feel and act at all.

That man is a religious being, therefore, and will certainly have a religion, is rooted in his very nature, and is as inevitable as it is that man will everywhere and always be man. But what religion man will have is no more subject to exact a priori determination than is the product of the action of his faculties along any other line of their functioning. Religion exists and must exist everywhere where man lives and thinks and feels and acts; but the religions that exist will be as varied as the idiosyncrasies of men, the conditions in which their faculties work, the influences that play on them and determine the character of their thoughts and feelings and deeds.

Bearing this in mind, we shall not be surprised to note that along with the recognition of the religiousness of man embodied in the apostolic teaching, there is equally prominent in it, as we have said, the unwavering assertion of the absolute necessity of religious instruction for the proper religious development of man.

The whole mission of the apostle is founded upon, or, more properly speaking, is the appropriate expression of, this point of sight. Nor could he be untrue to it on an occasion like that which is more particularly engaging our attention to-day. We observe, then, as we have already pointed out, that though he commends the Athenians for their God-fearingness and finds in their altar to a “not-known god” a point of attachment for his proclamation of the true God; he does not for a moment suggest that their native religiousness could be left safely to itself to blossom into a fitting religious life; or that his proclamation of the known God of heaven and earth possessed only a relative necessity for them.

Clearly he presents the necessity rather as absolute. God had for a time, no doubt, left the nations of the world to the guidance of their own religious nature, that they might seek after Him in the possible expectation at least of finding Him. But on God’s part this was intended rather as a demonstration of their incapacity than as a hopeful opportunity afforded them; and in its results it provides an empirical proof of the absolute necessity of His interference with direct guidance.

Accordingly the apostle roundly characterizes the issue of all heathen religious development, inclusive of that in Athens itself, the seat of the highest heathen thinking on divine things, as just bald ignorance. That the world by its wisdom knows not God and lies perishing in its ignorance is the most fixed element of his whole religious philosophy.

What is involved here is, of course, the whole question of the necessity of “special revelation.” It is a question which has been repeatedly fought out during the course of Christian history. In the eighteenth century, for example, it was this very issue that was raised in the sharpest possible form by the deistic controversy. A coterie of religious philosophers, possessing an eye for little in man beyond his logical understanding, undertook to formulate what they called the “natural religion.” This they then set over against the supernatural religion, which Christianity professed to be, as the religion of nature in contrast with the religion of authority – authority being prejudged to be in this sphere altogether illegitimate. The result was certainly instructive. Bernard Pünger is not a jot too severe when he remarks of this boasted “natural religion” of the Deists, that it deserves neither element of its designation. “It is,” he declares, “neither religion nor natural, but only an extremely artificial abstraction of theologians and philosophers. It is no religion, for nowhere, in no spot, in either the old or new world, has there ever existed even the smallest community which recognized this ‘natural religion.’ And it is not natural; for no simple man ever arrived of himself at the ideas of this ‘natural religion.”‘

And when it was thus at last formulated by the philosophers of the eighteenth century, it proved no religion even to them. A meager body of primary abstract truth concerning God and His necessary relations to man was the entire result. This formed, indeed, an admirable witness to the rational rooting of these special truths concerning God and our relations to Him in the very nature of man as a dependent and responsible being; and this the Christian thinker may well view with satisfaction. It may be taken as supplying him also with a demonstration, once for all, that an adequate body of religious truth can never be obtained by the artificial process of abstracting from all the religions of the world the elements held in common by them all, and labeling this “natural religion.” Neither in religion nor in any other sphere of life can the maxim be safely adopted that the least well-endowed member of a coterie shall be crowned king over all. Yet obviously that is the result of proceeding by what is called “the consensus method” in seeking a norm of religious truth.

Taught wisdom by experience like this, our more modern world has found a new method of ridding itself of the necessity of revelation. The way was pointed out to it by no less a genius than Friedrich Schleiermacher himself. Led no doubt by the laudable motive of seeking a place for religion unassailable on the shallow ground of intellectualistic criticism, he relegated it in its origin exclusively to the region of feeling. In essence he said, religion is the immediate feeling of absolute dependence.

He calls it an “immediate feeling” or an “immediate self-consciousness” just in order to eliminate from it every intellectual element. That is to say, he wishes to distinguish between two forms of self-consciousness or feeling, the one mediated by the perception of an object and the other not so mediated, but consisting in an immediate and direct sensation, abstracted from every intellectual representation or idea; and in this latter class of feelings he places that feeling of absolute dependence with which he identifies religion. Religion, therefore, it is argued, is entirely independent of every intellectual conception; it is rooted in a pure feeling or immediate consciousness which enters into and affects all of our intellectual exercises, but is itself absolutely independent of them all, and persists the same through whatever intellectual conceptions we may form of the object of our worship or through whatever actions we may judge appropriate to the service of that object thus or otherwise conceived.

Upon the basis of this mode of conceiving religion we have been treated of late to innumerable paeans to religion as a primal force running through all the religions; and are being constantly exhorted to recognize as absolutely immaterial what forms it takes in its several manifestations, and to greet it as subsisting equally valid and equally noble beneath all its forms of manifestation indifferently, because in itself independent of them all. It is thus only the common cry that echoes all around us which Père Hyacinthe repeats in his passionate declaration: “It is not true that all religions are false except one only.”

Only a few years ago when a professor was being inducted into a new chair of the History of Religion established in one of the oldest of the Reformed schools, he took up the same cry with much the same passion, and professed himself able to feel brotherhood with every form of religion – except that perhaps which arrogated to itself to be the only legitimate form. “When the history of religions,” he eloquently said, “places in our hands the religious archives of humanity it is surely our duty rather to garner these treasures than to proclaim Christianity the only good, the only true one among the religions of men. ‘We also, we also are the offspring of God,’ the poet Aratus cried three centuries before Christ. Let us pause before this cry of the human soul and let us contemplate with attention the luminous web in which the history of this divine sonship has been woven by universal worship. When we have opened, with the same respect which we demand for our own, the sacred books of other peoples, when we have observed them clinging, as to their most holy possessions, to their sublime traditions, in which are enshrined the mother-thoughts of all true religion – lavishing their genius in exalting them, sacrificing their fortunes in defending them, exiling themselves to the most distant lands and sinking into the burning sands in propagating them, accepting death itself in order to preserve them – our hearts, moved with surprise and brotherly sympathy, will repudiate forever the Pharisaic pride which treats as heathen or as uncircumcised all God’s creatures which are without the sacred pale of the elect.” “Men of all nations,” he tells us, “and of all tongues-whether savage or civilized, whether ignorant or instructed, whether Parsi or Christian – though God may have been revealed to them diversely, though they may be looking up to Him through variously-colored glasses – are yet all looking nevertheless up to the same God, by whatever liturgical name He may be known to them – and it is to Him that all their prayers alike are ascending. And to all of them,” he adds, “I feel myself a brother – except to the hypocrite.” “No one,” he concludes, “who has ever felt echoing in his heart the murmur of this universal worship will ever be able to return to the sectarian apologetics with which the unhappiness of the times inspired the Jews after the exile, and which from Judaism has passed into the Church of Christ.”

I have not thus adverted to this eloquent address because it is especially extreme in its assertions. It is not. Rather, let it be said, it enunciates with unusual balance and moderation views common to a large part of the modern world. It is on this very account that I have adduced its presentation of this very widespread conception because it affords us a very favorable opportunity to observe it at its best, touched with fervor and announced with winning eloquence of speech. Even in it, however, we may perceive the portentous results to which the whole conception of religion as an “immediate feeling” may take us – nay, must inevitably carry us. If what it tells us be true, it obviously is of no importance whatever with what conceptions religion may be connected. So only the religious sentiment be present, all that enters into the essence of religion is there; and one may call himself Brahmin or Mohammedan, Parsi or Christian, and may see God through whatever spectacles and name Him by whatever designation he will, and yet be and remain alike, and alike, validly, religious. We may justly look upon this inevitable result of the identification of religion with an “immediate feeling” as its sufficient refutation.

In no event could it be thought difficult, however, to exhibit the untenability of this entire conception. We should probably only need to ask, How could an abstract feeling of dependence, with no implication whatever of the object on which the dependence leans, possess any distinctively religious quality whatever? It would appear too clear to require arguing that the whole religious quality of a feeling of dependence, recognized as religious, must be derived necessarily from the nature of the object depended upon – viz., God. If we conceive that object as something other than God, then the feeling of dependence ceases to be in any intelligible sense religious. It is assuredly only on God that a specifically religious feeling can rest.

Schleiermacher himself appears to have felt this. And accordingly he distinguished between the feeling of dependence in general and the feeling of absolute dependence in particular; and on the supposition that absolute dependence can be felt only toward the Absolute, confined the religious feeling to it. Here there appears to be a subintroduction of the idea of God; and therefore a veiled admission that we have in this “feeling of absolute dependence” not an “immediate feeling,” but a feeling mediated by an idea, to wit, the idea of God. Thus the whole contention is, in principle, yielded; and we revert to the more natural and only valid ground – that all their quality is supplied to feelings by the objects to which they are directed, and that, therefore, the nature of our conceptions so far from having nothing, has everything, to do with religion.

I recall with great vividness of memory a striking picture I once saw, painted by that weird Russo-German genius Sasha Schneider, in order to illustrate religion conceived as the feeling of absolute dependence, and at the same time to express the artist’s repugnance to it and scorn of it. It has seemed to me to provide us with a most striking parable. He figures a man stripped naked and laden down with chains, head bowed, in every trait dejection, every fiber of every muscle relaxed, every line a line of hopelessness and despair. The ground on which he stands is the earth itself, fashioned, however, into the hideous presentment of a monstrous form, so painted as to give it the texture of hard, black, iron-like stone. The horizon that stretches around the figure and seems to bend in upon him consists of two great iron-like arms ending in dreadfully protuberant fingers, which appear about to close in on his limbs; while just before him heavy shoulders rise slightly into a low forbidding hillock, and between them thrusts forward the hard mound of a scarce-distinguishable head, lit by two malevolent eyes, like low volcano-fires glaring up upon their victim. Thus is set forth the artist’s conception of religious sentiment as the “feeling of absolute dependence.”

Yes – but we then must add, there are two points that require criticism in the conception presented. First, in this figure of a despondent man, the artist has, after all, painted not the feeling of dependence, but rather the feeling of helplessness. These are very different things. And in their difference we touch, as I think, the very heart of the error we are seeking to unmask. A feeling of dependence, properly so-called, necessarily implies an object: helplessness – yes, that may exist without an object, but not dependence. He that depends must, needs have somewhat on which to depend. A feeling of dependence is unthinkable apart from the object on which the dependence rests. In picturing for us abject “helplessness,” then, the artist has not at all pictured for us “dependence.” The former is passive, the latter is active, and the abjectness that belongs to the one is not at all inherent in the other. Secondly, even so, the artist has not been able to get along without an object. He has painted this dejected man: there he stands before us the very picture of helplessness. But the artistic sense is not satisfied: and so he throws around him these hideous encircling arms; he sets upon him this baleful gaze. He must suggest, after all, an object toward which the feeling of dependence he is endeavoring to depict turns. But why this hideous object? Only to justify the abjectness of the figure he has painted. From which we may learn at once that the character of the feeling – all that gives quality and meaning to it – is, after all, necessarily dependent on the nature of the object to which it is referred

And so, if we mistake not, Sasha Schneider’s picture is itself the sufficient refutation of the whole conception of religion we are discussing. Given no object, the figure of helplessness remains inexplicable and meaningless and will result in nothing. Given a monstrous object, it develops at once into a figure of abject misery. Given a glorious object – a God of righteousness and goodness – and only then does it develop into a figure of that dependence which we call religion. And if we require an earthly image of this feeling of dependence, let us find it in an infant on its mother’s bosom, looking up in confidence and trust into a face on which it perceives the smiles of goodness and love. Even the heathen poet tells us that the happy infant laughs as it sees the smile of love on the mother’s countenance. It is in such scenes as this that the true earthly portrait of the absolute dependence, which is religion is to be found.

But it is neither to logical analysis nor to the artistic instinct of a Sasha Schneider that we need to turn to-day to assure ourselves that this whole construction of religion as independent of knowledge is impossible. For surely it is obvious that it is the very antipodes of Paul’s view of the matter. This we have already sufficiently pointed out, and need only now to remind ourselves of it.

Perhaps it is enough for this purpose simply to ask afresh how Paul dealt with the religiousness of the Athenians, notable as they were among all nations for their religiousness. Assuredly he did not withhold due recognition from it “O men of Athens,” he cried, “I perceive that in all things ye are exceedingly religious.” But did he account this exceeding religiousness enough for their needs? As he went about the streets of Athens and beheld the great city studded with idols – one great sanctuary, as it were – did he reason within himself that the forms of manifestation were of no importance, that through and beneath them we should rather perceive that pure impulse to worship which sustained and gave vitality and value to them all; and, observing in it the essence of all religions alike, recognize it as enough?

Our text gives us the emphatic answer: “What ye, thus, in ignorance adore, that it is that I declare unto you.” The whole justification of his mission hangs on the value he attaches to knowledge as the informing principle of all right, of all valid, of all availing religion. And if we care to follow Paul we must for our part also, once and for all, renounce with the strongest emphasis all attempts to conceive the native religious impulse as capable in sinful man of producing religious phenomena which can be recognized as well pleasing in the sight of God.

No doubt we shall be under manifold temptations to do otherwise. Our modern atmosphere is charged to saturation with temptations to do otherwise. Let us all the more carefully arm ourselves against them. In warning us against this overestimate of natural religions Paul may perhaps be allowed to give us also a name for it, by the employment of which we may possibly be able to put a new point on our self-admonitions. He calls it, as we have seen, in the case of the Athenians, by a term of somewhat peculiar flavor. “Divinity-fearing” we bunglingly translate it – that is, so to say, “generally Divinity-fearing,” without too close inquisition into which divinity it is that we fear or what is the character of the service that we render it. “Deisidaimonism” is the Greek term he makes use of. It is an uncouth term. But, then, it is not a very lovely thing it designates. And perhaps, in the absence of a good translation, we may profitably adopt the Greek term to-day, with all its uncouthness of sound and its unlovely association, and so enable ourselves to make a recognizable distinction between that general natural religiosity and its fruits which we may call “deisidaimonism” and true religion, which is the product of the saving truth of God operating upon our native religious instincts and producing through them phenomena which owe all their value to the truth that gives them form.

Ah, brethren, let us avoid “deisidaimonism” in all its manifestations! As you look out over the heathen world with its lords many and gods many, and see working in every form of faith the same religious impulses, the same religious aspirations, producing in varying measure indeed, but yet everywhere, to some extent, the same civilizing and moralizing effects – are you perhaps sometimes tempted to pronounce it enough; possibly adding something about the special adaptation of the several faiths to the several peoples, or even something about the essential truth underlying all religions? This is “deisidaimonism.” And on its basis the whole missionary work of the Church is an impertinence, the whole history of the Church a gigantic error; the great commission itself a crime against humanity – launching the Christian world upon a fool’s errand, every step of which has dripped with wasted blood. Surely the proclamation of the gospel is made, then, mere folly and the blood of the martyrs becomes only the measure of the narrow fanaticism of earlier and less enlightened times.

It is possible, however, that your temptation does not come to you in such a crass shape. Perhaps it may whisper to you only something about the narrowness of sectarianism within the limits of Christianity – of the folly of contentions over what we may at the moment be happening to call “the truth.” Look, it may say – do you not see that under every faith the religious life flourishes? Why lay stress then on creed? Creeds are divisive things; away with them! Or at least let us prune all their distinctive features away, and give ourselves a genial and unpolemic Christianity, a Christianity in which all the stress is laid on life, not dogma, the life of the spirit in its aspirations toward God, or perchance, even the life of external activities in the busy fulfillment of the duties of life. This too, you observe, is “deisidaimonism.” Embark once on that pathway and there is no logical and – oh, the misfortune of it! – no practical stopping-point until you have evaporated all recognizable Christianity away altogether and reduced all religion to the level of man’s natural religiosity. A really “undogmatic Christianity” is just no Christianity at all.

Let us not for an instant suppose, to be sure, that religion is a matter of the intellect alone or chiefly. But in avoiding the Scylla of intellectualism let us not run into the Charybdis of mere naturalism. All that makes the religion we profess distinctively Christian is enshrined in its doctrinal system. It is therefore that it is a religion that can be taught, and is to be taught – that is propagated by what otherwise would be surely, in the most literal sense, the foolishness of preaching. Mere knowledge, indeed, does not edify; it only puffs up. But neither without knowledge can there be any edification; and the purer the knowledge that is propagated by any church the purer, the deeper, the more vital and the more vitalizing will be the Christianity that is built up under that church’s teaching. Let us renounce, then, in this sphere, too, all “deisidaimonism,” and demand that our church shall be the church of a creed and that that creed shall be the pure truth of God – all of it and nothing but it. Only so can we be truly, purely, and vitally Christian.

And what shall we say of “deisidaimonism” in the personal religious life? Ah, brethren, there is where its temptations are the most subtle and its assaults the most destructive! How easy it is to mistake the currents of mere natural religious feeling, that flow up and down in the soul, for signs that it is well with us in the sight of God! Happy the man who is born with a deep and sensitive religious nature! But shall that purely natural endowment save him? There are many who have cried, Lord, Lord, who shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven. Not because you are sensitive and easily moved to devotion; not because your sense of divine things is profound or lofty; not because you are like the Athenians, by nature “divinity-fearing”; but because, when the word of the Lord is brought to you, and Jesus Christ is revealed in your soul, under the prevailing influence of the Holy Ghost, you embrace Him with a hearty faith – cast yourself upon His almighty grace for salvation, and turning from your sins, enter into a life of obedience to Him – can you judge yourself a Christian. Religious you may be, and deeply religious, and yet not a Christian. How instructive that when Paul himself preached in “deisidaimonistic ” Athens, where religiosity ran riot, no church seems to have been founded. We have only the meager result recorded that “there were some men that clave unto him and believed, among whom also was Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others along with them.” The natively religious are not, therefore, nearer to the kingdom of God.

But, thank God, the contrary is also true. Those who have no special native religious endowments are not, therefore, excluded from the kingdom of God. We may rightly bewail our coldness: we may rightly blame ourselves that there is so little response in our hearts to the sight of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, or even to the manifestation of His unspeakable love in the death of His Son. Oh, wretched men that we are to see that bleeding love and not be set on fire with a flame of devotion! But we may be all the more thankful that it is not in our frames and feelings that we are to put our trust. Let us abase ourselves that we so little respond to these great spectacles of the everlasting and unspeakable love of God But let us ever remember that it is on the love of God and not on our appreciation of it that we are to build our confidence. Jesus our Priest and our Sacrifice, let us keep our eyes set on Him! And though our poor sinful hearts so little know how to yield to that great spectacle the homage of a suitable response, His blood will yet avail even for us.

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling”

Here – and let us bless God for it – here is the essence of Christianity. It is all of God and nothing of ourselves.

Immediately After the Moment When Everyone Receives his Crown…

Taken and adapted from, “The Practice of Piety: Directing a Christian How to Walk, that He May Please God.”
Written by, Lewis Bayly
First published in 1842


“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
–Matthew 25:34

Immediately after this sentence of absolution and benediction…

…everyone receives his crown, which Christ the righteous Judge puts upon their heads, as the reward which he promised, of his grace and mercy to the faith and good works of all them that loved his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:4.) Then every one taking his crown from his head, shall lay it down, as it were, at the feet of Christ; and prostrating themselves, shall with one heart and voice, in an heavenly sort and consort, say, “Praise, and honor, and glory, and power, and thanks, be unto thee, O blessed Lamb, who sittest upon the throne, was killed, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and has made us unto our God kings and priests, to reign with thee in thy kingdom for evermore. Amen.” (Rev. 4:10.)

Then shall they sit in their thrones and order, as the judges of the reprobates, and evil angels (1 Cor. 6:1-3, Matt. 19:13), by approving, and giving testimony to the righteous sentence and judgment of Christ the Supreme Judge.

After the pronouncing of the reprobates’ sentence and condemnation, Christ will perform two solemn actions—

1. The presenting of all the elect unto his Father; “Behold, O righteous Father, these are they whom you gave to me: I have kept them, and none of them are lost. I gave them thy word, and they believed it, and the world hated them, because they were not of the world, even as I was not of the world. And now, Father, I will that those whom you has given me, will be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which you have given me; and that I may be in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one: that the world may know that you has sent me, and that you has loved them as you has loved me.” (John 17: 12, 14, 23, 24.)

2. Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that is, shall cease to execute his office of mediatorship (1 Cor. 25: 24;) whereby, as he is King, Priest, Prophet, and Supreme Head of the Church, he suppressed his enemies, and ruled his faithful people by his spirit, word, and sacraments: so that his kingdom of grace over his church in this world ceasing, he shall rule immediately, as he is God, equal with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, in his kingdom of glory evermore. Not that the dignity of his manhood shall be any thing diminished; but that the glory of his Godhead shall be more manifested: so that as he is God, he shall from thenceforth in all fulness, without all external means, rule all in all.

From this tribunal-seat, Christ shall arise, and with all his glorious company of elect angels and saints, he shall go up triumphantly, in order and array, unto the heaven of heavens, with such a heavenly noise and music, that now may that song of David be truly verified, “God is gone up with a triumph, the Lord with the sound of the trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises, sing praises to our King, sing praises: for God is the King of all the earth, he is greatly to be exalted.” (Psalm 47:4, 5, 6, 8.) And that marriage-song of John, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. Allelujah; for the Lord God Omnipotent reigns.” (Rev. 19: 6, 7.)

The third and last degree of the blessed state of a regenerate man after death, begins after the pronouncing of the sentence, and lasts eternally without all end.

The place is the heaven of heavens, or the third heaven, called paradise (Psalm 19: 5; 2 Cor. 12: 24;) whither Christ (in his human nature) ascended far above all visible heavens. The bridegroom’s chamber (Psalm 19 5; Matt. 25:10), which by the firmament, as by an azured curtain spangled with glittering stars, and glorious planets, is hid, that we cannot behold it with these corruptible eyes of flesh. The Holy Ghost framing himself to our weakness, describes the glory of that place (which no man can estimate) by such things as are most precious in the estimation of man; and therefore likens it to a great and holy city, named the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21: 2, &c.), where only God and his people who are saved, and written in the Lamb’s book (ver. 24 & 27), do inhabit; all built of pure gold, like unto clear glass or crystal (ver. 11, 18, 19, 20;) the walls of jasper-stone: the foundations of the walls garnished with twelve manner of precious stones, having twelve gates, each built of one pearl (ver. 21:) three gates towards each of the four corners of the world (ver. 13), and at each gate an angel (ver. 12), as so many porters, that no unclean thing should enter into it (ver. 27.)

It is four square (ver. 16), therefore perfect: the length, the breadth, and height of it are equal, 12,000 furlongs every way; therefore glorious and spacious. Through the midst of  her streets ever runs a pure river of the water of life, as clear as crystal (Rev. 22: 1); and on the other side the river is the tree of life (ver. 2), ever-growing, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and gives fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are health to the nations. There is therefore no place so glorious by creation, so beautiful with delectation, so rich in possession, so comfortable for habitation. For there, the king is Christ-—the law is love—the honor, verity—the peace, felicity—the life, eternity.

There is light without darkness, mirth without sadness, health without sickness, wealth without want, credit without disgrace, beauty without blemish, ease without labor, riches without rust, blessedness without misery, and consolation that never knows an end. How truly may we cry out with David, of this city, “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O thou city of God!” Psalm 87:3; and yet all these things are spoken but according to the weakness of our capacity. For heaven exceeds all this in glory, so far, as that no tongue is able to express, nor heart of man to conceive, the glory thereof, as witnesses St. Paul (2 Cor. 12: 4; 1 Cor. 2:5), who was in it, and saw it. O let us not then dote so much upon these wooden cottages, and houses of mouldering clay, which are but the tents of ungodliness, and habitation of sinners; but let us look rather, and long for this heavenly city, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10;) which he, who is not ashamed to be called our God hath prepared for us (Heb. 11: 6.)

The Holy Spirit’s, and … YOUR … Testimony to the Blood of Jesus

Taken from, “The Blood of Jesus Christ”
Written by, William Reid, 1814-1896.


The great work that the Holy Spirit is now occupied in performing…

…is that of directing sinners to Jesus, and inclining and enabling them to come to Him that they may be saved. Since this is the case, I am a fellow-worker with God the Holy Spirit only in so far as I tell anxious sinners to look to Jesus only, and have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” as their first and great business—and “this one thing I do” (Eph. 1:7; Philippians 3:13).

The question is not whether we think it scriptural for an awakened sinner to desire the secret and power-giving presence of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of his understanding and show him the all-sufficiency of Christ—that is what neither we nor any other true Christian would for a moment think of forbidding. Nor is it the question whether the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order to salvation. The very fact of writing as we have done on regeneration in a previous chapter, as well as writing to encourage our brethren to meet together—and also meeting ourselves, to pray for the Holy Spirit to put forth His reviving, sanctifying, convincing, and converting power—will satisfy all ingenuous minds that we hold the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in order to the regeneration and conversion of perishing souls.

The only question, then, that falls to be considered is, what am I to say to an awakened and anxious sinner? Am I to say simply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” as said the apostle of the Gentiles to the trembling jailor of Philippi (Acts 16:31)? Or am I, as the first thing I do, to exhort him to pray for the Holy Spirit to convince him more deeply of his sin, enlighten his darkened understanding, renew his perverse will, and enable him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of his soul? Am I to direct him, as the grand thing he has to do, to believe in Jesus and accept His blood-shedding as the only foundation of his peace with God; or to seek the work of the Spirit as an addition to Christ’s work, in order that he may be justified?

The former leads to justification by faith alone, the true apostolic doctrine of the churches of the first age.

The latter leads to “justification by sanctification,” the pernicious doctrine of a later era, by embracing which a man can never reach any satisfactory assurance that his sins are pardoned, even after a lifetime’s religious experience and devout and sincere performance of religious duties—whereas, by teaching salvation by the blood of Christ alone, a man may, like the Philippian jailor, “rejoice, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:34), “in the same hour” in which Christ is presented as the alone object of personal faith and consequent reconciliation.

There is, we regret to think, a large class of professing Christians who seem to have the unfounded notion engrained in their minds, that Christ came as a Savior in the fullness of time, and on being rejected and received up into glory, the Holy Spirit came down to be the Savior of sinners in His stead; and that whether men are now to be saved or lost depends entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit in them, and not on the work of Christ done for them…

…whereas the Holy Spirit was given as the crowning evidence that Jesus is still the Savior, even now that He is in heaven. The great work of the Spirit is not to assume the place of Jesus as our Savior, but to bear witness to Christ Jesus as the only Savior; and by His quickening grace bring lost sinners to Him, that they may become “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). This He did on the blessed day of Pentecost, when thousands of divinely quickened souls received His testimony, believed “in the name of Jesus,” and obtained “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

The Holy Ghost is not the Savior…

…and He never professed to be so, but His great work, in so far as the unconverted are concerned, is to direct sinners to the Savior, and to get them persuaded to embrace Him and rely upon Him. When speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said distinctly to His disciples, “He shall not speak of himself…he shall glorify me” (John 16:13-14). If to glorify Christ is the grand aim and peculiar work of the Holy Spirit, should it not also be the grand aim and constant work of those who believe in Him, and more especially of the ministers of His gospel?

The whole drift of the Holy Spirit’s inspired oracles, as we have them in the Bible, is to glorify Christ. The gospel ministry has been granted by Him (Eph. 4:11-12) to keep the purport of those Scriptures incessantly before the minds of men, and in so doing to beseech sinners to be reconciled to God. Now, Holy Scripture throughout clearly teaches that, simply on account of the one finished, all-sufficient, and eternally efficacious work of Christ, sinners who believe in Him are “justified from all things”; that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:24-25). We are justified as “sinners” as “ungodly” (Romans 5:6, 8), and not as having an incipient personal righteousness wrought in us by the Holy Ghost.

Few men, with the Word of God in their hands, would subscribe to such a doctrine, and yet it is the latent creed of the great majority of professing Christians. It is, in fact, the universal creed of the natural heart. Fallen human nature, when under terror, says, Get into a better state by all means; feel better, pray better, do better; become holier and reform your life and conduct—and God will have mercy upon you! But grace says, “Behold, God is my salvation!” (Isaiah 12:2). To give God some equivalent for His mercy, either in the shape of an inward work of sanctification, or of an outward work of reformation, the natural man can comprehend and approve of—but to be justified by faith alone on the ground of the finished work of Christ, irrespective of both, is quite beyond his comprehension. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1Cor. 1:25). Instead of preaching holiness as a ground of peace with God, “we preach Christ crucified” (1Cor. 1:23), “for other foundation can no man lay”—either for justification or sanctification—“than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1Cor. 3:11). Whatever others may do, I am “determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor. 2:2).

“O my Redeemer, Who for me wast slain,
Who bringest me forgiveness and release,

Whose death has ransomed me to God again,
And now my heart can rest in perfect peace!
“Still more and more do Thou my soul redeem,
From every bondage set me wholly free;
Though evil oft the mightiest power may seem,
Still make me more than conqueror, Lord, in Thee!

Andrew Melville: The Thorn in the King’s Side. Part Two, An Argument Between Professors


The King and Court, as you recall, had proceeded against Andrew Melville…

…and they had even admitted his avowed enemies to prove against him, the Court’s accusations; and though the whole train of evidence given had proved little or nothing against him, yet they resolved to involve him in troubles and grievous injury.  But because the good pastor had declined their authority, as the competent judges of doctrine, they therefore remitted him to ward in the Castle of Edinburgh, where he was to await the King’s will. However, Melville was informed, that if he entered into this ward, he would not be released, unless it should be to bring him to the scaffold.  Worse, it seems that the decree of the Council was even further altered, and the castle prison, aptly named Blackness, was now appointed for his ward. This castle prison was in that day the very description of hell, and it was well-known that this castle was kept by some dependants of the Earl of Arran, who were some of Melville’s most ardent enemies, so he resolved to get out of the country. About that time, an officer of the court, called a macer, gave him a charge to enter Blackness in twenty-four hours; and, in the meanwhile, some of Arran’s horsemen were sent from West Port to convoy him there; but, by the time he should have eentered Blackness, he instead, had reached Berwick. There, Messrs Lawson and Balcanquhal gave him the good character he deserved, and prayed earnestly for him in public, and in Edinburgh; “which both moved the people and galled the Court exceedingly.”

After a while things died down for Andrew, and in the year (1587) in the month of May, Guillaume Saluat, Seignor du Bartas, came into Scotland to see the king; of whom he was received according to his worthiness, entertained honorably, and liberally gifted and dismissed in the harvest, to his majesty’s great praise so long as the French tongue is use; and understood in the world.

About the end of June, his majesty came to St. Andrews, and brought with him the said Du Bartas; and coming first without any warning to the New College, he calls for Mr. Andrew Melville, saying, he was come together with that gentleman to have a lesson. Mr Andrew answers, that he had taught his ordinary lesson that day in the forenoon. “That is all one,” says the king, “I must have a lesson, and be you here within an hour to that effect.” And, indeed, within less than an hour his majesty was in the school, and the whole university convened with him; before whom Mr. Andrew, extempore, treated most clearly and mightily of the right government of Christ, and, in effect, refuted the whole acts of Parliament made against the discipline thereof, to the great instruction and comfort of his listeners, except the king alone, who was very angry all that night.

Upon the morrow, the bishop (Bishop Adamson) “had both a prepared lesson and feast made for the king. His lesson was a tight abridgment of all he had taught the year past, especially concerning the corrupt grounds which he had put into the king’s head, papal doctrines contrary to the true discipline. To the which lesson Mr. Andrew went, contrary to his own customs, and with his pen marked all his false grounds and reasons, and without further delay, caused his bell to ring at two of the afternoon the same day; whereof the king hearing, he sent to Mr. Andrew, desiring him to be moderate, and have regard to his presence, otherwise, he would discharge him.

He answered courageously that his majesty’s ear and tender breast were pitifully and dangerously filled with errors and untruths by that wicked man (Bishop Adamson), which he could not suffer to get away unanswered, to save his life; otherwise, except the stopping of the breath of God’s mouth, and prejudging of his truth, he should behave himself most moderately and reverently to his majesty in all respects. The king sent again to Bishop Adamson and me, desiring it should be so, and showing that he would have his four hours in the college. So he came to that lesson with the bishop, who requested the king for permission to answer instantly, in case anything was spoken against his doctrine.  But at this point, Mr. Andrew making as though he had nothing to do but with the Papists, brings out their works, and reads out of them all the bishop’s grounds about how he was an inveterate enemy of the Melvilles, and a supporter of the king in the introduction of Prelacy into Scotland, as well as all the papal reasons.

After he had done this at length and most clearly shown that the reasons the Bishop gave to be plain Papistry, Andrew Melville then sets against those same Papal reasons with all his might; and with invincible force of reason, and from clear grounds of Scripture. And with a mighty boldness and flow of eloquence, he beats down all those reasons so that the bishop was dashed, and stricken as dumb as the stock he sat upon. After the lesson, the king, in his mother tongue, made some distinctions, and discoursed a while thereon, and gave certain injunctions to the university for reverencing and obeying of his bishop; who from that day forth began to tire of his teaching, and fall more and more into disgrace and confusion.

The king, with Monsieur du Bartas, came to the college hall, where I prepared and had in readiness a banquet of wet and dry confections, with all sorts of wine, whereat his majesty caroused very merrily a good while, and thereafter went to his horse. But Monsieur du Bartas tarried behind, and conferred with my uncle and me a whole hour, and then followed after the king; who inquiring of him that night, told me, man to man, what his judgment was of the two he had heard in St Andrews, he had answered the king, that they were both learned men; but the bishop’s answers had been contrived, whereas Mr. Andrew had a great ready store of all kinds of learning within him; and besides that, Mr. Andrew’s spirit and courage were far above the other. Upon which judgment the king approved.—Melville’s Diary.

Taken and adapted from, Select Extracts for the Young, and other extraneous sources
Published for the Free Church of Scotland


A Thought for Those Who Minister: The Road to Honor…



When the Spartan king advanced against the enemy…

…he always had with him someone who had been crowned in the public games of Greece. And they tell us that when a Lacedaemonian from Sparta was offered a large sum of money on condition that he would not enter the Olympic lists, he refused the bribe.

After the final match, having with much difficulty thrown his antagonists in wrestling, one put this question to him, “Spartan, what will you get by this victory?” He answered with a smile, “I shall have the honor to fight foremost in the ranks of my prince!”

The honor which appertains to office in the church of God lies mainly in this, that the man who is set apart for such service has the privilege of being first in holiness of example, abundance of liberality, patience of long-suffering, zeal in effort, and self-sacrifice in service.

O, Thou gracious King of kings, if thou hast made me to minister in thy church, enable me to be foremost in every good word and work, shunning no sacrifice, and shrinking from no suffering. May I live always unto thee.

–Adapted from the writings of C.H. Spurgeon.

Of Man’s Thoughts of Distrust Toward God

Taken and adapted from, “A Treatise of Man’s Imaginations”
Written by William Perkins, (1558–1602)



A great evil thought concerning God is…

…the thought of distrust, thus framed in the mind; God does not regard me; God will not help me; God will not be merciful unto me: This thought made entrance unto the fall of our first parents: for first Eve looked upon the fruit, and saw that it was beautiful, and then entered into her heart a thought of distrust after this manner; It may be it is not true which  God has said to us concerning this fruit, and it may be God regards us not as we think he does, in that he denies us this fruit; hereupon her will and her affections were carried to the breaking of Gods commandment, and so she sinned by disobedience, and Adam also sinned.

When the people of Israel murmured in the wilderness Moses sinned a sin, for he was debarred entrance into the land of Canaan: Now what was Moses sin? For both he and Aaron prayed to the Lord, and checked the people saying, Hear oh ye rebels, And at Gods commandment did he not bring water out of the rock? Surely his sin was secret, even an inward unbelief and distrust in Gods promise, for when he smote the rock, he might think thus with himself, it may be that God will not now give water out of the rock; and this seems the more probable, because he went beyond his commission in smiting thrice upon the rock, when God bad him only to speak unto it. This evil thought takes hold of religious David also:  I said in mine hast I am cast out of thy sight, as though he should say, Heretofore I have found favor with God, but now in mine adversity I am utterly rejected: Again, I said in my fear, all men are liars: that is, when fear of death took hold of me, then I thought that Samuel lied unto me, when he said I should come to the kingdom over Israel. The children of Israel did often betray this thought of distrust, when they were pinched with hunger, and famine in the wilderness, they say, Can God provide a table for us in the wilderness? Can he give bread and flesh for his people? As if they should say, we think he cannot, nor will not: Yea the Apostle Peter was not free from this thought, for when Christ walking on the waters, commanded Peter to come unto him, he came out boldly, walked towards Jesus, but when He saw a mighty wind, he began to sink: whence came this? Surely from a thought of distrust which he had in his heart to this effect: It may be God will not support me in this my walking: and that this or some such thought was in his heart appears by Christ’s answer to him saying, Oh you of little faith, why didst you doubt?  By all which it is evident that this is a natural thought in the mind of man, which at some time troubles even the most righteous man.

Now touching this thought of distrust, two things are to be gleaned:

First, the time when it takes place in man’s mind; Second, the danger of it.

As for the time; this thought is not always in the mind of man, but only in the time of some danger, affliction, and temptation, and especially in the time of sickness, and in the pangs of death. Thus in his grievous affliction was righteous Job troubled with this thought of distrust: for then he complained, that God did hate him and gnash upon him with his teeth, and as his enemy, sharpened his eyes against him; Yea, that he made him as his target, and mark to shoot at. And David in a grievous trouble of mind, thus complained: Will the Lord absent himself forever? And will be show no more favor? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Does this promise fail for evermore? Has God forgotten to be merciful, whereby it appears, that in his affliction David was greatly troubled with this distrustful thought; and there is no man living, but when trouble affliction comes, he shall feel in himself these thoughts of distrust. Indeed while peace and ease continues, presumptuous thoughts possess the mind; but when the days of peace be gone, troublesome times approach, then presumptuous thoughts are replaced, and thoughts of distrust come into their mind, instead.

The danger of these thoughts of distrust is very great, as the fruits themselves declare: for from it arise;

First, all horrors, and terrors of conscience, all fears, and astonishments of the heart: For when the mind says (though falsely) God does not regard me, God will not save me, then the trembling heart is full of horror and dread.

Second, then comes desperation itself, whereby men confidently vouch that God has forsaken them, and cast them off, and that there is no hope of life, but present death, remaining for them: this thought troubles the mind of the wicked, and of the repentant person also: for desperation is nothing but the strength of this thought of distrust. Thirdly, this weakens the foundation of our salvation, which stands in the certainty of God’s promises, for this thought of distrust denies credit to God’s promises, and makes them uncertain: Among all other evil thoughts this does most directly hinder salvation, for it is flat against faith, as water is to fire: for true faith makes a man say with good conscience, Christ  died shed his blood for me, God the Father will be merciful unto me, and save me: But this distrustful thought causes a man to say the clean contrary, Christ died not for me: God will not save me: so that where this thought prevails, true faith is not, neither can take place.

Considering that the danger of this distrustful thought is so great, we must be admonished in the fear of God to use all good means, while the days of peace do last, that it take not place with us in the day of trouble and temptation: The means to repress it are the preaching of the word, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lords Supper.

For the first: the word of God preached is a special means ordained of God, for the true applying of Gods promises of mercy to our own souls; and therefore a most sovereign remedy against this thought of distrust; for when the promises of mercy in Christ, are offered unto Gods people in the preaching of the word by a lawful Minister, it is as much as if Christ himself in his own person should speak unto them, by virtue of Gods ordinance. If God from heaven should say to any man, mercy belongs to thee, he would believe: if God say to Cornelius, believe you, and my mercy belongs to thee, Cornelius will believe; if he say to Peter believe you, and my mercy belongs to thee, Peter will believe: if he say so to Mary Magdalen, she will believe. Low, here, when the Minister of God, out of God’s word, says to any man, believe you, and repent you, and God’s mercy belongs unto thee; it is as much as if the Lord should call him by name particularly, and say unto him, believe you, and repent, and my mercy belongs unto thee: yea it is all one as if God himself should say, I am thy Father and you are my child, if you will repent, and believe.

The second means which is also very effectual to cut off this thought of distrust, is Baptism. If any earthly prince give a pardon to any man, and put the man’s name in the pardon, and his own broad seal unto it, the man will never doubt of his pardon, but believe it. Behold, in Baptism God enters covenant with miserable wretched man, and herein makes promise of life unto him: yea he puts the man’s name in the covenant, sealing the same with his own seal: and therefore the party baptized, must believe against, this thought.

The third means, is the Lord’s Supper rightly administered and received: for therein the bread and wine given to the hand of every communicant by the Minister, are particular pledges tokens unto them of special mercy in Christ. These are the means which we must use with all good conscience in the days of peace, so that when troubles come, this thought of distrust may not prevail against us. 

The Old and Battered Cup


I see before me an old and battered cup…

Upon this cup many a dirty lip has touched, and from which many a condemned villain’s throat has received moisture. This cup is marred and covered over with scars. There is nothing in the looks of the cup itself that attracts attention. It has been passed by many a wealthy person; it has been forgotten by many of a busy person, and many a prideful person has actually scorned to drink its liquid.

We look at this cup, and it seems our attention immediately begins to wander. We forget whose cup it was. We forget and let fade the terrible sacrifice upon that great altar, the altar that stood between heaven and earth and had once commended the rapt attention of angels.

Some say that this cup is a cup of anger. And by the looks of it, this cup has certainly received anger. Look at the sides. Here you see what looks like a systematic scoring. You can even count many of the slashes; 36, 37, 38, 39, maybe even more. There are other marks and dents, some larger, some smaller, where something or someone tried to beat and twist the cup out of shape, but they did not succeed. However, the greatest battering appears to have come from above, coming from the top, here it looks like a great force was exerted that would have undoubtedly destroyed any other lesser vessel; smashed it flat. But as we can see before us, the vessel still stands. –”So His appearance was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men.”

Yes, the great sacrifice was made, and though now largely forgotten, it will not stay that way. “Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback, kings shocked into silence when they see him. For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes, what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”

For this is the cup which is poured out for you, it is the New Covenant. But will the worldly rich, the distracted, and those too busy, –will they ever taste this cup? No. For though to drink from the cup is free to all, none but the thirsty are invited.

Come, drink. For this cup is offered to you.

Written by Michael W. Pursley